How to successfully merge staffs after an acquisition

Some say yes, some say no. It seems from everything we see that it’s currently successful about half the time. Why? Because generally the two companies tend to look almost exclusively at the bottom line.

Big surprise, right? Financials and stockholders generally drive the desire to merge with or buy another company. The reason is almost always to improve the bottom line, make more money and make the shareholders more money. Yes, someone may be selling their business because they want to retire, but the buyer will be looking for financial reasons to acquire them.

This is not a bad thing in itself. It’s at the very heart of capitalism. Successful business is the rock of our economy. But an unsuccessful merger of two or more staffs can undercut the bottom line. So it behooves us to re-think the process and address the effects of the merger on each company’s people.

It is imperative that an upcoming merger or acquisition be kept confidential. Completely understandable. But, when the time is right and the action will be announced, be prepared.

You will be merging two companies, two groups of personnel and two different cultures. A little planning and a lot of communication will help soothe the way.

When large companies merge, it’s very likely there will be duplication of staff and/or departments, so it goes without saying, there will be layoffs. With smaller entities, this may or may not be the case, but when it is, all of your employees will be in a state of fear, anxiety and stress.

At this point, it’s all about “me” for every employee. Will I have a job? Will my job change? What does my future look like? Owners and managers need to recognize this situation and start to address it as soon as possible — the earlier, the better.

Communicate ceaselessly. Even if you can’t say much, discuss the merger as soon as you can, and communicate everything you possibly can to your employees. Even if it’s only to say “I can’t say anything else right now, but I will tell you more as soon as I can.”

If you do have to lay off people, be respectful and as kind as possible. Provide severance and, if you can, help with job placement. For people that are remaining with the new company, provide lots of information about new processes and procedures, new job descriptions and/or responsibilities, new direct reports, anything and everything you can.

More information will help ease tension and prevent conflicts between merging departments or seemingly competitive positions. Set up some social events for groups of personnel so people can get to know each other.

Provide all communication as directly as you possibly can. If you’re small enough, talk to people one-on-one. If that’s not realistic, do it in as small a group as possible, and back it up with lots of information on your company’s intranet. Make it clear, you are there for any questions or concerns, and be proactive about seeking out opportunities to communicate. Don’t sit behind your desk (with the door closed) and tell your staff to set up an appointment with your assistant to talk. MBWA – manage by walking around. Let people know you really are there for them and you really do welcome their feedback and questions.

It’s always going to be painful, but you can work to make it as painless as possible. As is the case with so many situations, communication is the key. Happy merging!