Managing your people and making sure it works
You’ve been through a successful acquisition or merger. All the legal proceedings and necessary preparation that needed to take place have been done successfully. But this is only the beginning of a long and important process of integration. A lot of post-M&As are mismanaged and result in poor outcomes.
Too much can often take place too quickly, leading to an erosion of previous internal cultures, a loss of staff, and a dangerous loss of profitability. After the acquisition, it is the task of management to ensure that the new, combined teams are able to build a shared vision of where the firm is going. It’s time to build a new internal culture forged through cooperation and consensus.
Start while you’re ahead
The most important foundations of post-M&A integration are established during pre-deal negotiations. Setting targets for integration should be considered as much of a priority as the process of establishing key benefits and risks from the deal itself and, indeed, should be based on this evidence and analysis. That’s why it’s vital to assess the internal structure, values and culture of the other party before the deal is done, and vice versa; due diligence is key.
One way this can be achieved is through the use of a clean team. This is an independent group of individuals bound by strict confidentiality agreements who gather the necessary data for integration, which usually lies out of the reach of an acquirer’s employees pre-deal.
To enable comprehensive integration planning, many organisations have begun using clean teams to gather information, analyse scenarios, and make preliminary integration decisions prior to deal consummation.
These clean teams operate under strict protocols that enable competitive or confidential information to be aggregated and summarised in a form that helps leadership review the analysis about the future combined organisation without violating competition laws – Aon Hewitt.
Have meetings with the other party involved in the merger or acquisition and work together to collate your findings and establish the sources of risk and possible friction. Establish an integration plan together, structured around core values, will save your company a lot of pain in the long run.
Making the hard decisions manageable
A merger or acquisition can be a stressful time for everyone, but especially employees. A particular source of employees’ anxiety stems from concerns about job security. Employees and line managers alike are unsure if there is going to be a place for them after the deal. Everyone knows there could be difficult decisions ahead, and that some staff may become surplus to requirement as the new business is forged.
If not well managed, the post-acquisition/merger stage can be messy and cause grief for those taking redundancy (voluntary or compulsory) and the managers who have to implement the programme. Losing a job can trigger a lot of personal issues that can damage employees’ well-being, resulting in loss of self-worth, feelings of betrayal, and a loss of identity. It’s important to handle these situations properly – negative effects and perceptions don’t impact on outgoing staff and those staying with the company. Creating negative perceptions of management ethos will make it hard to win ‘hearts and minds’ and to take the business forward.
Managing properly not only means treating people with dignity, but providing concrete support, for example, offering outgoing employees resources and support to help them transition to another job or career. There are many outplacement and career transition services available. It’s good practice to organise such services as part of a redundancy package, or to allocate individuals funds to enable them to choose an outplacement agency themselves.
Building a new shared culture
Having identified and planned your post-acquisition or merger integration, it’s time to implement it. The problem with many integration plans is that management can fall into the trap of coming in and saying to the new team, “this is how things are going to work.” Communicating a vision is important, but workplace cultures tend to develop organically; they can’t be manufactured.
If you’ve already established what sort of culture will benefit the integrated company, it’s time to start incentivising the sort of behaviours you want to emerge, particularly for line managers. This can be achieved by getting the staff engaged in the vision for the company, involving them in decisions, listening to ideas as well as providing attractive reward and recognition schemes. As well as this, you’ll hopefully have identified key time frames for achieving your integration plan fully – 100 days is a popular and effective starting time scale. A cohesive strategy covering planning, communication, action and co-operation is the name of the game.