It’s Official: Mergers and Acquisitions are Back

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SONY DSC2015 was a record year, with $4.2 trillion of transactions pending or completed at the end of December. This news leaves shareholders and Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) bankers gleefully rubbing their hands together, however history has repeatedly shown us that after too many mergers employee engagement is lost. So what should you do if you’re the person left with the herculean task of curating these two very separate groups of people into one cohesive body with a shared purpose, values and community?

Let’s take a look at why disengagement sets in. Organisations have an unnervingly brief window of opportunity after announcing a merger to create a single community with shared values and purpose. If they don’t act fast, this opportunity is lost and the “us and them culture” sets in; individual employees ask “where do I fit in?”; and the values of the dominant company swallow up those of the smaller company. This makes the chance of cementing a truly joint purpose, from an engaged community with shared values, unobtainable.

So what should you be doing to avoid this? Well for a start it is fundamental that organisations engage employees from both sides of the merger in the co-creation of shared values as soon as possible after the merger announcement. This must be an engagement at scale, and in a way that enables them to contribute to the discussion and formulation of the shared values. The very act of focusing your people on co-creation establishes a sense of community across both sides of the merger. This sense of community in turn pushes the newly formed organisation over a tipping point of engagement. You can capitalise on the renewed energy created by heightened engagement to rapidly sense-check shared values across the organisation and enable employees to feel ownership over these values. This process creates a sense of belonging, motivation and engagement on an individual level, to maintain the energy and drive needed to push through the stress of the merger.

By following a process of acting both rapidly and inclusively you ensure that, instead of creating a sense of loss at the changes made by the merger, you’ve created a community. This is a community with a shared purpose, driving engagement, around the values of your newly formed company. This engagement has the added bonus of contributing to the success of the merger, ensuring your shareholders are still happy.

Do you need to cement values across silos? Contact harriet@hotspotsmovement.com for further information on how to achieve this.

Catch up on Collaboration Week

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Our Collaboration Week events on April 14-17 were a great success – something we feel is a testimony to the growing realisation that collaboration is hugely important. Whether you joined in and would like to revisit some of the week’s activities, or were unable to make it and would like to catch up on the fun, we have a range of content available online for you to enjoy:

  • Webinars: Leading a Collaborative Organisation: Professor Lynda Gratton launched Collaboration Week with two webinars on why collaboration starts at the top, featuring Farooq Chaudhry of Akram Khan Company and Anshoo Kapoor of Tata Consultancy Services.
  • Collaboration articles – Enjoy perspectives from guest contributorsHoward B. EsbinJohn Milne and Sally Harrison on topics such as serious games, virtual coffee breaks and making teams work.
  • Collaboration lightning talks – Watch talks from our Collaboration pop-up event, including presentations from the Hot Spots Movement, Vodafone, Venda and Save the Children. For more information about these events, please contact sarahlouise@hotspotsmovement.com and get in touch with Tina Schneidermann to hear about how our team can support your organisation in building collaborative capability.

As part of our commitment to the collaboration theme, we work to help companies collaborate in a practical way. Our FoWlab jams are an effective way of getting people from around your business to collaborate on key themes and pressing issues at the heart of your organisation. Contact Keith Dalton ((keith@hotspotsmovement.com)) or on +44 (0)207 759 1848 to learn more about jams.

Why Enterprise Social Networks Fail

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Companies have understood the benefits and pitfalls of using social media to engage customers for some years now, with Facebook and Twitter now commonly used as platforms for identifying new customers, fostering brand recognition, and building or harnessing engaged communities. However, few companies have successfully replicated the success of these social platforms internally.

Engaging employees and motivating them to embrace new ways of working often proves difficult, with companies often seeing low uptake rates of enterprise social networking platforms such as Microsoft’s Yammer and Salesforce’s Chatter.

Though enterprise social networks can take off, they tend to end up supporting a small group of core users, whose interest in the platform ebbs over time. We have spoken to a number of companies who have been frightened away from internal social media after they have failed to gain traction.

The problem with internal social networks is that they often lack purpose, they are rarely facilitated, and they tend to lack sponsorship from leaders. Providing a platform is a prerequisite for enabling new ways of working, but it is rarely sufficient. People need to have a reason for engaging.

The importance of purpose

One of the most successful enterprise social networks we’ve seen, Tata Consultancy Services’ Knome platform, creates engagement by encouraging people with common interests to share their experiences. Building on people’s preexisting passions is a quick way to create engagement with a platform, as it taps into a nascent desire to connect.

Uniting a large and more diverse audience often requires the identification of a broad challenge that everyone in the organisation has a vested interest in addressing. For our FoWlab Jams, we always identify a big strategic challenge, and try to tie the Jam itself to an existing organisation-wide change program. This frames the platform as a vehicle for change, and as a unique opportunity for employees to contribute to high-level strategy.


Personally, I don’t like networking events because I’m rubbish at striking up conversations with people I don’t know. I’m sure it’s a common trait, and one that I know translates to the online world. Though we’re often given a confidence boost by a cloak of anonymity on certain online platforms, most if not all enterprise social networks build on our existing work identities and reputations.

To avoid everyone lurking around the canapés or pretending to check their phones, you need someone facilitating interactions. Someone to introduce them to others and reveal common interests they can talk about. We’ve found that facilitators in online platforms are almost a prerequisite for engaging a diverse audience. They may not be expert in the area under discussion, but they are expert in creating exciting questions and connections between ideas and people.

