Mindful Management of a Merger or Acquisition

By on August 23, 2017

Attracting and retaining talent are almost always cited among the top risk factors associated with mergers and acquisitions, and, according to a 2013 Bain & Company survey of executives who have managed through mergers and acquisitions, culture clash was identified as the top reason that a deal failed to achieve its expected value.

This culture clash is usually the result of the acquiring organization trying to assimilate new employees into the existing culture instead of recognizing what researchers have long noted through years of studying the impact of mergers and acquisitions on workplace culture. Namely, that instead of working to maintain your current culture and imprint that culture onto the newly acquired organization, you’ll be better served by recognizing that the two cultures will most likely merge into a third culture that is distinct from what existed before at either company. Acknowledging this is your first step in avoiding the negative impacts associated with a severe culture clash.

Other questions to consider include:

  • What is the maturity level of the merger or acquisition? Most companies are tempting to rush into messaging mode from the outset as opposed to waiting until the major impacts, such as employees being laid off or leaving on their own accord, have come to pass. Rather than an employer branding effort, your best bet is to ensure clear communication from the top-down regarding the merger or acquisition and how it will affect everyone who works there. Give your employees time to adjust to new policies, different ways of doing things and shifts in the culture, as this will put you in a better position to emerge from the experience with employees who can serve as authentic and credible advocates for working at your evolving organization.
  • What are the positives and negatives associated with the acquisition from an employee perspective? You need to be completely honest in this regard, as trying to gloss over the negatives won’t work, especially from a messaging standpoint. Current employees will always be willing — and able — to set the record straight. Here is where research with current and prospective employees is absolutely critical. It’s only once you’ve accurately assessed the state of your culture and how it impacts your employer value proposition that you can begin to convey who you are as an employer and what you have to offer post-merger. This research will also uncover what still needs to be addressed internally to make your value proposition to employees more appealing and authentic.
  • Is the company being acquired more well-known than the acquiring organization? If so, then keeping the acquired company’s name and positioning it as a sub-brand, as opposed to absorbing it entirely into the parent brand,
 may offer some short-term benefits from a recruitment and retention standpoint. However, your longer-term strategy here needs to be determined only after you’ve allowed your “third culture” to emerge and you’ve adequately assessed what makes sense moving forward in terms of how to address the two brands from both a corporate and an employment perspective.

There are many considerations that surround an employment brand when mergers and acquisitions have taken place. When organizations deal with acquisitions and mergers, it’s important to consider the maturity of the merger or acquisition, the positives and negatives associated with the acquisition from an employee perspective and if the acquired company is more well-known than the acquiring organization. Contact CKR Interactive today to learn more about how we can guide you through your unique employer brand strategy challenges.

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