It’s a reality of modern life. Companies that consumers have come to know and love may merge or get bought by other companies. From an industry standpoint, a mergers and acquisitions can solve for a number of business challenges – helping companies scale, providing a different set of products or services, diversifying their financial risk, and increasing market share in a sector among many other considerations. But for consumers, the brand that they have a relationship with may change, and change is hard. Will my favorite banker still work at my local branch? Will the product I love still be available? What about price – is that going up because of a merger? Are the terms of service still in effect with the newly merged company?
If it’s hard for consumers to wrap their heads around change, just imagine what it’s like for employees. Will I be downsized? Will I have to reapply for my same position? Will things change so much that I don’t recognize my company anymore? What’s going to happen to my coworkers? As we have often said, employees are a company’s best advocate. These brand ambassadors are on the front line delivering brand promise to consumers at every touch point. If a merger or acquisition brings staff uncertainty, fear and cynicism, the result will assuredly be felt by consumers. But mergers and acquisitions don’t have to be a time of turmoil. With the right approach and programs, companies can support employees and consumers through the transition. Change can be scary, but it’s also a time of great opportunity.
When Two Worlds Collide
While a “culture clash” is not an inevitability with a merger, the reality is that two institutions with different products, policies and practices are combining forces, which can create friction. But there is a way to grease the wheels: proactive communication. By creating a process with open and straightforward communication that incorporates employee feedback, companies can allay fears, set expectations, and gain buy-in from their vital internal audience. Merging companies need to explain what’s happening, why and what comes next. Importantly, companies also need to listen to employees and actively address their fears and integrate their feedback. It’s not merely amelioration, however. Sometimes there is bad news, and companies need to address it head-on, in order to maintain trust.
In our experience developing culture programs for clients, one of the best ways to facilitate a trusting relationship is by making employees feel involved in the merger process. Setting up goals and identifying how employees will collaboratively achieve them is crucial to a merger’s success. This is not merely something that is happening to them, but rather is something that they’re actively involved in creating together. Because the reality is that the new merged entity is made up of people who will deliver on a brand’s promise or not. While many merging companies develop teams to address what the merger looks like through the eyes of the impacted consumer, we advocate for the development of culture programs with an eye toward how the merger will impact the employee.