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Merger Book Coaches Communications

February 8, 2000
Related Topics: Mergers and Acquisitions, Innovation, Featured Article
Novell Inc.'s Merger Book -- a set of more than 2,000 questions developed by the human resources department to be asked of a merger candidate -- serves as a road map for managing the company's many acquisitions. One of the avenues down which it guides the human resources specialists is communications.

Because the Merger Book's creators joined the Provo, Utah-based company when it acquired the firm for which they worked, they understand the importance of frequent and honest communications with both Novell employees and workers from the companies being acquired.

That's why they set up a template in the book that they refer to as the Calling Tree. As soon as they get word that an acquisition is going to occur, they begin coordinating communications with Novell's marketing and press-relations functions. "We try to coordinate so that the communication goes out to the employees at the same time that it goes to the press," says Theresa Dadone, director of compensation, benefits and mergers at Novell. "We don't want our people to read about it in the newspaper first."

The communications begin with a telephone call to senior managers worldwide, who are informed of the activity to take place and briefed on answers to questions their employees might ask. Then, the HR staff sends out worldwide E-mail and voice-mail messages letting the employees know what's going on. They follow these up with hard copies. "We hit not just our major locations but all of our field offices as well," says Dadone.

Once the initial announcements have been made, HR sets up weekly meetings where workers can meet with the senior-level managers and have their concerns addressed. In addition, the human resources professionals send out periodic newsletters, called Merger News , to both Novell employees and employees of the company being acquired. The news-letters:

  • Keep the employees apprised of the activities taking place
  • Teach them about the other company, including its business and its philosophies
  • Inform them of the steps involved with a merger
  • Briefly explain the process the company must go through with the government before having the acquisition approved.

To help integrate the new employees into the corporation, Novell people go out to their offices. Some of these individuals who make the visits are people who joined Novell as a result of a previous acquisition. They relate their personal experiences. Other visitors simply talk about the company. Still others come as a team, and demonstrate to the new employees how Novell operates as a team environment.

When the acquisition is finalized, the two companies come together in a celebration. Communications don't stop with finalization, however. The company continues to communicate with both the old and the new employees through Merger News Bulletins. "Although it's very important to talk beforehand, it's even more important to talk afterwards," says Dadone. "You answer a lot of questions and restate things you've already said three or four times to keep them fresh in their minds." Communications updates die out as the need for them goes away.

"People are wary of the unknown," says Dadone. "We know that going in, so we try to do whatever we can to relieve their fears."

Personnel Journal , March 1994, Vol.73, No. 3, p. 42.

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