Mergers are difficult, but that doesn't mean they have to be a disaster.
For those of you who have been part of an acquisition or merger before, you know just what an undertaking it can be. I’m not just referring to the negotiations, terms, and logistics (although that in itself is challenging enough), but rather the much more complicated task of combining two sets of staff, values, and cultures. Everyone hopes for it to be a seamless and smooth transition, but the fact is it’s usually far from a harmonious experience.
Let’s face it, anytime you bring together two different sets of staff with varying methods and processes, there are bound to be issues. Unfortunately, this often leads to multiple resignations, unmotivated employees, and broken culture.
Mergers and acquisitions are undertaken to enhance business value, but so many organizations fail to achieve this outcome because they don’t effectively manage the cultural transition. As a leader, it’s vital that you play an active role in helping everyone adjust to the changes.
It’s no easy feat, but if done correctly and with transparency, your company will come out stronger in the long run. Here are four ways you can make the path to a company merger easier for everyone involved.
1. Establish shared values
If you go into this trying to push your company’s previous values and completely ignore the other side, you’re setting yourself up for failure right from the get-go. It’s time for a fresh start. I’m not saying you have to completely abandon everything you’ve established, but you should work with the new company to create shared values that everyone can get behind.
Don’t just consult the executive team; make sure that every level is involved. Managers, human resources, sales reps: They’re all part of the company and should be heard.
2. Be open to change
Rather than letting a merger or acquisition make your staff feel uncomfortable and displaced, celebrate the change and be open to new ideas. One company might be accustomed to flexible hours and Ping-Pong in the lunchroom, while the other is stricter with their policies. Everyone needs to work together to find a happy compromise.
Keep in mind that just because you may be on the acquisition side of the merger, it does not make you entitled to dictate all the rules. If everyone puts in equal effort to accept the changes, it will be a much easier transition.
3. Start the conversation
The only way to really get your staff on board with a merger is to be as transparent as possible. No one wants to feel like they’re being kept in the dark, or that their position in the company might be in jeopardy. A good way to really get the conversation going is to hold regular town halls. This will give your employees the chance to ask questions and discuss concerns directly with the leadership team.
You may be put in the position of answering some difficult questions, but it’s important to always be honest. If you don’t have the answer, admit it. Don’t sugarcoat things to spare feelings; ultimately people will appreciate the honesty and transparency.
4. Don’t take things too seriously
Set aside a budget that’s dedicated strictly for fun. Plan a company barbecue, buy a box at a local sports game, organize a happy hour — whatever it is, make sure it involves a fun, work-free activity outside of the office space.
The only way to get people to connect and start collaborating is to create an environment where they can let go of the titles and résumés. Relationships take time to build, so enable a series of culture-building events where people can meet, mingle, and bond.