Managing people through a merger or acquisition Part 3: Rebuilding your team after the event
Once you’ve made all the changes you needed to make, how do you get everyone on board and working together? People Puzzles HR Directors Tara Lawson, Jackie Kibbler and Andrea Richardson give their tips on helping staff move positively into the future.
Understand the impact on the ground
It’s important for managers to properly understand how staff members are being affected by the changes. ‘They may have to absorb some of the responsibilities their colleagues had,’ says Tara. ‘Processes and procedures might be disrupted, for example, who does X for you if that person is no longer there?’
The mood in the camp may well take a dip, especially if there are awkward situations where there are leaving drinks three Fridays in a row or people are fighting their redundancy. Tara recommends regular communication with staff to understand any concerns they might have. ‘Mergers can be quite destabilising, so once any redundancies have been made, it’s important to speak to those who are left, give them air time and talk through any concerns they’ve got,’ she says.
Understand the change management curve
The change management curve is a well-established model of how people react to change. Andrea explains how it works. ‘After it starts you can go into denial,’ she says. ‘Then you might get angry – it’s normal for this to happen. Then you start accepting it and asking for help. When you get to this stage you’re going in the right direction and coming out of the curve. Some people go through it more quickly than others, it depends on the person and the manager.’ Tara agrees, adding: ‘It’s important to understand that there is a change curve for everyone in the company experiencing changes.’
Helping staff through the change
‘Managers are key in creating certainty and a vision of the future for current and new staff to help them feel positive about the changes,’ says Andrea, who recommends coaching to help team leaders positively and proactively manage the situation. ‘You could outline positive aspects of a merger, such as better job security, opportunities to progress in a larger organisation, or a chance to develop through training – although be realistic and don’t promise what won’t happen.’
Rebuilding the company values and culture
A good exercise to increase staff engagement is to involve everyone in developing a new set of company values – or revisiting existing ones. ‘Some values might change and some might stay the same, but what comes out of it is the buy-in from staff because they can see their input being taken on board,’ says Jackie. ‘It is a great opportunity to engage staff and help them bond with each other.’
Jackie also recommends staff away days or team social events to bring people together, give them a chance to talk and build new relationships.
Other staff incentives
Development and training opportunities are another way to motivate staff. ‘You could also consider things like retention bonuses – or a travel subsidy if the commute is longer for them – if you want to retain key people,’ says Jackie. ‘These sorts of things help show your commitment to your employees and adds a sense of security that might have been rocked by the changes.’
Coming out of the change management curve
Remember that it can take time for things to settle. ‘It takes at least 18 months to two years to get changes embedded – that means going at least one financial cycle and appraisal process,’ says Jackie. ‘You might have six months of change and followed by a year of steady state to be sure that it’s working.’ However, if you’re going in the right direction, the signs will be easy to spot. ‘You know you’ve got people in the right place when they start talking about the new company in terms of what the values are and seem excited about the future,’ Andrea says.
Tara Lawson, People Director
Jackie Kibbler, People Director
Andrea Richardson, People Director