Post-Merger Integration Training – Keys for a Successful Team Integration

Mergers and acquisitions are a vital part of most successful companies’ lifetimes. But handling post-merger transitions can be one of the most challenging tasks managers may ever face. If done correctly, the transition can result in teams that operate better than ever, combining the skills and virtues of the best of both companies. But a failed team integration can be the kiss of death for a department or even a whole company.

Here are a few tips to help smooth your transition and integrate your teams throughout a merger.

Create a Unified Senior Leadership Team

The first thing you need to do is assemble a team of senior leadership. This team will be responsible for making all the critical decisions in the company during and after the merger. Clearly define all activities that must be completed and assign these tasks to a senior leadership team member.

According to Rick Edmunds, a partner at the global management consulting firm Booz and Company, “One of the most common risks arising from a merger is low morale and motivation due to uncertainty.” The best way to nip this in the bud is at the highest level. Every senior leadership team member should be on the same page, have open communication, and be dedicated to transparent communication with their equals and subordinates.

Define an Understandable Integration Strategy

Build a dedicated integration team that will create and implement your company’s integration strategy. Start by choosing an integration manager, preferably someone well-versed in all areas of both companies.

Next, add in members from HR and finance. On paper, mergers are predominantly financial endeavors. But managing the people involved is more complex and more crucial, which is why HR needs to be involved at all levels of decision-making. Next, add in a smattering of other key players who have valuable input for the team integration. Ideally, this should include people from all levels of both companies, so you’re getting diverse perspectives.

Create an Integration Playbook

Formulating an integration playbook can be helpful. It’s best to do this in advance, but it’s not too late if the merger is in the early stages. Your playbook should define key activities, duties, and responsibilities. It should also identify key risk factors.

In the playbook, identify who’s in charge of what key responsibilities. That way, as the merger takes place and integration begins, you have a master document to refer to when responsibilities get muddled, and things get complicated.

Identify What Successful Team Integration Looks Like

Your integration playbook should identify key risk factors, but don’t stop there. Now is also the time to define what both companies stand to gain if the merger goes well. Clearly define what the merger’s objectives are, then develop a post-merger plan to achieve those objectives.

Next, communicate these objectives to every level of the team. Team members can weather more uncertainty and transition if they know what’s expected of them and what they’re aiming for. Unclear expectations are the kiss of death for employees undergoing upheaval during a merger.

Diligently and Transparently Develop New Roles

As you develop a clearer vision of what the team will look like post-integration, you’ll undoubtedly see needs for the team that aren’t being met or can’t be met with the current personnel setup. This may mean dissolving old roles, transitioning current team members into new functions, or adding new team members altogether.

As these new roles are developed and shaped, be open and transparent about this. If your existing team members feel like there’s too much upheaval that they’re not being clued into, that can cause strife and poor morale down the road. Opaque decision-making can make employees feel like they’re along for the ride, not part of a team. This is the exact opposite of what you want, particularly during a transition point like immediately after a merger.

Treat People Like People

Cultural integration should start well before the deal closes. Still, combining two company cultures also continues long after the finances are connected, and the company logo is updated. When one company merges with another, it’s not just buying the company’s financial assets on paper; they’re also buying the value of the people working at the company. The merger process is just as much about merging people as it is about merging departments, outputs, and finances.

When mergers feel more like hostile takeovers, much of the value intrinsic in the original two companies can be destroyed through mismanagement. No matter how advantageous a merger is for the people at the top, if regular employees feel exploited or overlooked, they’ll leave – to the company’s detriment.

Be realistic about what the team and company culture will look like post-integration. Then communicate that with everyone at every level of the company.

Set Examples for Company Culture

Any experienced manager knows that simply explaining their expectations to employees isn’t enough to get lasting results. Management and supervisors must emulate the work ethic and behaviors they want to foster in their subordinates.

During mergers and acquisitions, this is more important than ever. When a large company acquires a smaller company, that can leave even seasoned employees of the smaller company feeling like they’re starting a whole new job – with all the adjustment to the new company culture that comes along with that.

Setting examples for company culture can come in a formal presentation explaining the norms and expectations for the company post-merger. But it should also come in the form of managers and supervisors emulating the new standards.

Post-merger integrations have one of the highest risks of failure of anything you can do in a company. But if done correctly, mergers can result in a stronger company.

If you see a merger or acquisition on the horizon, contact Sales Synergy Consulting today. With experience handling acquisitions involving high-profile companies, we have the expertise you need to keep your transition smooth.

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