Two weeks ago it was announced that Anglo-Swiss mining group Xstrata planned to merge with commodities trading giant Glencore International in a deal that would form the seventh biggest firm on the FTSE 100. The deal, valued at $62 billion will create the fourth largest natural resource company in the world, some happy shareholders and a whole lot of upheaval for employees.
At Able and How, we know a thing or two about mergers. We’ve worked on some big ones, Santander, Everything Everywhere and the recently created Vivo Energy, to name a few. Given our experience, we thought it pertinent to list a few common issues we tend to come across during mergers, which if ignored can have a major impact on their success.
1) Make a plan – This one sounds obvious, right? But you would be amazed at how many businesses lack a robust change and engagement plan when going through a merger. Cutting the ribbons on a new business may be the most exciting communication for employees, but it is not the most important. New building passes, new contact numbers and new systems may seem like minor details in comparison, but can grind a business to a halt if not planned and communicated effectively. Good change and engagement communications during a merger means working with the PMO and creating a plan that identifies and considers all of the changes, from the biggest to the smallest.
2) Mobilise leaders – The support and buy-in of leaders is an absolute necessity during a merger. Leaders need to be aligned behind the change and providing consistent messages from the very top. We regularly run workshops with executives based on a simple question – why are you going through this change? And the answers we get are always different. When going through something as huge as a merger, employees need clarity and consistency, they want assurance and leaders need to be able to provide it.
3) Engage employees – Leaders can plan and lead, but employees are the people who make or break change. Employee engagement is a subject that has been written about a lot and attracts much scepticism. We believe that with an engaged workforce, changes can be implemented quickly and with a lasting effect – exactly what you need when going through a multibillion dollar merger. At Able and How we have three essential principles for achieving engagement, we call it our ‘head, hands, heart’ approach. It’s a simple idea and one that works. In short, if you give employees a clear understanding of why a change is occurring and what it means (head) as well as the tools and support to make it a success (hands), they will commit to that change and bring it to life (heart).
If Xstrata and Glencore aren’t already thinking about these things, it would serve them well to do so now.