Silence Is Deadly, and 4 More Ways to Kill a Merger

17-percent-chanceGiven that more than half of mergers fail to meet their targets (83% in one study by KPMG), there’s lots of evidence that certain conditions can be fatal to deal success. Take heed if you don’t want your NewCo to end up in the morgue.

1. Silence Is Deadly.

When a merger is on the horizon, the air is usually swirling with FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). People are worried about how the deal will affect their employment and their work life. They’re desperate for official answers but will settle for rumour if nothing else is available.

Leaders sometimes have good intentions behind their silence — they’re waiting until they have more reliable or complete information before releasing anything. But the vacuum will always get filled, often with an inaccurate or anxiety-inducing substitute for the truth. Not a good environment for getting things done or working together.

2. Marco… Polo!

With ever-shifting org charts, additional office locations, and faceless staff directories, employees can feel like they’re wandering around in the dark.

Struggling to find the right person leads to frustration and less incentive to try the next time they need help. Opportunities to forge new relationships are lost in the shuffle.

3. Silo City

Work continues before and after the merger, but without proper support for collaboration, staff are more likely to labour on in isolation. They won’t get the benefit of each other’s knowledge, they won’t feel the satisfaction of cooperating, and they could duplicate effort and even work against each other (whether intentionally or not).

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The Complex Role of a Modern Intranet Manager

The role of Intranet Manager is more important than ever before. Traditional intranets required someone at the helm with a broad perspective and variety of skills. Newer social intranets, with their greater ability to influence company culture and productivity, have only added to the pile of needed skills.

In this article we explain what the core skills are for successful intranet managers, common gaps in experience and suggestions for rounding out an intranet manager’s abilities.

Why is the Intranet Manager role complex and strategic?

Most people think an intranet manager simply has to have web development skills. They see the job as a technical one, or perhaps that of an internal communications officer. Far too frequently it’s seen as a small job to be done off the side of someone’s desk or as just part of a larger job.

The truth is that an intranet sits at the intersection of multiple departments, purposes and concepts. Communications, technology, employee satisfaction, company culture, information design, productivity — all these areas come together in the intranet space. The successful intranet manager typically has a knack for change management as much as anything else.

Our recently published sample intranet manager job description provides a helpful starting point in defining the role of Intranet Manager.

Core skills for successfully building and managing a modern intranet

The list below paints a somewhat idealistic perspective. You don’t need a new Intranet Manager to be an expert in all of these fields. But you should look for basic knowledge or competence, or at least an inclination towards learning about all of these things quickly.

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Use These 14 Questions for a Corporate Culture Audit

Animals having a chatCulture plays a big role in the health of an organization. Leaders need to foster a culture that supports the company’s objectives and keeps employees happy. In a merger situation, integrating cultures is very important to deal success. But corporate culture often appears invisible to the people immersed in it.

If you’re developing a strategy for your social intranet or anticipating a merger, you may be considering hiring a professional to conduct a corporate culture audit. Here are some questions you can use yourself as a mini-audit to help you see your company’s culture more clearly.

How are things done around here?

While it’s hard to pinpoint a standard definition for corporate culture, the most common shorthand is that culture is “the way we do things around here.”

  1. What’s the communication style? Are there more one-way broadcasts from leadership or grassroots conversations?
  2. How are decisions made? Is the approach more hierarchical or consensual?
  3. How are employees treated? How are they expected to behave day to day?
  4. What’s the approach to getting work done? Is the emphasis more on group collaboration or individual achievement? Do people pay more attention to methods or results?
  5. How freely is money spent? What is money spent on?
  6. What’s the tolerance for risk? Are strategies more daring or conservative?
  7. How is customer service done? What kinds of relationships are developed with customers?

What’s the environment?

The actions of a company and its employees do not exist in a vacuum; they are influenced by many factors around them.

  1. What is the company’s vision?
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Recorded Webinar Oct 15: Giving Back — How to Use a Social Intranet to Promote CSR

This webinar is now complete. You can view the video recording below.

Social intranets are the perfect place to drive corporate social responsibility (CSR) — they create a place where employees can organize initiatives, contribute ideas, and celebrate success. Join our webinar on October 15, to hear remarkable stories of organizations using ThoughtFarmer to make a difference in their communities.

Social intranets empower employees to self-organize corporate social responsibility initiatives and celebrate success.
Social intranets empower employees to self-organize corporate social responsibility initiatives and celebrate success. Join our webinar on Oct 15th to find out how.

Hosted by co-founder Chris McGrath, we’ll explore how social technology enables companies to respond quickly to emergency relief efforts, sustain long-term environmental initiatives, and celebrate quirky campaigns like Movember. We’ll also show you steps you can take to encourage CSR activity on your own intranet. Take a look at our blog post 5 Ways to Use Your Social Intranet to Organize CSR for a sneak peek.

Video Recording

Webinar Details

Date: October 15, 2014

Time: 8:30 AM Pacific / 11:30 AM Eastern / 4:30 PM UK / 17:30 Europe

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Intranet Tip: Embed Stock Prices On Your Intranet Home Page

In brief: Pengrowth Energy tracks key stock prices and exchange rates on their intranet home page, so employees always have up-to-date market information.

Knowing what’s happening in the market is of vital importance to publicly traded companies. Pengrowth Energy, a Canadian oil & natural gas producer, wanted a simple way to ensure all employees could monitor market trends. So they embedded key stock information and exchange rates directly onto their intranet homepage. Now market information is always visible and up-to-date.

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Culture Clash is the Reason Mergers Fail

2 dancers about to merge

The statistics are somewhat daunting. 50 to 70% of mergers fail to meet their targets. More than half destroy value. The average acquired firm loses 40% of its managers during the first 24 months of the merger.

