They Survived COVID-19. Can They Survive Your Merger?

/ Christine Andrukonis

Many analysts are predicting that 2021 will be a year of accelerated M&A activity, brought on by shifting business strategies, new consumer dynamics, and more access to capital.

Although M&A activity will accelerate transformation in many organizations, remember that most executives and their teams are already exhausted from the volatility of the past year. The constant change has taken a toll on many people, both professionally and personally. Since people will make or break the success of a merger or acquisition, and most people are unusually sensitive at this moment in time, your M&A integration plans must have a strong people component. Here are five critical people strategies for success:

  1. Share a tangible vision for the culture of the integrated company (from day one).  No merger or acquisition can be successful without a sense of shared values, behaviors and mindsets. This focus on company culture has been heightened in recent months, as many companies shifted work or business models and helped their people endure the stress of a global pandemic. Early during the M&A process, leaders must take steps to share their vision – not only for the new organization’s structure, roles and responsibilities, but the common values and mission that will shape a united future.
  2. Provide clarity and collaboration among the leadership team. Provide the new leadership team structure and organization chart as quickly as possible. Then, make sure the leadership team works together to define roles and responsibilities and a mutual roadmap for the future. Finally, be purposeful in creating opportunities for the leadership team to get to know each other and determine how they will work together toward a mutual vision.
  3. Create a single set of people processes. Take this opportunity to re-examine every phase of the talent lifecycle and develop a consistent, modern approach to people processes. Ensure that the new company is driving future-forward thinking around recruiting, onboarding, performance, recognition, and talent and development. As you’re building out these processes, lead with an updated employee value proposition – one that places extra focus on thriving in new work models, employee well-being, purpose, and inclusion.
  4. Develop a playbook for career success. Create a philosophy and approach to professional growth and development in the new environment. What will career growth look like as the business model changes or new people come into the mix? How will the company define career success? Get tangible about your vision, with an actionable playbook for your people that addresses not only the skills and competencies required for the future, but how employees can attain them.
  5. Provide candid, ongoing communications and engagement. After an exhausting year, leaders and employees will need high-touch support to navigate another change. To maintain trust and empower your teams through a merger or acquisition, you’ll need to speak with your people directly and often – in an authentic, transparent, and inspiring way. Make sure communications are customized by audience, so that everyone, at every level, understands their role and how the changes will impact them personally.  Finally, provide opportunities for feedback and additional dialogue during key moments of the transition, and offer forums for ongoing communication and engagement throughout the process.

There’s no doubt that 2021 will be a year full of more transition, as companies embrace the M&A opportunities brought about by the pandemic. If your company is planning a merger or acquisition this year, make sure you bring your people along for the ride.