Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS -

In­stead, many se­nior lead­ers falsely be­lieve the tech­ni­cal as­pects of as­sess­ing and ar­rang­ing the merger/ac­qui­si­tion are more im­por­tant and they dis­count the im­por­tance of hu­man re­sources. Yet, we know that sta­bi­liz­ing the new or­ga­ni­za­tion and in­te­grat­ing or­ga­ni­za­tional cul­tures, sys­tems and pro­cesses while sus­tain­ing em­ployee trust and morale is a del­i­cate and dif­fi­cult task.

Ap­ply­ing some of the fol­low­ing tips will help your in­te­gra­tion go more smoothly and hope­fully avoid the many pit­falls that oc­cur dur­ing change and tran­si­tion.

Pre­pare your man­age­ment team — Man­age­ment will be lead­ing the front lines of change and there­fore you need to help this group to be good lead­ers in times of great un­cer­tainty and change. Help your lead­ers to un­der­stand their own re­ac­tions to change and tran­si­tion and iden­tify what signs to look for among their em­ploy­ees. Pro­vide train­ing and sup­port and en­cour­age these man­agers to fo­cus on per­sonal self care dur­ing this try­ing time.

Pro­vide im­me­di­ate em­ployee sup­port — In spite of the fact man­agers may also be feel­ing in­se­cure, they must reach out to their em­ploy­ees and pro­vide emo­tional sup­port. As a man­age­ment team, pre­pare a set of ques­tions and an­swers that can be shared with em­ploy­ees. This helps to cre­ate con­sis­tency and pre­vents one man­ager from over-com­mu­ni­cat­ing and/or pro­vid­ing mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion. Re­mind all em­ploy­ees about coun­selling ser­vices that may be avail­able through your em­ployee as­sis­tance plan.

Pay at­ten­tion to or­ga­ni­za­tion cul­ture — Con­duct an ex­am­i­na­tion of the or­ga­ni­za­tion cul­ture of each of the merg­ing en­ti­ties. This will give you good guid­ance on the chal­lenges you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence as well as how to han­dle them. For in­stance, if one cul­ture is more for­mal and the other in­for­mal, then you will need to de­ter­mine what type of or­ga­ni­za­tion cul­ture you wish to have in the new or­ga­ni­za­tion. De­velop plans to make this hap­pen and to help peo­ple em­brace the change and adopt the new or­ga­ni­za­tional iden­tity.

Con­firm your or­ga­ni­za­tion struc­ture — Or­ga­ni­za­tional change causes em­ploy­ees to feel a sense of loss, un­cer­tainty and a lack of con­trol over their lives. One way to cre­ate sta­bil­ity in the new or­ga­ni­za­tion and min­i­mize un­cer­tainty is to quickly an­nounce the struc­ture of your man­age­ment team. The struc­ture is more ef­fec­tive if lead­ers from both or­ga­ni­za­tions are in­cluded; how­ever, this will de­pend on the new mis­sion and man­date and if each leader sees the op­por­tu­nity as ad­vance­ment rather than dis­place­ment.

Foster re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions — There are no two ways about it, cre­at­ing ef­fi­cien­cies means that func­tional de­part­ments will be stream­lined, job func­tions will be con­sol­i­dated and in­di­vid­u­als will be dis­placed. If pos­si­ble, ex­plain to em­ploy­ees how these se­lec­tions will be made as well as how and when the re­struc­tur­ing will oc­cur. Be as open and hon­est with em­ploy­ees as you can.

Pro­vide train­ing as­sis­tance — If em­ploy­ees will be re­quired to ap­ply for the var­i­ous new jobs, then pro­vide coach­ing and train­ing on how to write a re­sumé. Pro­vide work­shops on man­ag­ing stress, stay­ing in con­trol of your ca­reer, re­sume and in­ter­view skills and man­ag­ing change per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally.

Look for op­tions — While it’s an­tic­i­pated that work­force re­duc­tions will re­sult from a merger/ac­qui­si­tion, lead­ers need to first de­ter­mine if there are any al­ter­na­tives to lay­offs. Ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of early re­tire­ment, work-shar­ing pro­grams, mod­i­fied work weeks, or per­ma­nent part-time em­ploy­ment.

En­sure dig­nity in work­force re­duc­tions — The whole world will be watch­ing how you han­dle any work­force re­duc­tions. If peo­ple are not treated with dig­nity, then morale will con­tinue to plunge and em­ployee trust will de­cline even fur­ther. Pro­vide sup­port ser­vices both prior to and af­ter your re­duc­tion.

Com­mu­ni­cate, com­mu­ni­cate, com­mu­ni­cate — Em­ploy­ees know and can ac­cept that or­ga­ni­za­tions must change and adapt to sur­vive; how­ever, they want to be given hon­est in­for­ma­tion about what is go­ing on. They will of­ten be starved for in­for­ma­tion and may ask the same ques­tions over and over again. Up­date em­ploy­ees fre­quently, pro­vide fac­tual feed­back on the change process as it comes avail­able. En­gage in face-to-face com­mu­ni­ca­tion as much as pos­si­ble and en­sure that all com­mu­ni­ca­tion me­dia are giv­ing the same mes­sage.

Stay vis­i­ble — Vis­i­bil­ity cre­ates a sense of com­fort for em­ploy­ees and there­fore man­agers must be as vis­i­ble as pos­si­ble and also be ac­ces­si­ble to their em­ploy­ees. Hold meet­ings more fre­quently and be open to em­ploy­ees mak­ing an un­ex­pected visit to your of­fice. Make fre­quent vis­its to your em­ployee lo­ca­tions, ob­serve and no­tice any po­ten­tial chal­lenges.

Pay at­ten­tion to em­ployee safety — Stress in sit­u­a­tions of mas­sive change can cause strange and un­ex­pected be­hav­iour. Peo­ple lose their con­cen­tra­tion, don’t pay at­ten­tion to what is go­ing on around them and fall prey to un­for­tu­nate ac­ci­dents. This is the time when em­ploy­ees can be in­jured in a car ac­ci­dent or a nasty fall.

Iden­tify and deal with re­sis­tance — Re­sis­tance more fre­quently oc­curs due to the change in peo­ple re­la­tion­ships rather than the tech­ni­cal as­pect of a job. Watch for sul­len­ness, ver­bal hos­til­ity, or ar­gu­ments. Be sure to step in and deal with the is­sue im­me­di­ately, as avoid­ing con­flict can lead to greater and more com­plex prob­lems.

Source: Merg­ers and Ac­qui­si­tions, The role of HRM in Suc­cess, Carolyn Kris­jan­son Love, Queen’s Univer­sity Press, 2000.

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