Recently the Competition Authority of Kenya approved the proposed merger between Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) and NIC Group Plc (NIC). In some instances when a merger is announced, fear, the uncertainty of the future, and even skepticism of success can emerge. In this instance, however, CBA and NIC Group have made the critical decision to retain all staff for at least one year as they rationalise the process and this will likely alleviate the staff concerns in the interim.

The reality is that there will be some employee dissatisfaction with the process. It is very important that staff integration in the merger process is given as much attention as the technical and operational integration. Typically when major organisational change is announced either formally or informally through the grapevine, staff productivity and satisfaction decline substantially. According to Prosci® staff productivity could drop significantly if the change is not managed well, there may be a tangible impact on the customer and key talent are likely to leave.

We must remember that both CBA and NIC have very distinct cultures and ways of working therefore it is critical that a lot of thought is given to the respective strengths and constraints of each culture from the get. This leads to consultations to establish what the desired culture and ways of working the future organisation will adopt.  This step is very critical because cultural differences are often some of the greatest impediments to a successful merger. There have been instances where internal rivalries emerge that hinders the new organisation synergies. However, if the cultural aspects of the merger are mitigated early on by developing a well thought out change strategy, the merger process is more effective. This is not to say it will be an easy process but with time and commitment from the leadership it will produce the desired cohesion and results one day at a time.

Customers will also experience the change and have concerns. Some common questions they may be pondering on are; how the merger will impact the services they receive, the impact of the changes on their relationships with bank staff, and whether their desired products will remain in the suite of products offered or not. The change management effort must be deployed equally with this key group of stakeholders to ease worry and retain the customer base.

Communication to both the internal and external public is of utmost importance and must be open, honest and transparent. The rationale for change must be clearly explained as well as the benefits of the change be emphasised. When this is done well, all the parties are able to understand the process and support it for the long haul.

The visibility of the leadership in the whole process is critical. The importance of having the organisation’s leaders communicating openly and honestly with a structured change approach cannot be over emphasised to realise the full potential of the integration.