Keeping Up Employee Engagement During Mergers and Acquisitions


When it comes to new employees, employee engagement should start as early as the onboarding process. After all, this is usually the first interaction that you’ll have with new employees and it’s important to instil company goals and values early on. This can also help prevent employee absenteeism and attrition later down the line.

But what if you’re not just talking about one new employee, but dozens of them? This is often what happens in the event of mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Keeping engagement high amongst employees during mergers isn’t easy; it can be a Catch-22 situation. Companies must think of ways to successfully engage new employees and integrate them, all without alienating pre-existing personnel. 

In this article, we will look at why it’s important that your company keeps up overall employee engagement during this transition period and how to achieve it.

Remember it is a time of uncertainty

Corporate M&As are often met with dread and speculation regarding the deal’s financial implications. Yet, HR Dive’s analysis of engagement’s role in the M&A process explains there is also a psychological side effect to it that must be considered.

Employees caught in the midst of an M&A can suddenly find themselves grappling with job uncertainty. This can lead them to become disengaged, building an atmosphere of ambiguity and distrust. Furthermore, being forced to work with new people and learn new systems can exacerbate the feeling of being lost. Thus, engagement is crucial not only to let these employees know they matter but also for understanding how they feel. In this case, it’s important that companies look at engagement best practices like establishing open and reliable two-way communication to re-earn employees’ trust.

It can make or break the entire deal

Investopedia points out that there are multiple reasons why M&A fall apart, ranging anywhere from over-evaluating the deal to over-estimating a company’s capabilities to withstand the complexities of it. Yet, two other reasons include a failure to integrate both cultures together and to the whole execution process. With this in mind, it then stands to reason that engagement is a crucial factor in the success of an M&A since it impacts profits and ultimately the success of the merger. After all, integration is only possible if employees are sufficiently engaged. 

So what should be done to help engagement?

Companies must recognize that the people and culture matter if it is going to be successful, therefore, HR must play a proactive role in the process. In this regard, it is during M&A that HR must take the reins and work out a comprehensive integration plan as early as possible. The aforementioned communication, for example, must come before the merger and acquisition push through so that there’s less confusion when it finally does happen. Therefore, to promote engagement employees should be involved in company decisions, be given a clear understanding of their career path, receive encouragement and incentives for corporate development and have the ability to participate in clear two-way dialogue with management; it is during restructuring that employees most value the connection with fellow colleagues and their leaders

Additionally, it is also during this emotionally charged period that HR must keep an unbiased view of the situation. In line with this, Special Counsel notes that the presence of objective analysis is crucial during mergers and acquisitions. It’s up to HR to ensure that the company’s goals are in everyone’s best interests. HR must then take into account the needs of employees from two separate entities and make the proper recommendations to upper management on how to incorporate them into one. When management understands all aspects of the situation and looks at it with a clear view, the risks can be minimized and the company will emerge better for it.