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Managing Communication and Performance in a Merger or Acquisition

Strategize, listen and focus on key employees.

November 24, 1999
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Related Topics: Mergers and Acquisitions
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Why don't companies manage mergers and acquisitions well? According to a study of Fortune 500 companies that have recently merged or been acquired, "people problems" represent the top failure. Many people factors relate to the way communication is managed throughout the process. Communication during a merger or acquisition isn't only about keeping people informed—it's also about keeping performance high when a company and its employees are in vulnerable positions.

Here are five tips that business leaders can use to manage communication and performance through a merger or acquisition:

  1. Strategize. Build an employee communication strategy into the overall M&A process from the very beginning. One company has developed a 13-step process that guides all their M&A activities. Communication management is in all 13 steps. Integrate the employee communication strategy with the communication strategy for other stakeholders—customers, suppliers, government leaders and the community. If you already have a solid, well-managed communication process, use it. If you don’t, use the merger or acquisition to build one.
  2. Do what you say. Manage your "say" communication and "do" communication together. Remember it’s not just what you say that communicates. It’s what you do as well. Don’t say you’re creating a merger of equals when one company will clearly dominate—or even will appear to dominate.
  3. Listen. Listening is more than half of the communication process. Telling people what’s going on is important. But asking people about communication gaps that prevent them from being the best they can be is just as important, especially when you respond quickly and appropriately. During most mergers and acquisitions, business leaders don’t listen enough.
  4. Focus on key employees. Focus a disproportionate amount of your communication management on people or groups who have the greatest influence on business performance—people you absolutely can’t afford to lose or people who are critical to maintaining high performance levels. If you have key leaders or scientists in either company that you can’t afford lose, focus on them. If your sales force is critical to keeping valued customers, focus on them. If you’re an insurance company and your claims operation helps make or break your business, focus on the people there.
  5. Tell the truth. Fibs and half-fibs told during the M&A process kill leadership credibility. It makes it tough to inspire people whose productivity you need to be committed and engaged in the business, its vision and goals.

Cite: Towers Perrin News, Mergers and Acquisitions Foster "Cool Hand Luke" Syndrome; "What We Have Here Is Failure to Communicate," October 28, 1999.

Source: CCH Incorporated is a leading provider of information and software for human resources, legal, accounting, health-care and small-business professionals. CCH offers human resource management, payroll, employment, benefits, and worker-safety products and publications in print, CD, online and via the Internet. For more information and other updates on the latest HR news, check our Web site at http://hr.cch.com.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice.

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