When companies merge, it's critical to act quickly to help employees transition to the new company, says executive coach Peter Cairo, partner of CDR International ( in Portland, Ore. After Old Nation's Bank merged with Bank of America in 1999, Cairo spent 18 months running a two-phase seminar program for 2,000 top executives. First they focused on enhancing leadership skills and asking participants to develop business projects that would help accelerate the transition. Then participants regrouped for to report on what they did and what they learned.

Cairo recommends these strategies to help employees after a merger:

  1. Accept that one former company will be in a much stronger position than the other.

  2. Develop new value statements that meet the needs of the merged company. You'll create a much more motivated workforce than trying to mix and match the old company values.

  3. Engage lower-level employees. “Develop a leadership message that describes how the new enterprise is going to win the hearts and minds of stakeholders, how the leaders are committed to making that happen, and what each individual employee needs to do to facilitate that process.”

  4. Clarify job descriptions. People often take on new tasks after a merger.

  5. Spell out broad strategic goals and shorter financial goals.

  6. Help employees nurture their network. “It is particularly important in merger situations for people to develop the relationships that will help them get their jobs done.”