M&As | Employee Impact

Dozens of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) occur on a daily basis in the business world. A vast majority of these deals are strategic plays designed to reduce costs, increase competitive advantage or simply buy out the closest competition. Many M&As go relatively unnoticed by the public unless an interest piece is published showcasing a $ billion headline paired with a well-known company. Unless you track these events, or their impact on everything from your cell phone bill to your investment portfolio, they can be easy to miss.

 Here is an abbreviated list of the largest global M&A’s from Q1 of 2011:
1. AIG: $59 billion
Acquirer: Preferred Shareholders

2. TMobile USA: $39 billion
Acquirer: AT&T

3. Progress Engery Inc.: $26 billion
Acquirer: Duke Energy Corp.

4. Fiat SpA-Auto Business: $18.5 billion
Acquirer: Shareholders

5. ProLogics: $15.2 billion
Acquirer: AMB Property Corp

In the last few months, M&A’s have also been a recent topic of conversation with multiple individuals from a consulting standpoint. Unfortunately, these have been negative experiences from the ‘acquired,’ citing example after example of poorly-managed and poorly-implemented transitions.

Regardless of the financial purpose behind M&A activity, there are still corporate citizens (aka: people) that are dramatically affected by such deals. It is only natural that employees may feel alienated in their role or fear losing their senior position to an individual with marginal experience in their area of expertise. Said differently, an acquired employee is likely to view this situation as something closely aligned with a hostile takeover rather than a merging of shared I.P. and capital in which a new more competitive company can emerge. Senior executives must then lead this transition rather than manage reactions or mitigate attrition.

Deanna Hartley, in an article from Talent Management magazine, proposes that leaders must clearly communicate the intentions behind M&A activity, expectations of value-added processes, and potential risks and opportunities to all staff members. Hartley goes on to say that a key process in communication with M&A is ensuring your message matches what employees hear or interpret. She suggests numerous top-down meetings, roundtable discussions, and exposure to leadership from both sides of the deal. Ultimately, clarity and security should be a target in the minds of upper management while stabilizing the merging of two distinct companies. As long as new business relationships form with frequent, open dialogue, there should be reduced chance for productivity to suffer.

It would not be a surprise to say that there is little emphasis on aligning corporate culture in the boardroom during M&A negotiations. Be that as it may, companies should still involve employees to gather opinions or ideas on the transition as soon as a deal is reached. Early intervention, in the form of open communication, is crucial to quiet the fears of employees on both sides of the table.