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Your New Merged Workforce: Worth Significant Investment

15 July 2021

In the last instalment of our Merger and Aquisition series, we touched on the importance of your most valuable asset – your people.  No less significantly because on the flipside with their link to your ultimate success, is that your people also have the potential to wreak the most havoc – so investing in your people to chart a new course through the merger or acquisition is a wise one.

In this discussion, we expand on the need to invest in your most important asset.

People Can Make or Break the Deal

Change2020 recognises that the vital role of an organisation’s people can make or break a merger or acquisition. We know that in almost equal measure that the most valuable component of the merger and acquisition is also the most challenging. The people can be resentful, nervous, fearful and skeptical of the change; they are wary and therefore often resistant to the communicated ‘future state’. Getting the people on board and trusting the incoming leadership team is the key priority; they need clarity as rapidly as possible so they can remain focused on their role, despite the uncertainty resulting from the merger or acquisition. At Change2020, we build a 100-day transition plan to support the people navigate the change. The 100-day plan focuses on structural design, role clarity, communication and engagement initiatives and building the effectiveness of the newly formed executive leadership team.   

Mergers and acquisitions are relatively common and are attractive business opportunities when managed effectively; too often however investors or leaders fail to take into account that the enthusiasm for the merger or acquisition is often not shared by the employees. So, following from this, we see many deals falter with high staff attrition rates resulting from negative attitudes from employees.[1]

In a Deloitte’s employee survey,[2] results showed that organisations can help address attrition and provide additional support to employees during organisational change by taking the following 3 steps:

  • Providing sufficient access to information about the change/s.
  • Continuing ongoing professional and learning development.
  • Reducing uncertainty through credible leadership

Credible leadership

It is the last of these, when organisations place focus on credible and authentic leadership that the transition to ‘future state’ can be accelerated as employees feel trusted, included and engaged. We know that positive organisational culture and leadership are absolutely key to the success of any merger or acquisition.

During large scale changes, “employees want leaders who are credible and tell the truth. If employees perceive their leaders to be credible, some of their uncertainty about the merger or acquisition can be reduced.”[3] Investing in communication with messages sent by leadership, especially messages that reaffirm ongoing organisational support, can also help convey credibility.

Case Study on Leadership and Culture in M&A

Perhaps the most effective way we can demonstrate the importance of supportive leadership is through our Case Study. In this instance, we helped employees and leaders from three council offices create a binding workplace culture after merging into one larger council.


Communication was critical to the success of this project. We started with a clear explanation of why developing a new mission and vision statement and set of values (MVV) was important and what it would mean for the entire organisation.

We provided coaching to key leaders, interactive facilitation techniques, confidential surveys, and a series of engaging activities and workshops that mixed employees from every level and function. Team leaders were also equipped with the right tools to embed the MVV into day-to-day activities to ensure the organisation was living the values.

The Outcome

The process we used helped build trust, enhanced relationships and improved knowledge of what all parts of the business do. A new platform for behaviour was developed, along with a new strategic focus, all of which contributed to establishing a fresh, vibrant culture for the new merged organisation.

[1] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/jp/Documents/human-capital/hcm/jp-hcm-hr-retention.pdf

[2] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/jp/Documents/human-capital/hcm/jp-hcm-hr-retention.pdf

[3] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/jp/Documents/human-capital/hcm/jp-hcm-hr-retention.pdf

Kerryn Fewster

Kerryn is the Founder and Director of Change 2020. She has consulted extensively in the area of Transition and Transformation. She places emphasis on strategy development and solution implementation to minimise people and operational impacts associated with major change.

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