How to Make Post-Merger Cultural Change Palatable for Your Employees
Two companies coming together is a big event. Not just for the company owners and the management but also for the staff. Excitement, uncertainty, anxiety, it’s all rolled into one.
For the employees especially this is a tumultuous phase. Life as they know it is all set to change. The office they go to, the computers they log in to, and the managers they report to may not be the same anymore. Change is quite threatening to people’s sense of calm and routine as it is, mergers and resulting redundancies make it doubly so. It’s easy to feel like an outsider, trying to fit into a new culture all over again.
This process needs to be handled carefully and sensitively for the merger to end up being a long-term success. After all, cultural incompatibilities have led to the failure of many high-profile mergers. There is, however, a lot that the management can and must to do make this change palatable for the employees. Here are a few ways to accomplish that.
Create a Vision for New Culture
The management of the merged company needs to be proactive in harmonising the blending of the two cultures.
People do things differently in all offices. For example, it could have been fine for people in company A to be using Internet for personal work in their leisure time, but company B (with whom company A has now merged) may not be fond of such practices.
Similarly, company B may have had a lenient approach towards punctuality but company A could be insistent on its employees reaching the office by a certain time.
There will be many practices, policies, and ways of functioning in both the companies that will clash with each other when the companies merge. It is inevitable. This could lead to a conflict or misunderstanding among the employees. In order to avoid that, the management has to take charge and put in place new policies and design a new culture for the company.
Roll Changes Out In Clear Phases
Don’t try to implement too many changes in one go, and communicate what changes are coming, when, and why.
Start with the most important ones. For example, harmonizing policies, establishing everybody’s role and responsibilities, clarifying the chain of command, and instituting other general policies directly linked to day-to-day functioning at work.
Policies that don’t have a direct bearing on day-to-day work can be put off till later. Introducing changes in phases will ease your employees into the new way of working. If you introduce everything at once, you risk causing chaos among your employees, thus leading to compromised productivity and increased anxiety in your workforce.
Train Them in Your Desired Cultural Practices
From an employee perspective, working in a company in the throes of integration feels like working in a new company altogether.
Many things have to be started from scratch. There are new people to greet, strangers who are now going to be your colleagues. Conversely, those you’d grown to develop professional relationships with may not be around anymore.
Depending on how the integration is handled, there could be tension or positivity in the air.
It makes sense then to train your new workforce afresh, not just in matters of technology and new job profiles, but also in terms of the new culture. Do this at the earliest to minimise confusion and put in place the desired cultural practices. People are looking at you for guidance anyway. Make their job easy by giving them clear directions.
Identify and Train the Managers First
Redundancies are common when two established companies come together, and more than a few people may just not be needed anymore.
It helps to start with identifying managers and team leaders for all your teams/divisions first and then working with them to determine which employees to keep and in what capacity.
Clarify the roles and explain in detail the responsibilities to all the managers from both sides. This will avert ego clashes later on.
Furthermore, managers trained in the new culture and work practices will be able to direct their teams better, thus making it easier for the management to create harmony at workplace.
Keep the Workforce in the Know
Rumours abound during the time of mergers and integration and uncertainty about the future is a recurring theme in employee conversations.
Everybody wants to know what’s going on, and a lack of information from management in this regard isn’t good for business. People may even start looking for opportunities elsewhere if they feel their future is in jeopardy and there isn’t enough information forthcoming from the management.
The management of both the companies should keep their workforce informed of the developments at every stage, right from the time they actively start considering the merger offer.
Be upfront and honest with your employees. If any divisions are going to be closed down and people to be laid off, let them know in advance. Try your best not to drop a bomb on them.
Even after the merger has taken place and the process of integration is on, the management should keep up the daily communication with the staff. They should hear of all the new hires, new managers, new roles, and new policies from you first.
Give Employees Time to Adjust
Despite your best efforts, employees aren’t going to get used to new ways of working overnight. Like we mentioned earlier, it is going to be like joining a new company for them. Give them some time to get used to the change. Assure them that they can approach their managers or the HR department with any questions they may have. You need to make sure that you are doing everything possible to make this an easy transition for your employees.