Companies merge because there will be an overall benefit to both companies if they join forces. But if you manage employees in a company that's merging with another, the merger is going to have real effects on those people and the people around them. Employees have come to see mergers as harbingers of layoffs and worsening workplace culture, but these seven actions can help keep the workplace calm, if not make people happier.
Make management more accessible to the rest of the employees. If managers sequester themselves behind closed doors, or if they shuffle all employee questions through one channel, it can seem like management is hiding or purposefully obscuring unpleasant news.
Remember that rumors can really affect what your employees do and how they work. If you keep all of your workers in the loop so that they know that anything they hear on the street is likely false, you'll have calmer workers who can also act as unofficial damage control -- if they hear a rumor, they can squash it immediately because they'll already have the real news from management.
Also, watch the jargon or marketing-speak. You're not selling the merger to the employees, so don't use vague advertising-like language to make the merger seem wonderful. Maybe it really is wonderful, but you still don't need corporate-speak to convey that message. Talk to your employees in plain language.
You have to be sure that what you tell the workers is true. If you try to hide bad news by lying, then your employees feel like fools when they find out the real news. Plus, your company develops a bad reputation. A merger is really not a time to sugarcoat things. Be straightforward with your workers. They might not like the news, but they'll appreciate that you thought they were smart enough to hear it.
Fill the workers in on why the merger is happening. A merger often results in one or both of the companies effectively disappearing, and employees may wonder why that particular outcome was chosen. Why not a partnership? Why not just some simple restructuring? Ensure your employees know why you are following the path that you are following.
Do your best to have plans in place for benefits, duties, and other office-life and human-resources specifics before announcing the merger. Sometimes this isn't possible, but if you have a chance to get things lined up early, do it. Being able to tell your employees that benefits will change in this way, and other policies will change in that way, can make the employees feel like they have firmer footing as the merger rocks the company's world. Uncertainty is a morale killer, so get rid of as much uncertainty as you can.
Have severance plans in place for any employee laid off due to the merger. And do not put restrictions on the severance, such as giving the employees severance only if they train their lower-cost replacements. That will send morale down the tubes and almost guarantee attempts to mess around with the replacements during the training.
If layoffs are inevitable, ensure the remaining employees aren't suddenly doing the work of multiple people. That leads to burnout and high turnover rates. Give employees a way to notify management if they are being overworked, and take the employees seriously. Have a plan in place to redistribute work or rehire laid-off workers if the workload is too much.
Try not to make sweeping changes to the company culture. Changes are usually inevitable, but if you can retain some familiar procedures and hierarchies, your employees will have an easier time adjusting.
If your company is about to complete a merger, remember that the company's success is due in large part to all of your employees. Take their concerns and well-being seriously. Talk to other companies that have been through the merger process and see what they did that worked.
For more information about mergers and acquisitions, contact a company like RLS Associates.