People, people, people

One of the most complex challenges a business leader can face is managing through a merger or acquisition. Business models can change, market focuses shift, and, perhaps most importantly, established organizational cultures cease to exist. The effects can be profound, and not just financially.

To navigate such upheaval effectively and emerge stronger on the other side, the primary leadership focus should always remain the same: People. A good leader knows a company is its employees, and if you have that part covered, the rest of the puzzle pieces will eventually fit into place.

When a new entity arises from a merger or acquisition, it is essential not just to develop a business strategy, but to align talent with that strategy. Doing so often requires a robust change-management program that begins with an evaluation of the new organization’s readiness and capacity for change. Leadership and key employees must buy into and be engaged in the program.

In fact, finding the most engaged leaders at every level can help motivate staff members and ownership embrace the challenge. These leaders should be aligned with the strategic vision, equipped to execute their specific missions, and personally committed to making change happen. It is also important to ensure that the strategy makes sense to everyone, which requires various “translations” of the strategic plan throughout each organizational level and function.

Building the desired culture

Without deliberately cultivating a company culture that reflects your strategic vision, you may end up with a culture that has a negative effect on the newly formed organization and which contravenes, rather than supports, the change-management effort. Thus, examining a diagnostic of the current culture and climate is helpful to establish a baseline. Trained leaders—in conjunction with third-party Talent Management professionals—would then identify the gaps between the current culture and the desired state, and implement appropriate actions to advance from one to the other.

The next step is to identify high-potential employees and top performers, both for the obvious reason of gaining immediately strong business results as well as for determining which job competencies are most critical for success across all functions, organizational levels, and positions within the new entity. This can be accomplished through the adoption of a professionally designed competency library and a scientifically validated assessment tool to ensure consistent measurement throughout the talent pool, whether it’s existing employees or outside recruits who are being evaluated.

Examining the talent-management approaches of the original entities prior to the merger can be helpful as well. It’s possible that some of these practices had supported effective talent management and don’t need to be changed simply for the sake of change. If this is the case, consider how those components can be integrated into your new talent-management strategy.

By taking a smart, strategic approach that focuses on people and is supported by reliable performance data, you can ensure the smoothest possible transition from a merger to a new business entity.