The last few years have brought about an unprecedented number of changes for many companies, including merging with or being acquired by other companies as well as internal restructuring. However, many companies have found that their performance post-change, post-merger or post-acquisition declines, and that the organisation struggles to return to previous performance levels.

In the current climate, organisations are experiencing increasing pressure to improve productivity and reduce costs as ever tougher market demands are being placed on them. These pressures are causing organisations to fundamentally rethink how they operate and as a consequence what they need to see differently from their managers and staff to survive.

One of the reasons that can bring about a drop in organisational performance during a merger or an acquisition is that there are unresolved cultural differences between the two organisations. This can lead to confusion and frustration and result in employees becoming de-motivated.

A clash of cultures can be overcome but it requires strong leadership and collaboration between the management teams and HR to ensure that a common set of goals are in place and communicated to employees. This may also mean ‘changing the mindsets’ of employees as cultural changes may also require behavioural changes.

No matter how clear the imperative for change might be, for it to be successful there are a number of prerequisites that need to be in place. For example:

  1. There should be a clear vision for change and everyone must understand what it means for them personally (e.g. will they have a job after the change). This should include key milestones and targets for the change journey.
  2. Senior managers demonstrate their commitment to the change by regularly ‘walking the talk’.
  3. Managers and staff understand what is expected of them and are clear about what they need to deliver, for example changes to working practice, increased productivity etc.
  4. The way that managers and staff are measured and managed is congruent with the changes needed.
  5. People are involved in the change and can help shape the outcomes within their areas of responsibility.
  6. There are regular two way communications. Individuals are listened to and their expectations are managed effectively.
  7. Managers have the skills, capability and confidence to manage the reaction to the change both in themselves and their team.
  8. Everyone is encouraged to behave in line with the changes and consequential actions are taken if they don’t.
  9. Individuals have the personal capacity to implement the changes as well as doing their ‘day job’.
  10. The changes needed to existing people and business policies, procedures and measures are clear and known.

To address these issues, it is vital that the organisation identifies and plans the key interventions that are needed to ensure the implementation of the planned change is successful.

A key aspect of this that is often overlooked is the ability of managers to lead change and staff to absorb it. Managers and staff therefore need to be given the appropriate training and development to enable them to develop their confidence, skills and behaviour and adapt to their new roles. In this way managers and staff will be given the right tools to make the necessary changes and ensure that the changes required by the organisation are successfully delivered and maintained.

Leadership skills are therefore a critical element of any management training programme. Historically many companies have not put any onus on leadership training and often management executives have found themselves lacking in the necessary skills to manage and motivate their teams, let alone effectively communicate and guide employees during the merger and acquisition process. By providing them with the relevant training will give managers the necessary skills to help their teams quickly feel they are part of the new company and culture.