A KPMG study shows, 83% of the mergers fail. Some organisations embrace mergers almost effortlessly, and then others fail because of softer, but key aspects like ineffective methods of people and culture management.
Think of it as two ideologies merging, perhaps very aligned in nature, but different all the same. A merger between two organizations can be a rocky path to tread, but if handled well, it can lead to a wonderful road down the line. It is observed often that employees report lower overall satisfaction and engagement with management, post a merger and acquisition.
This is usually due to various factors such as a mismatch in culture, lack of common vision, poor communication, poor governance and weak leadership.
The answers to avoiding these problems are right in front of us, but we just dismiss such solutions as trivial and get deeper into money matters and official training.
While money and formal training are of course of utmost importance, people and culture are a rung higher on the priority ladder.
So How Should One Handle A Merger?
Tell people why
People want to know what they are being propelled into.
They want to understand why and telling them means allowing them to truly be a part of the decision and the move. It enables employees to come to terms with this change and respect and appreciate the reason for the merger.
This will lead to people viewing the merger in a positive light and knowing that the senior leadership and the company’s decision makers are on their side and willing to work together. When employees feel alienated, they tend to view the management as the other side, and this is never healthy for a company.
Apart from this, it’s important to be prepared and aware that tasks such as laying off people are bound to be unpleasant, but if handled tactfully and with some empathy, it can be much less of a pain point.
Ask people what
Telling employees what is expected and why is only step one.
Asking them what their concerns are and how they think these might be resolved, asking for their ideas and suggestions, while maintaining that these may or may not be incorporated, can actually be very helpful, both to maintaining employee morale and to understanding what the unthought of eventualities may be.
People may also have some insight into how the merger may affect their respective departments and getting this department-specific information can help in overall troubleshooting. Such measures will also reassure employees that they are an integral part of the decision and that their opinion matters.
This sort of reassurance goes a long way in terms of the support that senior management will eventually gain from their most important resource – people.
Get people together
Swift integration of people will serve the companies well in the long run. Once they get to know each other’s way of working and operating, as well as become well-informed of how decisions are made and how the chain of command works, they will feel much less lost in the sea of newness.
Delineating a chain of execution and spreading awareness of the organisation structure, and what new roles or decision-making capacities have been assigned to people, will quicken and smoothen the merger process.
Of special importance is the HR department. Since this is the people-centric unit of the organizations(s), they need to be in the know of their responsibilities from day one. It is also important to organize team-building activities and team outings that will establish and solidify a sense of camaraderie in the team.
Integrated training programs and group discussions will also aid in the exchange of ideas and foster an understanding of diverse thought processes across organizations. When people work in unison, almost nothing is unachievable.
Manage on the ground
Managers need to lead from the front, on the ground, from day one. Letting employees know that their leadership is accessible, approachable and supportive, will better everyone’s progression through the change.
An effective onboarding process, as well, if put to action from day 1, will ensure that all employees feel at home from the outset and have no space for confusion or chaos.
This phase is the opportunity for managers to really let their employees know that they stand by them and value them. When leaders own the initiative and the change, employees will follow suit with a sense of motivation and inspiration, and not just because they have to.
Mergers and acquisitions are ultimately all about striking a fine balance between blending the old and establishing something fresh and new. Yes, companies need to understand each other’s way of operating, but culture and value building also needs to happen afresh.
Though it is a merger of two older companies, it is, after all, leading to the start of something new, and this must be acknowledged by leaders and employees alike. Once everyone has accepted this fact, adapting to change is much less of a rocky road.