You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression: Day 1 Merger Best Practices
Each year, the first day of school fills kids with mixed emotions. Some are excited for a new year, new friends, and new adventures. Others are apprehensive of the upcoming changes. When the first day goes well, parents breathe a sigh of relief. But when it doesn’t, it’s an uphill battle to establish an environment where a child is able to learn and thrive.
This same emotional roller coaster is currently playing out in corporations across the world. According to Dealogic, merger and acquisition activity in the U.S. is at its highest level since 2008. That’s a lot of corporate change.
From the classroom to the boardroom, the first day sets the tone. That initial impression means everything: it’s what makes Day 2 a good thing – or a bad thing. So each school year, administrators, teachers, and parents take special care to ensure that the first day of school provides a welcoming and comforting experience. For example, parents join their children at the bus stop, take the day off work, and pack each lunchbox with their child’s favorite meal. It’s a carefully orchestrated day to say the least. The same goes for corporations in the midst of an integration – the best businesses design a Day 1 that welcomes employees from the acquired company and the acquiring company to the newly formed organization.
Over the last 25 years, Root has served as the change management partner on numerous Fortune 2000 integrations. Root recently partnered with Convergys Corporation, a leader in the customer management industry, on the acquisition of Stream Global Services – bringing together 125,000 employees, in more than 30 countries and 150 sites across the globe. The objectives for Day 1 included:
- Celebrating the formation of the new company
- Aligning employees by creating shared meaning at all levels of the organization for why the organizations came together and what they aspired to achieve together
- Ensuring Day 1 did not disrupt operational performance
- Introducing the new leadership
- Establishing a feedback loop to inform the integration plan
When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, a compelling Day 1 can be the first step, and a very powerful step, in creating a thriving single organization.
So how did Convergys partner with Root to deliver a successful Day 1? Following are some of the lessons learned by Krista Boyle, VP of Communications for Convergys, during her experience as part of the Integration Management Office and the leader of the Change Management and Communications workstream.
How did you approach your Day 1?
Our number one objective for Day 1 was to ensure that all employees – from both Stream and Convergys – were able to leave the Day 1 experience excited about the future. Success meant that everyone – all 125,000 people across the globe – would be able to articulate why the two companies were better and stronger together than we were apart. We wanted everyone to be excited about the future and we rallied everyone around a common line and logo – Taking the Lead, Together. We also hit the tough questions – like will we let people go? – head on. It was important that we be honest and open about the difficult parts as well.
At Root, we believe in the adage that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” What did you do in Day 1 to begin to form a single organizational culture?
Perhaps the most important thing we did was ensure that our leaders were at our sites to help celebrate Day 1. This included intentional “cross-pollination” – sending top executives from Convergys to Stream sites and vice versa. And then we made great use of social media – the real-time visual of 150 sites around the world having a similar experience, decorations, and even cakes was really powerful.
Another big part of Day 1 was ensuring people knew we were committed to gathering and responding to their feedback. We designed various feedback loops to understand, appreciate, and respond to the perspectives of employees throughout the globe. The feedback loops included equipping leaders to be able to manage Q/A sessions on site, debriefs with site leaders, qualitative and quantitative surveys, and “advertising” an email box. Importantly, we made sure people knew we were listening by distributing and posting common Q&A that everyone had access to. Plus, the learnings were integrated into the plan for the next 180 days.
What advice would you have for a leader who might be preparing to manage through the people side of an integration?
You only get one shot at a first impression. This is true with many things, but when you are trying to effect change, ensuring that first impression is clear, positive, and hits the scary parts head-on is even more important. We put our money where our mouth was. We didn’t just say this was a good thing and hope people trusted us. We explained the deal logic in an understandable way. We painted a picture of the future that was not only compelling, but achievable. You have to seize the official Day 1 and use it as an opportunity to tell a story – the foundational story of what’s possible with their new organization – and get everyone on board by connecting with their minds and hearts. Before we could start the journey to become a single, merged organization, we had to meet our employees where they were, see the situation from multiple perspectives, and then share the vision for what’s possible.