Advice on Making a Merger Work

June 21, 1999
The number of mergers is up—way up. But many still fail to achieve their anticipated value. Bobbie Little, global accounts manager with DBM, suggests corporate managers take the following steps to ensure successful integration after a merger:

  • Spend 80% on Communications. The lines of communications between companies and employees need to be kept open to deliver key messages and defuse the rumor mill that inevitably churns in the wake of mergers. Beyond talk, managers need to listen so that they can surface concerns and issues and deal with them quickly. "Me" issues occupy a great deal of employees' time during periods of uncertainty and each person needs to feel valued and valuable. Key messages should be delivered several times, in different formats to reach employees who may be preoccupied with merger events and hard pressed to retain information.
  • See the Big-Picture. Mergers create so much additional work that no one person can do it all. Since time and energy are too valuable to waste, managers and teams must prioritize the critical business objectives and focus on what is truly important. Work smarter not harder. Taking a step back to assess how you work and then fine tuning the process as needed will pay better dividends in the long run than logging more hours to get the job done.
  • Work on the Fly. The faster the merger integration process, the greater the chance of quickly regaining high productivity and morale. A slow pace prolongs ambiguity and uncertainty among employees, and increases the stress on the entire organization. If you're able to deliver good business results early on, it validates the rationale for the merger and helps people feel good about their contribution to this success.
  • Re-recruit Your Stars. Once you've identified your highest performing employees, you should actively re-recruit them, almost as if they were considering your organization for the very first time. With respect to incentives, money should not be the deciding factor. Stressing an employee's importance to the organization and offering new and exciting challenges are two ways to foster a sense of inclusion and commitment.

SOURCE: Drake Beam Morin, Boston, June 2, 1999.