Mergers and marriages. It’s all just a question of communication

When two companies merge, or one is acquired by another, it may have involved a long courtship at the management level. But for the ordinary employees, it can be more like a shotgun marriage. And anyone who’s seen the Channel 4 series Married At First Sight will know, without having the time to get to know each other first any sudden union can be fraught with potential problems.

In individuals, it’s a question of whether two personalities, which can be very different, can learn to get along together but in the business world, it’s more a question of how compatible the respective cultures are.

Hopefully much has this been thought through and resolved at the planning stage of an acquisition or merger and a common vision developed. But however much has been agreed it’s inevitably going to mean changes for both businesses as they start to work together.

No matter how adaptable we like to think we are as individuals change is always an unsettling event in a number of ways and that’s why it can often meet strong resistance.

  1. There isn’t any real need for the change
  2. The change is going to make it harder for them to meet their needs
  3. The risks seem to outweigh the benefits
  4. They don’t think they have the ability to make the change
  5. They believe the change will fail
  6. The change process is being handled improperly by management
  7. The change is inconsistent with their values
  8. They believe those responsible for the change can’t be trusted

It’s by understanding and addressing these that we can take great strides towards getting staff to join us on that journey.

As with so many things in business, it’s a question of winning over hearts and minds and convincing every single employee that change isn’t just inevitable, it’s desirable too. So the first consideration has to be making sure that the process is transparent and keeping everyone in the loop.

So organising presentations and Q and A sessions with everyone invited has to be the management team’s first priority. Whether this is done with everyone at the same time or is divided by a department is very much up to the individual circumstances of your business. The important thing is to be as open and honest as possible as well as recognising the concerns that employees might have.

The second important element to consider is whether you are able to involve some of those employees in the process of change themselves. By giving ownership of at least a part of it to them it will lead to genuine engagement and a firmer belief that not only will they be able to navigate the planned changes but to play an active part in shaping them.

The third and perhaps the most complex area comes in creating the culture that takes the best elements of the two companies’ features and melding them into one while still retaining recognisable aspects of both. This may be made more complex in acquisition situations when one side of the partnership very obviously is the dominant partner but with sensitivity and vision, it’s by no means impossible.

So while no-one would deny that there may be tricky waters ahead for any companies in the aftermath of a merger they’ll always be possible to navigate. It simply takes a little planning and a commitment to include everyone in the process. After that, it’ll all be just plain sailing!

Back to blog