Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) come with a whole slew of challenges, from communicating the changes to the right people at the right time, to spurring colossal change in an organization (or two), to ensuring no one feels lost in the mix. There are several sensitive areas to approach during a transitional time and including the right teams in decision making and implementation can make all the difference. This insightful article by LearnLight highlights seven areas where HR and L&D play a key role in the planning process of a merger or acquisition.
1. Everyone is a potential enemy:
- Once communication has been sent out informing people of the M&A, a sense of chaos and wonder may ensue; be ready for it. Employees are bound to lose trust in their colleagues and maybe even management. They will be left to wonder if they will lose their job or be re-purposed due to this transition.
- Solution: Managers must pay attention to their team members. At times, this may seem difficult since they are likely having to figure out how to successfully merge the teams, but they cannot lose sight of their current team and must be cognizant of the team dynamic. Loss of skilled talent is a big possibility if employees do not feel taken care of or feel that their voices are being heard.
2. Your job will change, even if it doesn’t:
- No matter the degree of it, people’s jobs will change. It could be as small as an added (or removed) task of their job or a change in their job title. It may seem minuscule to management, but it could make a significant impact on the employee’s feeling of their job security and overall morale.
- Solution: Be up front and honest about the potential impacts to an employee’s job duties, function or title. Better yet, tell them why the change is happening. This will provide them with a deeper understanding of how their role is affected by this transition.
3. Culture clash:
- The very inevitable merging of cultures can be a large indicator of failure or success of a M&A. Even taking extremely similar company cultures into account, no two are the same. Every team has their own culture, whether it be obvious or not. Managers need to make sure that if teams are merging from both companies, the culture is not one sided. Another element that managers need to consider is when team members are joining from the company that was acquired/merged, that they are aware of potential cultural resistance. It can happen at any level and managers should be prepared to overcome this challenge.
- Solution: Managers must interact with their team to learn about and get to know their new employees to ensure there is cultural cohesiveness (eventually).
4. Your way is the wrong way:
- Just because things are as they have been, doesn’t mean that they should continue going forward. It’s easy to continue with the same processes as always without second guessing if there’s a better way. Take advantage of having fresh eyes and perspective on legacy processes.
- Solution: Collaborate with all team members (new and current) and come up with processes that fit for the new working environment.
5. A change is not as good as a break:
- Leave work at work and home at home. Make sure the two are separate from each other and not impacting one another. It’s easy to let a stressful transition period get in the way of family time and one’s work-life balance.
- Solution: Find ways to encourage relaxation and stress relief. Try to avoid making big decisions when team members are out of the office. If that’s not possible, ensure that the employees are briefed on what they missed upon their return.
6. There is no such thing as too much information:
- Employees want to know as much as they possibly can. They feel left out and invaluable when information is kept from them. A good ole game of Telephone can start rumors and cause ruckus for the company atmosphere.
- Solution: Keep communication more informal and digestible. Chances are, your employees already receive too many emails in a day so don’t add a huge, important email to their load. Perhaps a town hall or an internal social network would be better. Also, ensuring communication is two-way will be key. Allow employees to ask questions so that they can jump on board sooner, rather than later.
7. Everyone wants it to succeed:
- Many emotions are experienced by everyone affected by a M&A and sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal, which is to create a better and stronger company.
- Solution: There isn’t one. If you’ve taken all of the above steps, you should find yourself sitting in a positive working environment, with cohesive teams and a positive outlook.
Just as in any project, identifying stakeholders is a crucial activity. Acknowledging that every one of your employees is a stakeholder in a M&A will help ease it along tremendously. By keeping all of your employees top of mind, you’ll find that M&As aren’t as scary you once thought they were. After all, your employees are your number one asset and as long as they are happy, so will be your organization.
A merger is a difficult time, and too many mergers fail to achieve their potential. Communicating and identifying the soft challenges early will go a long way toward easing the transition and help you merge successfully.