And the reasons are no secret; in fact, there’s a fairly clear consensus about the top contributing factors to merger failure. According to an Aon Hewitt study, 33% of respondents blamed “cultural integration issues” as the reason their deal failed. According to a study by Marsh Mercer Kroll, 50% of respondents cited “organizational cultural differences” as the most significant post-deal issue they faced.

What can go wrong with culture when two companies come together?

People don’t buy in to the newly merged organization. They don’t get the right information from leaders about the purpose and plan for the deal, which leads to distrust and fear about the future. They disengage, and their loyalty to the company slips.

People don’t understand each other. They don’t learn about the cultural characteristics of the merging companies. They can’t connect with new colleagues.

People don’t collaborate, or worse, they actively work against each other. Different systems and business styles keep employees apart. There’s an “us vs. them” mindset that produces internal competition and conflict.

People are distracted from the core business. A poorly planned or challenging integration takes too much time and attention. Productivity drops, eroding the company’s revenue and customer base.

People leave. They don’t feel like they fit in anymore, or they’re unhappy with the problems and delays of integration.

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Intranet Tip: Promote Workplace Safety with a Children’s Drawing Contest

In brief: Use a children’s drawing contest to promote workplace health & safety while increasing intranet adoption.

Health and safety is an important initiative in every workplace, but even more so at Cummins Western Canada where employees work hands-on with some of the world’s largest diesel engines. They invited kids, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren to submit drawings of why their relatives should be safe at work. The entire contest was run on the intranet, from uploading submissions to galleries, to using polls for voting on winners.

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Your Merger Isn’t Over Until the Social Merger Is Complete

Culture Clash in MergersAccording to a study by Marsh Mercer Kroll, 50% of respondents cited “organizational cultural differences” as the most significant post-merger issue they faced.

Take the example of the failed Daimler-Chrysler merger. “Serious efforts to integrate the operations of Daimler and Chrysler foundered on lack of trust clashes between the mid-market cowboys of Detroit and the high-end knights of Stuttgart,” writes Michael Watkins. Daimler ended up selling Chrysler to a private equity firm at a $30 billion loss.

The lesson? The finances may be be combined, the leadership reorganized, the cubicles occupied. But the merger isn’t finished until the social merger — the human and cultural aspects of the merger — is complete.

What does a successful social merger looks like?

People have allegiance to the newly merged organization. They are comfortable and confident in the new company and feel a sense of belonging and united identity. They are fully engaged with each other and with their work.

People have positive relationships with each other. They talk to their new colleagues and share their history and ways of doing things.

People cooperate to serve the business. They share information and best practices, answer questions, and act as though they are all on the same side. They know when to adapt their processes so that customers are served better.

People stay. They are invested in the new entity they’re building and feel respected and valuable.

One great way to reduce culture clash is to set up a social merger site. Learn how you can advance your social merger using ThoughtFarmer M&A Edition.

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The Best Intranet Metrics Measure Business Outcomes

How do you measure collaboration, employee engagement, and improved communication in hard numbers? How will you know if your intranet is successful?

Trying to create intranet metrics can be challenging. It’s certainly not as easy as, say, CRM software, where the classic sales pitch is “sell one more thing and the software pays for itself”. Since intranets affect many areas of the business and are used for many different purposes within an organization, figuring out how to measure success can feel like trying to nail jello to the wall.

The good news is that it’s actually not that hard… as long as you start with your intranet strategy and objectives. Your intranet strategy should be aligned with company goals. It should be designed to drive business outcomes. (If you haven’t gotten this far yet, see How to Align Intranet Plans with Company Strategy).

Once you know the business outcomes you are trying to achieve, creating and implementing KPIs becomes pretty straightforward. From there, you can identify problems, celebrate success, and create an ongoing improvement plan.

Need-to-Know Terminology

Benchmarking: Comparing one’s business processes and performance metrics to industry bests. (For intranet benchmarking data, we recommend checking out the Digital Workplace Group, Prescient Digital, and the Worldwide Intranet Challenge).

Baselining: Initial known value which is used for comparison with later data.

Key Performance Indicators: “(KPIs) are simply a tool for assessing the impact of a particular project or activity. While these are often numeric in nature (‘improve sales by 20%’) they can also be qualitative (‘improve staff satisfaction levels’). In either case, metrics provide clear and tangible goals for a project, and criteria for project success.” — James Robertson, Metrics for knowledge management and content management.

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Giving Back: 5 Ways to Use Your Social Intranet to Organize Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Starting a new intranet project? Our Intranet Buyers Workbook guides you through understanding business goals, choosing the right team, defining requirements, and evaluating intranet solutions. Download now.

With sustained winds over 200 km/h, Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. It devastated the Philippines on November 8, 2013, killing at least 6300. Thousands of miles away, Winnipeg-based Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) posted a simple news article to their intranet, explaining how staff and members could contribute to humanitarian relief. What happened next was unexpected.

Dozens of Filipino staff members commented on the page, thanking the credit union for making this provision. ACU executives hadn’t realized how many employees were Filipino and had family and friends affected by the disaster. So they quickly posted another news article to the intranet, offering to match all employee donations. Staff warmly welcomed this initiative, and thousands of dollars were raised.

According to Duane Nicol, ACU’s marketing manager at the time, it is the transparency of a social intranet that made this possible. “It’s flattened the organization. It’s a communications exercise between executive management and staff. It was a powerful demonstration of what a social intranet can do for us.”

Globally, there is more interest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts than ever before. How can you use a social intranet to support your CSR initiatives?

1. Create awareness of CSR initiatives

Every CSR initiative starts with letting employees know that it exists.

News articles, blog posts and informational pages on your intranet are a great way to do that.

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