Mergers and acquisitions generally occur because they make good business sense. Rationale may include increasing performance, cutting costs, achieving deeper market penetration, and more. Rarely do the reasons include helping your employees sleep better at night. Indeed, mergers can strike fear in employees as they worry about role duplication, changes to the company culture, layoffs, and more. While a certain amount of unrest may be inevitable, here is how to get your employees through a merger as sensitively as possible.
Give your employees time to process
When going through a large organizational change like a M&A, companies need to remember that change is not going to happen overnight. As an HR manager or executive, you may have known about the merger for months, but your employees are just finding out. Give them some time to let it sink in. Organizational change often involves three phases: awareness, acceptance, and then adoption. Don’t be alarmed if your employees aren’t jumping up and down from Day 1. Do your best to expedite their acceptance by painting an exciting vision of what the two companies together can accomplish.
Combine cultures carefully: grape juice and beer make a bad mixed drink
Combining two separate companies can often mean that you are merging two completely different sets of cultures, processes, and systems so it’s vital for HR to have a seat at the table to keep a pulse on integrating people and culture, in addition to thinking about the business priorities. If one company’s idea of fun is Friday happy hour, while the other company toasts with Welch’s grape juice, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Achieving cultural alignment between the two companies is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success down the line. Work to find answers that blend the two cultures where appropriate.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
In the midst of all the red tape, business considerations, and legal issues, one thing can easily get lost in the shuffle: employee communication. Managing the communication in a straightforward manner will help to ease employee fears and prevent rumors. Determine how transparent you want to be with employees about changes being made and ensure all managers are on the same page so employees receive consistent messaging, regardless of which department they’re in. One of the particular challenges is that certain information may be restricted from sharing due to legal reasons, but being as transparent as possible early on is one of the best ways to bring about cultural alignment and create employee buy-in for the new company.
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