There is a natural inclination for us all to focus on our own individual situation in the face of a significant change in business models or processes. If you have ever heard the phrase “the most important word in merger is me” you know this to be true. Yes, we should be concerned about our own careers and positions when we learn of an impending merger – there is no doubt that there will be changes that will affect every employee in both firms, regardless of which one is the big dog and regardless of whether or not there are redundancies as a result. As with most significant events in life, mergers typically mean both bad news and good news.
If we are selected to remain we may report to a manager we don’t know well, or we may work on a team with strangers. We may be asked to learn new skills, take on new responsibilities, work in a different location, or face a change in title or compensation. Even if none of these situations take place, we are likely to see some of our teammates depart.
I state with no fear of contradiction that the merged entity will not retain the same culture as before, even if that culture change is not apparent from day one. Company names will change, logos will change, vacation policies will change, promotion criteria will change, communication will change, compensation bands will change, vendors will change, and the big one… politics will change. Whew… exhausting simply to read the list. Stressful for sure and for many… daunting.
And the good news? If you know where to look and how to navigate the new waters, mergers can offer opportunities to accelerate your career. Elsewhere on this website there is a link to an article I wrote some time ago called CORPORATE CULTURE: A CRITICAL ELEMENT IN CAREER DECISIONS. Although it is about understanding cultures of external target companies, I am pretty certain that the same tips can help us succeed in a merger. Treat the newly merged entity as a new employer… learn all you can, raise your hand to help align the teams and the values and the goals, get to know who is driving the agendas and the budgets, and step forward to demonstrate your value. This is not the time to hide in your cubicle or office. This is not the time to moan and complain about how things will change. This is, above all, not the time to stubbornly resist change but instead to embrace it.
Whether it's an external or internal role… accepting a position also means accepting a way of life at work. Being comfortable and in alignment with the (new) corporate culture is often a critical factor in determining job satisfaction and future potential within the organization. Doing your homework on company culture should be a priority, so that you can be better prepared to make the most of your (internal) networking and interviews. Understanding the basics of how a company operates and evaluating ahead of time whether or not a specific culture is a “fit” for you are too important to leave to chance. Having a feel for how people communicate, how decisions are made and how success is defined can dramatically affect your on-boarding and overall success in the (newly merged) company.
- Find out as much as you can about the ‘other’ firm and learn as much as you can about the goals and objectives of the Newco and what defines success for each position.
- Talk with current and former employees, vendors, customers and competitors; and simply ask them to describe the other company culture. Visit Glass Door and read the good, bad and ugly comments.
- Read the LinkedIn profiles and additional materials about each and every member of the new management team.
- Become familiar with what the other company says about itself as well as what analysts and competitors say in the media.
- Read between the lines of company annual reports or mission statements for hints about how the other company views itself and what values it holds dear.
- Proactively introduce yourself to the new key players and offer to help transfer knowledge and historical information to the new team.
- If you are a manager, invite a new colleague to contribute to your projects or to sit in on a meeting to get a sense of what your team does and the way you operate.
Network, network, network… establish regular check-in phone calls, ask new colleagues to have a cup of coffee, offer to show them around or offer information about the local area. Make them feel welcome and you will be laying the foundation for success for both parties.
Make the most of your opportunity to remain by clearly demonstrating that whoever made the call to keep you on board made a brilliant decision and help accelerate your career at the same time. Perhaps the next time a merger happens, you will be on the team helping to drive an exciting new business model with future opportunities.