In her article for Consulting Magazine, “The Making of a Mega: The New $3.5B Towers Watson & Co.” Jess Scheer says: “Last month, the boards of directors of both firms unanimously approved a definitive agreement under which Towers Perrin and Watson Wyatt will combine in a merger of equals to form a new, publicly listed company called Towers Watson & Co.”
Certainly these two giants of HR consulting will combine to create a behemoth, with as much as $3.5 billion in revenues. And there have been several articles and many professionals quoted (Grahall included) commenting on the challenges of such a merger. Change Management, one of the buzzwords of consulting for the past 10 years, is not without its challenges. We can sympathize with the concerns and distractions facing those consultants and staff at both Watson Wyatt and Towers Perrin, having many of us been in similar situations. Still nursing some “war wounds” from these experiences, we thought we would share some “worst practices” that we have seen in professional services mergers:
1) Fire half the consultants on day one. Ok, certainly you don’t need two practice directors in each geographical location or two office leaders in each brick and mortar space. But the consultants in each company deserve a chance to prove themselves as capable and valuable members of the new team. Remember, one of the biggest risks any merger runs is the loss of key talent. It would be unwise to summarily terminate potentially qualified consultants when there is a chance that other employees will depart leaving you with too limited resources
2) Provide an icy reception for consultants moving into your offices. Remember, it could possibly have been the reverse – YOU moving into your former competitor’s space. And likely some of your colleagues are facing a relocation in which you would want them to be warmly received. Be nice, and remember, what goes around comes around.
3) Fail to dial DOWN the ego. Not doing so may constitute a herculean effort for some people (you know who you are and so do we). But you might just not know EVERYTHING yet, and your new colleagues may have much to teach, especially about how to work with THEIR clients.
4) Exhibit divisiveness in the new Towers Watson & Co. organization since former Towers and Watson Wyatt clients will be watching for flaws in the new organization that reflect a failed or ineffective merger. Remember when it was important for you to be affiliated with your original company – you were a Wyatt consultant or a Towers consultant – and that meant A LOT. Change is difficult, and both Towers and Watson Wyatt consultants will be challenged to pledge allegiance to the new Towers Watson. But from the client perspective, it is critical the merger appears seamless.
5) Treat any rumor or innuendo about your new colleagues as gospel. Why not give peace a chance? People change, but nasty rumors often are started and persist because of jealousy and insecurity. Don’t fall into that trap.
Watson Wyatt and Towers Perrin consultants help companies every day with merger integration challenges, whether with benefits integration, change communication or organizational restructuring. But that doesn’t mean that the Watson or Towers or Towers Watson management teams will get it right the first time and every time before, during or after the merger. A dose of patience, kindness, gratitude and humility will carry you far and help to keep your professional relationships intact and, with luck, few bridges burned.
Good luck, amigos! We are rooting for you!
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