The list of barriers that prevent companies from realizing the potential value of mergers and acquisitions is long. Common risks are flawed strategy, poor integration, reduced customer loyalty, cultural clashes, government regulations, and more.
Many executives continually reinforce the fact that common sense isn’t that common by ignoring the people equation in their due diligence. Mergers and acquisitions are largely about people. They create a perfect storm that often weakens a company’s competitive advantage through poor engagement and the loss of top talent.
Investing heavily in due-diligence and integration efforts can be a sound decision, yet executives often fail to recognize the significant resource their high-potential leaders represent. Following are three ways you can leverage these leaders to realize a higher combined value of mergers and acquisitions.
1. Special Projects. Involving your high-potential leaders in special projects provides several benefits. They usually have a strong appetite for change and will be early adopters who support the new vision. Being thought leaders, they can bring others along with them to accelerate alignment. This also provides visibility that can pay off as they become familiar faces representing the new way of doing business.
2. Understand the Culture. By gathering groups of high-potential leaders across each organization, you’ll be able to identify the hotspots and potential clashes between cultures. Ask what they value, and how they make decisions and communicate. This will help you set proper expectations, while determining which battles are worth fighting or avoiding.
3. Feed the Grapevine. Lack of communication creates massive anxiety among employees. Many leaders wait to communicate until they feel comfortable with the amount of information they have. The challenge with this approach is that while we’re waiting, our teams are making and communicating assumptions that may not be true. One human-resources executive whose organization has grown primarily by acquisition suggests communicating both facts you do and those don’t know to avoid “paralysis by analysis.” While there is some information that is not appropriate to communicate, employees appreciate it when their leaders are up front in their communication, especially during times of change. This creates far more trust and understanding than uncomfortable silence.
Mergers and acquisitions are extremely complicated and tough on everyone. Significant organizational changes require “all hands on deck.” High-potential leaders are usually the first to offer a hand — so be sure to take it.
Brian Williamson is director of sales, North American, for ProfitAbility Business Simulations.