Prioritize Employee Well-Being During M&A

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If your company is embarking on a merger, fostering an inclusive culture of empowerment can make all the difference in the outcome.

It takes a village to build a world-class company from scratch.

Over the past two decades, I’ve learned that lesson firsthand amidst Mimecast’s journey from startup status to the global email and collaboration security pioneer it is today. While innovative products and services are critical to any company’s growth trajectory, an inclusive and values-driven culture of empowerment is what ultimately serves as the true foundation for sustained success.

After all, culture is the engine that moves a company forward. It’s about passion, drive and teamwork—a willingness to push boundaries, be creative and remain fearless in the face of adversity. These are the inherent qualities of a fiercely proud workforce that sets its company apart from industry competitors, and the very same qualities that have shaped the Mimecast Way since our inception in 2003.

Similar logic can be applied to navigating major mergers and acquisitions as well. Organizational transformation during M&As requires a “team sport” approach with all-hands-on-deck to be successful. The ability to foster an inclusive culture of empowerment can make or break your chances of executing a seamless transition.

According to a 2021 McKinsey & Company survey, 60 percent of acquirers expressed regret that they did not commit more resources to culture and change management during the integration process. It’s imperative to treat your staff as both people outside the company and employees within it. Personal and professional empowerment shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

A continuous emphasis on employee empowerment played a key role in Mimecast’s transition from a public to privatized company following our $5.8 billion acquisition by Permira in May 2022. We made a concerted effort to ensure that every member of our 2,000-plus global workforce was supported throughout each phase of the acquisition. For executive leaders stewarding organizations through a similar transformation, maintaining a relentless focus on your employees can serve as the guiding light that helps your employees turn trials into triumphs.

Energizing Your Employees: Articulate the Value of Change

Energizing your organization by establishing trust through transparency is one of the most important aspects of post-merger integration. With myriad new operating structures and workflows in place, employees first need to understand the rationale behind the change before they can fully accept and embrace it. It’s our responsibility as leaders to ensure their passion and pride for the organization remain intact.

This is where a robust internal communications plan comprised of clear messaging and a compelling story is paramount. It enables organizations to proactively articulate the value of change—why this transaction was the right move, why now was the right time and why the acquiring company was the right partner—while defining new objectives that encourage collective buy-in across the enterprise. By doing this well, employees gain a deeper and more intuitive understanding of the positive impact the move will have on operational efficiency, growth strategy, product offerings, customer relationships, brand awareness and even their own career trajectory.

Making leaders accessible during the M&A process also helps establish clear lines of communication across departments. At Mimecast, we hosted virtual town halls and in-person social events that allowed senior executives and leaders to interact with employees on a more personal level. When leaders take the time to openly address any questions or concerns about the change, it reinforces the notion that employee needs are valued—which, in turn, instills an infectious energy throughout the organization that drives productivity and performance.

Engaging with Empathy: Provide Essential Resources and Support 

It’s important to remember that the perceived normalcy around multi-billion-dollar M&As doesn’t make them any less stressful for employees, especially considering current market conditions. From record-high inflation and economic volatility to a widening skills gap, there’s no denying that people are working under immense pressure today. Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report revealed that day-to-day stress amongst global employees hit all-time highs over the past year. And in our industry, Mimecast’s 2022 State of Ransomware Readiness Report found that one-third of cybersecurity professionals are considering leaving their role within the next two years due to stress or burnout.

These insights highlight the importance of facilitating employee well-being throughout the M&A process. Amidst periods of transformational growth for the collective organization, each individual employee should be positioned to grow alongside it. Making a clear commitment to well-being fosters a culture of empowerment by creating healthy workplace environments that support higher levels of engagement. That commitment can take shape in several different forms, like how our company intentionally focused on ensuring affordable mental health resources were accessible to all employees before, during and after the acquisition, especially since the transaction took place at the height of the pandemic. Beyond well-being, we leveraged regular in-person connection opportunities—from volunteer engagements to social events—to reassure employees that our values, commitment to one another and the community remained unchanged.

In addition, a commitment to well-being requires a calculated approach to enhancing career development initiatives—outperforming B2B organizations in 2021 provided nearly 80 percent more coaching and were 57 percent more likely to tailor their training programs for personalization compared to industry peers. Mimecast managers follow a three-tiered growth and development personalization model built around understanding how to lead, manage and coach. All three are fundamental pillars to creating a culture of empowerment, yet each require unique skill sets and techniques to execute.  Adopting an intention-based leadership style, for example, encourages employees to continually assess their own performance for areas of improvement. Personalizing growth and development was especially important during our transition, as it established an open dialogue between employees and management that helped keep everyone aligned and moving in lockstep with a positive mindset.

New Era, Same Mission: Stay Grounded in Culture

Even the most exciting cases of organizational transformation are challenging for company leaders to navigate. However, if managed correctly, post-acquisition integration can serve as a window of opportunity to advance your roadmap, better serve customers and forge new pathways to profitability. While company ownership may be changing, your mission and values must remain intact. Establishing an inclusive culture of empowerment will help your company be successful. Your people are your strongest asset. Invest in them, and in most cases, they will be eager to reciprocate.

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