Meetings andjust might be the solution to post-merger blues.
According to a recent survey of human resource directors at 218 major organizations (of which 162 had been involved in at least one merger in the last two years) conducted by consulting firm Hewitt Associates, the biggest challenge facing newly merged companies is integrating their corporate cultures. The survey also found that the main reason companies don't do a good job of meshing cultures is that they fail to address employee communications in an effective and timely manner. Forty-four percent of the respondents reported that employee communications received too few resources, 43 reported that the communications occurred too late in the merger process, and 39 percent said that senior management didn't participate enough in the communications effort.
"Companies are gaining more experience in making deals happen, but from a people perspective, the companies continue to struggle with making the deals work," says Pete Sanborn, director of Hewitt'smergers and acquisitions team.
Others agree that good employee communications are essential even in the friendliest of mergers. "At the earliest possible instant, they have to create a vehicle to communicate merger-related activities," says Edward Nebb, principal of the financial communications group at BSMG Worldwide, a New York based communications and public relations firm. This could be a meeting, a section on the company intranet, or a merger edition of the company's newsletter.
In addition to communicating, companies should provide tools for employees to manage the change, says Mary Bellamy Jones, director of corporate services at Career Development Services, a not-for-profit educational organization. "People wonder, 'Do I have a place in this new organization? How can I market myself?'" She suggests company-sponsored workshops on resume-writing and networking, skills that will serve employees whether or not there is a place for them in the new, larger company.
On the teambuilding front, Deer Park, N.Y.based Chezzam Entertainment Group offers meeting activities especially designed for merging companies. One, called the "mentathalon," is a game show that uses trivia questions based on company facts to teach the members of the formerly separate companies about each other.