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Why is it important to consider employee experience in M&A?

FoW Insights
Future of Work

Employee Experience (EX) was the Number 1 UK Trend in Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends survey. Improving EX has been shown to have a positive impact and businesses are now looking at employee experience across the complete hire-to-retire journey, treating employees like customers to improve business performance.

How can employee experience impact M&A?

Many M&A deals fail to realise the value that they’d hoped for at the outset, and while some of this is undoubtedly due to external factors, gaps in transaction execution (for example, change management, communications, and employee transition activities) can play a significant role.i When acquiring talent is a main motivation for M&A deals, it seems clear that focussing on the employee experience through the transaction could play an important role in realising value.

In M&A, with the countdown to Day 1 ticking, thinking about what we want our new and existing employees to experience is often not a top priority. However, delivering a positive experience when welcoming new employees can leave a lasting impression, and correlates closely with employee productivity and retention.

So how do you shape the employee experience during M&A?

Design thinking has revolutionised how organisations meet the needs of their customers, with easy, innovative, and user-friendly ways to buy products and services. Employees now expect the same treatment in their working lives.

Within M&A, putting the employee at the centre requires a change in mind-set. Instead of asking “what do we need the incoming employees to do?” companies should be thinking “what do we want our incoming employees to experience as they transition over to us?”. Employees will view their experience holistically, across HR, property, communications, IT and elsewhere, and organisations need to think in this way as well.

It is important that the employee experience should have a senior sponsor to ensure it has the right level of focus. In addition, the programme should cover the following 3 steps:

1: Understand the employees

Step in to the shoes of employees, managers and leaders in order to understand what their needs and concerns are. Keep in mind that different employee groups will have their own concerns and issues, and will require different experiences. Identify these potential “personas,” up front.

Understanding the concerns of each employee group in an organisation to be acquired can be difficult pre-Day 1, but reviewing publicly available data (for example employee feedback on Glassdoor and Indeed, news articles or financial reports), speaking with the leadership teams, or getting input from employee representative groups such as unions and works councils can provide important insight into employee priorities and sentiment.

From Day 1 onwards, engage with employees closely to understand how their concerns have evolved after the transaction closed; particularly those that are key to realising the transaction’s value – not just the exec team, but those who have valuable talent and skills.

2: Map the employee journey

Looking at the end-to-end employee journey will be key to ensuring identified concerns are addressed and the experience is delivered. In M&A, we often focus on the Day 1 experience. While this is a key moment in the employee journey, the Day 1 experience should be embedded in a series of experiences prior to the transaction completion and well beyond. Often, we find that employees embrace the various Day 1 events, comms and activities that take place, but a few weeks after there is a lull, and employees risk feeling forgotten.

3: Develop the experience

Once the desired employee experience is defined, start developing how this will be delivered. There’s a whole host of enabling technology that can be used as well as the more traditional tools such as “1 to 1’s”, Town Halls and newsletters.

Some examples of other tools are:

  • Virtual reality – providing a pre-Day 1 tour of an office building, or new location can be hugely valuable to providing an insight in to the culture and ways of working of a new organisation
  • Communications and engagement portals – often IT infrastructure issues make using intranets very difficult, but some portals and SharePoint sites can be available before Day 1 and after, offering continuity of communication methods throughout the transaction
  • Chatbots – employees going through M&A have a lot of questions, and while some of these should be handled via formal processes, some can be managed by chatbots
  • Pulse surveys – understanding how employees are feeling throughout M&A is important. Pulse surveys can be used to get real-time feedback, to allow you to adjust what you’re doing in real-time.

In summary

Focussing on the employee experience during transactions could be the key to unlocking the value of the transaction. Remember to think about:

  • Do the employee-facing transition activities put the employee at the centre?
  • Have you put yourself in the employee’s shoes and thought about their needs during the experience?
  • Have you identified different personas for your transaction, and which ones will be most critical to the realisation of the transaction value?
  • Do you know what the end-to-end employee journey looks like from announcement to integration and sustainment?
  • Are you using the right methods and tools to engage with employees? Are communications timely, authentic, and targeted?


i Deloitte’s 2019 M&A trends report

This blog is authored by Helen Carney, Claire Baron, Aimee Musil and Daniel Hind , members of the Deloitte Human Capital M&A Consulting team.

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