Merger Mania: How to Keep Employees on Track When Companies Combine

As Apple grapples with its largest-ever buyout, 2014 is fast becoming a banner year for corporate mergers and acquisitions. Despite all the headlines, the $3-billion Beats deal — and a similarly sized buyout of Trulia by Zillow — are just drops in the bucket compared to Rupert Murdoch’s rebuffed $80-billion offer for Time Warner. With Big Pharma in the midst of big consolidation, the total value of the M&A deals this year already tops $1.75 trillion.

In the midst of a company merger, it’s easy to get caught up in the high-stakes dealing and neglect one of your most important assets: your employees. How do you manage staff to keep them focused and motivated through the uncertain times of a company merger?

Here are five key strategies to bear in mind:

1. Communicate openly and often.

When information is scarce, imaginations run wild. Disable the rumor mill by keeping staff well informed. Provide updates as frequently as possible throughout all stages of the process. Beats employees have even been given a special hotline to Apple HR.

2. Maintain training and development.

It’s normal to try to improve your bottom line before a company merger, but think twice before you cut back on training and development. It will stand your employees in good stead whether they remain with you or not and send the message you value them in this volatile time. 

3. Monitor workloads.

One consequence of a company merger can be changed roles or increased workloads. Have one-on-one conversations with employees about their potential new responsibilities and communicate your concern for their well-being throughout the process. If needed, bring in consultants who can come in on a project basis to provide specialized expertise and alleviate the burden on your full-time staff.

4. Offer retention incentives.

Bonuses for staying with the combined company can help key employees feel valued. Build these costs into the financial planning for the M&A deal. But, remember, this can be a temporary measure and won’t necessarily rebuild long-term trust.

5. Avoid a culture clash.

A company merger brings together two different corporate cultures. Take time to understand the differences, define the combined culture that you want to build and make a plan to develop it.

Have you been through an M&A experience? Share your thoughts below.