Lori Dernavich, a business advisor who provides C-level executives, observes, “It’s often said that employees are a company’s greatest asset yet they are among the last considerations when companies institute change.”
Whether a company is consolidating its own business units or merging entirely with another firm, it represents a shift in culture for employees: processes change, routines become nsettled, and positions are often eliminated. In these situations, Dernavich recommends that executive leadership make employees a priority, keeping them informed of the changes that will affect them. “Changes,” says Dernavich, “should be made with an eye toward creating a functional, productive workforce.”
Dernavich offers several tips for companies that are merging or streamlining operations:
1. Take time to understand the cultures involved. In the work environment, culture refers to how things get done, that is, leadership styles, employee demographics, hierarchy, and so forth. Before consolidating, conduct interviews with employees to determine company, team, and/or individual strengths and weaknesses. Use the data to determine how the new environment will be structured.
2. Realize that change is not easy. Keep in mind that leadership has had time to get used to the upcoming changes. It is not realistic to expect instant acceptance on the part of employees, be sympathetic to the process they will need to go through to adapt.
3. Show appreciation of employees’ work. Jobs are often part of peoples’ identifies. An integral part of ensuring a successful consolidation is to recognition and show appreciation to employees for their efforts; this is especially true of Gen Y workers.
4. Communicate. There is bound to be information that cannot be divulged, however, it is essential to communicate with employees frequently—even if the news is that there is no news. Silence from the company will lead employees to draw their own, usually negative conclusions about what is happening.
5. Implement Web 2.0 solutions. Build a company community online. Be sure company leaders post to the forum frequently and encourage employees to use it as an opportunity to share best practices and institutional knowledge.
6. Keep leaders visible. Consider having the leaders of both entities do a road show together to explain the consolidation process, the reasoning behind it, the desired results, and the benefits expected. Develop a strong mission and vision and convey these to employees. If they don’t think you believe in the consolidation, they won’t either.
7. Get employees on board. Build a consolidation team comprised of senior leaders and employees all the way down to the front lines. If employees are on board with the change, buy-in and success will increase.
8. Get everyone on the same page. Provide the resources and training needed t familiarize employees with the changes. Allow employees to participate in deciding which best practices to keep and/or acquire for the new entity.
Lori Dernavich, LLC was founded in 2002.