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Talent Development and mergers: building a successful integration strategy

In my previous article, I've talked about some of the major challenges change management teams face after mergers - when two companies join forces to move forward as a single new entity. The goal of mergers is for the resulting companies to use their joint resources more effectively and be more successful.

It's essential for the integration part of the merger to be specifically tailored to support the objectives that backed the making of the deal in the first place. People who are in charge of facilitating this process must spare no effort in coordinating the newly combined organization.

After many months of analysis, strategic planning, and negotiations this is the last step and as such, it is prone to be influenced by any errors done in the earlier stages. While each merger has its unique characteristics, there are some steps that you can proactively take toward the integration of employees from both companies.

The key is to do this early in the process and focus on facilitating the adaptation of both current employees and new hires. It’s also important to consider that the organizational culture will change significantly as two different cultures become one, mission statements and values included.

Building an adaptation strategy after a merger

Adapting to a new way of doing things can be daunting, especially in large organizations. However, things are more manageable if the training and development team is brought on board early.

The first step is to identify what you’ll keep from the existing curriculum and which areas require new content. Several factors have to be considered: the geographical dispersion of employees, their tech-savviness, cultural background, demographics, learning preferences, and the skills they will need to make the change smoother for everyone involved.

Apart from the technical and cultural aspects, it is essential to include learning units geared towards building resilience, intercultural communication skills, and dealing with change. Talent Development is the best team to help all employees fit into the new organization, providing them with the skills they need to adjust as well as support. It can also help with reskilling to avoid redundancy.

Read more: 5 Things to consider when moving towards adaptive L&D

Creating an integration strategy after a merger

The first step in building an integration strategy is efficient communication. Top management must communicate their intentions, the changes they intend to make, and their objectives for the newly created business structure.

Furthermore, an effective communication channel should be built to connect all employees from both entities. Collaboration needs to start immediately after the merger is completed. It will take time for everything to function effectively but getting a head start will help you identify obstacles right off the bat.

Practical tips for handling talent in a merger

The point is for the employees to see that the two entities are not enemies, although, in some cases, they used to be competitors before merging companies. Direct managers have the leading role in making this happen, yet talent development needs to be in the loop and offer the support and tools that ensure a smooth transition:

What to do before a merger

  • Make a contingency plan in case employees react negatively to the new situation;
  • Increase communication frequency and open new channels for feedback. You need to build up the workforce's trust and give them opportunities for expression;
  • Meet with leaders from both organizations and establish the goals throughout the merger process.

Read more: The Top 3 ingredients for motivating employees in tough times

What happens during a merger

  • Communicate clearly about everything that is happening. Put effort into alleviating employee anxiety and act as a liaison between teams and the new management;
  • Offer support to all employees who need it. Even if they don't say it out loud, workplace transformations rank very high on the stressor list. Help people build resilience and be ready with reskilling opportunities;
  • Assess the likelihood of job redundancy and come up with appropriate compensation options.

After the merger is completed

  • Work with management to communicate the new corporate culture positively and effectively;
  • Adapt the curriculum to match the needs of the organization and focus on showcasing its vision and values;
  • Encourage collaboration between current and new employees, establish mentoring and coaching programs to facilitate integration;
  • Be mindful of lingering angst. Don’t assume that people’s worries have been put to rest just because they are still with the company after the merger is finalized. Transitions take a long time and require a lot of support.

Read more: The trifecta of trust in a learning organization

Closing thoughts

Retaining talent is a challenge in everyday situations. The context of a merger makes it even more so, but if talent development is involved early in the process, there's a better chance that valuable employees from both companies will stay on. It will take a solid plan, open communication, and a curriculum focused on fostering collaboration and encouraging inter-departmental communication.