Motivated sponsorship

Unlike customers, employees have a reason to be scared of sharing their opinions. They think they are being observed by people who want an excuse to fire them. This is the default assumption, and the mentality arises even in the absence of overt authority. It’s something that needs to be actively and continually refuted by leaders in order for their employees to feel they can be honest and open.

Transparent and authentic leaders, who value and act on the opinions of those working for them, are invaluable in getting employees to embrace enterprise social networks. Even for those lucky enough to work in ‘flat’ or ‘horizontal’ organisations, there needs to be a shared understanding that your opinions matter, and that you won’t be penalized for openly collaborating with others.

By providing enterprise social networks with purpose, facilitation, and sponsorship, the chances of people engaging with them will increase dramatically. In our FoWlab Jams, we tend to see 50% of our target audience engaging with the conversation – and that’s just over three days. Employees won’t naturally transition to these new ways of working, but if you give them a reason, guidance and leadership support, you’ll remove the main barriers in their way.

The End of the Engagement Survey?

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By Max Mockett, Head of Research and Technology, The Hot Spots Movement

A few months ago, two survey companies had a violent public debate about the merits of measuring engagement as an indicator of performance. On the one side, Gallup argued that engagement (which it defines as 12 specific elements) predicts performance outcomes. On the other, Leadership IQ claimed that there is often an inverse relationship between engagement and performance, meaning that engaged people can still be low performers.

This debate hit the pages of the Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review, but for me the debate seemed to be missing the broader and more urgent point: that surveys and the companies that advocate them are missing a huge shift in the way that
we work.

There is no doubt that engagement has some effect on employee productivity. Gallup and Leadership IQ agree on that much. However, administering yearly surveys to measure and benchmark engagement is no longer revealing insights into how people want to
work. When talking to companies on the topic of engagement, there is growing indifference and even resentment towards the yearly grind of administering, analysing and reporting on abstract and aggregated engagement scores. The
employee engagement survey is no longer fit for purpose, if it ever was.

A social approach to engagement

Organisations are inherently social constructs. Traditionally, the sheer scale and complexity of many global organisations has led to the creation of hierarchies of command. The engagement survey reflects this hierarchy, being sent from the top to gauge the sentiment of those further down the line. Yet we all know that technology has now evolved to such a point that work no longer relies on hierarchies and the simplifying constructs of command-and-control. The complexity of global organisations can be mirrored and enhanced by complex self-organising online communities. In this context, the idea of employee engagement surveys seems anachronistic, and should give way to something that is not only far more collaborative, but also something that is instantaneous.

We’ve been working on FoWlab for five years now. What started off as a simple online forum for our Future of Work Consortium members to come and discuss our research has since become a world-class platform for conducting online “Jams”. Though we never set out to create an alternative to employee engagement surveys, we think we may have created something that augments, and most probably succeeds the traditional survey in the field of engagement.

FoWlab, as the soft-spoken woman in our video will tell you, is a guided online conversation that harnesses the collaborative intelligence of an organisation’s employees to find solutions to its complex challenges. At first glance, FoWlab looks like Facebook or Yammer. But it’s not a platform as much as it is an online event. And it is more a research tool than a social hub. It runs for just 72 hours, and is constantly facilitated by a global team of researchers.

Unexpected insights

In the last three years, we have conducted FoWlab Jams for many of the world’s largest companies, and the most interesting thing that has come out of the experience is that it delivers many of the same insights as employee engagement surveys, but in a way
that itself creates engagement rather than simply measuring it. Part of this is down to the fact that it builds on many-to-many relationships and interactions, rather than simply being a one-to-many consultation. FoWlab encourages participants to ask their own questions on subjects that they feel passionate about, and develop the ideas of other participants in an open and truly collaborative conversation. Engagement surveys, limited as they are to predefined questions that tend to be sector-agnostic, have a tendency to miss vital information.

A great example of this came out of a FoWlab Jam we ran with PwC’s millennial population. Dennis Finn, Vice Chairman and Global Human Capital Leader at the company, said that “by encouraging our employees to freely discuss why they chose to work for PwC, and how their working lives could be improved, FoWlab was great at delivering unexpected insights that the survey would never have touched on”. The Jam ran parallel to a broader company-wide survey and, in addition to confirming many of the results that came out of the survey, FoWlab revealed that a great deal of millennials at PwC were fixated on their physical wellbeing and thought that the ability to spend time at the gym was a crucial factor in their engagement levels at work. The issue of physical wellbeing wasn’t covered in the survey, nor do many other engagement surveys ask about it.

A common criticism we hear laid against surveys is that they tend to confirm what you already know. You can feel when your employees are unengaged at work, and putting a percentage against that feeling isn’t going to do much. But running a FoWlab jam not only helps organisations diagnose problems that you may not have preempted in a survey, it can also help generate solutions to those problems. Of the three days that FoWlab runs, one day is dedicated exclusively to action steps, asking “how can we turn the insights discussed over the past 48 hours into tangible solutions?”

So while Leadership IQ and Gallup continue to argue about the meaning of engagement, we at the Future of Work Consortium are building the future of engagement by involving the people you want to engage in a collaborative discussion about the future of the organisation.