Acquisition & Integration: When Two Companies Become One

While the sale and acquisition of your company can be beneficial in many ways, there is no doubt that employees are often the hardest hit by any company merging. Depending on the values of the company that acquires yours (or that your company acquires), there may be different cultures, dynamics, and even infrastructure.

To make the acquisition and integration process as smooth as possible for employees, executives have a variety of options. Of course, the best course of action depends on the size of the two companies, the resources you have available, and the time you have to fully integrate.

Luckily, there are a few ways you can “get the ball rolling” on your employee merger before the deal is done that require minimal resources and don’t take months on end.

Three Tips for Preparing to Merge  

1. Open the door for communication. As with any executive scenario, communication with your team or your employees is critical. Once the discussion of acquisition has entered the office, many employees will be worried about downsizing, shift in duties, and changing pay structures, teams, and more. The best way to quell these concerns is to have an honest conversation about how the new integration will change things “on the ground.”

2. Set up processes for internal audits. When a new company comes on board (or your are the new company), it always helps to do an internal audit of current conditions in the workplace. This could mean a confidential survey of happiness in the workplace, ideas for incorporating the two companies, or concerns that need to be addressed. Executives can also pull performance reports, perform reviews, and get a feel for both teams/companies before the move is complete.

3. Be the first to accept change. Change is difficult, especially when someone’s livelihood is hinged on it. Your employees may be worried about the acquisition/merger, but you can set the example. Show them your willingness to work with the other team/company, and develop relationships with the people who will soon be working with you.

Of course, there’s only so much that can be done before the merger is complete. Once the papers are signed and things start to change, your team or employees will be looking to you to know what to do.

What to Do After the Merger is Complete

Depending on a few variables, like which company is being acquired, if there is a move involved, and how much downsizing is necessary, the “starting gun” may leave your team a little jittery. To smooth things over once the acquisition is complete, you and fellow executives can:

  • Continue to keep communication channels open. There is going to be a lot of volatility and concern within the (now) single organization. It’s your and your new executives’ job to quell concerns, answer questions, and create a new structure that allows for open communication. You and your fellow execs can:
    - Schedule team meetings
    - Allow for confidential surveys, feedback, and questions 
    - Create respectful dialogues with hostile team members
    Knowing that the integration process is stressful for your employees is crucial; respect their concerns and they will feel less “at sea.”
  • Extend internal audits. Create an end date with your new team to signal the completion of your merger. Schedule a day and time where you expect productivity and output to be “pre-merger” levels or better and continue to confidentially survey and review your employees. This way, there is structure and a specific goal. Employees will appreciate the return to normality and will also clearly understand your expectations.
  • Create a new company culture. Encourage your employees to work with their new team members. Schedule time for “fun,” including:
    - Team building exercises
    - Happy hours or lunches
    - Unstructured “chat” time
    Of course, the idea is to let your new merged team/employees organically develop new relationships, but a little help can get the conversation flowing. As executives, ensuring that coworkers are actually communicating and working together is key to returning the business back to normal.

Change is Scary

There is no doubt that a merger can leave everyone feeling a little unstable. From concerns about layoffs, demotions, and contentious new teammates, your employees will be justifiably alert. As an executive (and as a newly-merged team of executives), it’s your job to make sure employees feel stable, feel heard, and know that this is an opportunity for growth. A merger doesn’t have to be terrifying, but it all starts with leadership.