Supercharge Your M&A Speed-to-Value Through Culture and EX


By Mark Herndon, Chairman, M&A Leadership Council

Most companies still struggle with culture and employee experience (EX) during M&A.

Actions originally intended to empower and align employees more typically come across as haphazard, ill-conceived, or poorly executed, thus short-circuiting business results and speed-to-value at the very moment the acquirer can least afford blown fuses, or worse, the smoke and fire they can create.

Superior Results from Culture & EX in M&A

The “why” is clear.

Acquirers that are consistently “good or very good” at culture assessment and integration during M&A are more than 90% more likely to accomplish their stated revenue synergy goals than those acquirers rating themselves “poor, very poor or just average” at this all important internal M&A capability. (The State of M&A Integration Effectiveness, M&A Leadership Council and M&A Partners).

New and continuing research from WTW, an M&A Leadership Council sponsoring partner, tracked the financial performance of 355 global organizations of different sizes and across a range of industries and simultaneously tracked their employee experience through employee survey data, resulting in feedback from nearly 4 million employees. The findings? Those companies with both superior employee engagement and the ability to retain key talent financially outperform less effective companies in revenue growth (1-year change); gross margin, EBITDA margin and gross profit (both 1-year and 3-year change). (How These 4 Types of Employee Experience Will Drive Business Value in 2023).

15 Key Circuits to Switch-On M&A Speed-to-Value

Supercharging performance during your next M&A requires leadership, messaging and timely decisions flowing effectively through key change-related and culture-related “circuits.”

These circuits transmit strategic guidance, expectations, norms, commitments, rewards and reassurances to employee end-users willing and able to put that power to work.

While not intended to be an exhaustive list, executing effectively across these 15 key cultural and employee experience circuits can help transform your approach to M&A and generate the business results you expect.

Key Circuits the Buyer Must Connect About Itself:

1. Credibility and Trust. We are truthful and transparent. We will discuss as much as we can, as soon as we can. We won’t keep you in a state of perpetual uncertainty, beyond the point we can objectively make the right decision.

2. Competence. You are joining a winning team. We keep our skills sharp. The best players play. We can’t predict or know everything, but we strive to make every decision based on both data and empathy.

3. Purpose and Vision. Our story is compelling. We are better together. Come go with us.

4. Leaders Have Earned Their Roles. They can be respected. They are good to work with. They value performance, fit, and skills.

5. True North. We’ll focus culture intersections on what matters most for the customer and results while recognizing and embracing unique cultural attributes.

Key Circuits the Buyer Must Connect with the TargetCo:

6. Validation. Our actions and behaviors toward the TargetCo confirm why we wanted to buy them and how we will collaborate to add-value post-closing.

7. Respect. We respect the TargetCo, its history, legacy, people, products/services, and capabilities.

8. Understanding. We will go through a comprehensive discovery phase to understand and more fully appreciate the TargetCo’s operating model, processes, culture, organization, and key talent BEFORE determining final integration or optimization plans.

9. Flashpoints. We will especially seek out those highly emotional or historically significant practices or cultural attributes that need to be considered, thoughtfully transitioned, or embraced.

10. Learning. We firmly believe that best practices and lessons learned should come from both parties in an acquisition. We want to and need to learn from you, and with you, as we scale the combined business.

Key Circuits the Buyer Must Connect with Acquired Employees:

11. Belonging. We want you to be part of the team. We will provide opportunities to get to know new colleagues. We strive to make our work environment safe, friendly, and inclusive.

12. Personal and Professional Growth. Your continuing personal and professional development matters. We will provide meaningful training, mentoring and growth opportunities to enable you to continue to learn and succeed.

13. Role Clarity and Appropriate Autonomy. We embrace our responsibility to clearly specify organization structure, reporting relationships, decision authorities, opportunities for input, as well as clearly defined job roles and responsibilities.

14. Performance-Based Reward Linkage. We believe in sharing the results of our efforts based on attainment of company, division, department / team and individual goals and objectives.

15. Fair Decision Processes and Support. This is a fundamental commitment. We expect internal decisions to be made based on data, through robust processes, with sufficient inputs, and considerations to help us get them right. We support the transition of those not selected for go-forward roles.


Ready to supercharge your M&A Speed-to-Value? Join us at The Art of M&A® for Integration Leaders: Collaborative Forum, March 21-23, 2023, in San Diego to learn with, and from, some of the world’s best acquirers including: Maersk, BMO, Stryker, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, IQVIA and many, many more. This highly interactive working session will help you validate what works, overcome critical gaps and challenges, and more effectively adapt and apply the best solutions for maximizing M&A Speed-to-Value in these crucial areas:

Turning Strategic Plans into Strategy Execution Processes by...

  • Establishing key value-driver initiatives at integration launch and directly based on each deal’s principal strategic objectives
  • Defining essential operating model requirements to quickly guide key integration planning assumptions
  • Reinventing the synergy capture process to hit the business case of every deal

Supercharging M&A Results by...

  • Eliminating culture flashpoints and focusing on culture processes proven to drive business results
  • Making the customer experience, commercial value-proposition and go-to-market mobilization the centerpiece of integration
  • Engaging employees through practical, substantive and meaningful methods to get them quickly through change resistance -- fully onboard and highly productive

Taking Internal M&A Capabilities to the Next Level of Success by...

  • Enabling sustainable and appropriate levels of leadership involvement to support timely, effective integration decisions
  • Overcoming persistent internal M&A capability gaps that destroy speed-to-value