Focusing Employee Behavior During Mergers and Acquisitions

Focusing Employee Behavior During Mergers and Acquisitions


Corporate mergers and acquisitions are grabbing headlines lately, and there are hundreds more that never hit the papers. As HR professionals, mergers and acquisitions can be particularly challenging and overwhelming when it comes to employee retention. You’re expected to be agents of change, rallying employees and keeping them focused on the right behaviors and activities. No easy task, especially when you might be managing your own anxiety.

HR professionals need every tool possible to bring clarity and stability to the situation, so employees can remain focused on their jobs. You need to stay on top of every aspect of integration—effective communication to compliance to stability to morale.

A lack of sensitivity to employee behavior during a merger or acquisition can result in a serious employee retention issue for the organization. And who leaves first? The high-potential employees you can’t afford to lose, especially during a time of transition.

What’s one of the most overlooked yet effective tools in the employee retention toolbox? No, it’s not a magic ball; it’s your employee reward and recognition program.

With nearly 9 out of 10 organizations offering an employee reward and recognition program, it’s likely one or both companies will already have programs in place, but having programs that can actually impact behavior and the overall business is rare. The employee recognition program often gets ignored because of its current-state ineffectiveness, yet it can provide benefits throughout a challenging transition, if properly leveraged.

A Shiny New Culture–Clarity and Definition

Look at your current challenge as a good time to introduce an impactful employee reward & recognition program or re-evaluate your current one. Define or realign objectives and behaviors to match the new organization and provide sustainable motivation. Maybe give examples of when core values or competencies have been exhibited throughout the transition phase. The program can be leveraged to bring clarity, focus, and fun to the “new” organizational culture. (Be mindful how your reward and recognition program integrates into the broader total reward strategy of the new organization.)

Recognize and Reward Change MVPs

Leverage the flexibility of your program by rewarding and recognizing employees giving more than expected because they care about the company and its collective success. Try to highlight and focus on behaviors employees exhibit that can help the organization and team members through the transition. Clearly, identify those behaviors and what they look like in action in order to create excitement and further understanding. Recognition is a key driver of employee engagement, and engagement is never more critical than during a merger or acquisition.

Make it Social

Look for opportunities to bring together all team members in a social environment, like an event or (if your culture permits) a party. Leverage that event to publicly reward and recognize the special efforts of employees through the transition. Who were your Change MVPs? Find the hidden heroes behind the transition and recognize them for their efforts. You also might consider seminars to facilitate training, strategic integration workshops for key leaders, or off-site team-building. (Okay, it can’t all be a party.) A fun social environment can do wonders to clear the mind, break down barriers and refocus the transitional effort.

We are likely to see merger and acquisition activity ramp up over the next few years. As HR Professionals, you need every tool you have to help navigate these situations now and five years from now. Merging two cultures takes time and patience, so leverage all the tools you have to be that HR Rock Star.


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