How do you manage Staff during large Corporate changes?

Åsa Granberg
19 January 2019

Staff Management in times of Mergers & Acquisitions or Digitalization etc!

When I was working at OMX Technology (Nasdaq) as a Business Configuration Analyst and a capital markets expert and customer trainer, then I was often involved in the process of mergers and acquisitions where the new merged company had decided to implement one or several of OMX/Nasdaq IT platforms. These are normally very chaotic time periods in a company where the staff at both of the two previous companies are trying to understand what is going on and how to relate to the new joint-company. All of a sudden staff-members are trying to hide information in order to keep themselves indispensable, some are angry and unfriendly, and some are powerless and not taking any action or even capable of performing their regular job. Different people have different reactions to feeling unsecure about the new situation of their new role.

In times like this it is important for senior management to be as transparent as possible towards all staff members from both of the previous companies. Of course you as a senior manager cannot disclose all information that can affect your corporate stock price if you are exchange listed. However, if you are not as transparent as you can the chaotic corporate state can remain much longer than necessary because people will lose faith and lose trust in all the information and in everything you say for a very long time - if you prove to have been acting “shady”. Being transparent brings trust and trust brings motivation and a sense of being part of a group and the “we/us-spirit”.

I remember one of the first business and IT-system introduction days I had with some 20 senior IT managers at a capital markets Exchange that had just been acquired by another Exchange and the top management of the new merged company had decided to invest in one of OMX/Nasdaq IT-platforms. This meant that the IT-system, the acquired Exchange I was visiting, had up until then was to be divested and the senior staff before me in the room had to leave their system behind and learn the new system that I was representing.

During the first 30 minutes of my presentation, all of these senior IT managers were sitting leaned back in their chairs with their arms crossed over their chest and giving me the “evil” eye – like I was some sort of enemy. So, I decided to stop my presentation and I told them the following; “I can see that you are all upset and angry and frustrated about this new situation and you are hurt by the fact that your IT-system will not remain within the organisation. However, it is not going to change the situation that the top management has already decided and signed all documents and they have chosen the system that I am here to inform you about. The way I see it, you have only two choices and that is either you go and find yourself a new job - or you decide that you like this workplace and you want to stay on - and the only way you can do that is to learn the system that I am representing, as fast as you can, so you have the possibility to compete for the really interesting positions that you might get within this larger merged company. I will give you a 15 minutes brake so you can think about it and decide what you will do.”

15 minutes later the senior IT managers returned to the meeting room and they started taking notes at the speed I thought their note books would catch fire. The introduction day was supposed to take 8 hours but they had so many questions that it took 12 hours. Every time I came back to visit this Exchange I was treated like I was the head officer of an army, since they respected me for having told them the situation in a very transparent way.

So, being transparent to your staff brings trust and trust brings loyalty and loyalty brings the corporate culture - and corporate culture brings the “us/we-spirit” and that brings staff motivation.

If you are a senior manager and you are facing a situation of a bigger corporate change coming your way; whether it is due to IT-development or mergers or regulations or what ever the scenario is – you should always have a “staff-management-plan” and “staff-communication-plan” ready in parallel to signing the business documents or business strategies. Because studies still show that no matter how digital and IT based corporates become – it is still the corporates with the most motivated staff that will win!

AimHill Consulting Group