These frequent touch points with members of the C-suite and integration leads generated engagement and, we believe, were essential to the integration’s success. At workshops, the executive clearly articulated critical path, project scope and clear expectations, even in a completely virtual setting. Selecting an executive to lead the integration can be paramount in engaging and guiding all workstreams in the right direction.
3. Establishing teaming and trust
Building trust can be the foundation of a successful integration, particularly when working virtually. Selecting integration leaders who are well-respected in the organization and deal advisors who are trusted throughout the process can be key. Without the subtle nuances of nonverbal communication in a conference room or hallway chats, companies often need to establish an environment with rapid and trusted, top-down or bottom-up, safe communication to get the job done.
Assimilation often happens through conversations and taking time, even just for a moment, to encourage casual, informal dialogue and connect on a personal level. It is important to embrace healthy conflict to allow gaps and tensions to be resolved immediately. In a remote environment, it can be easier to have miscommunication because body language, attitudes and demeanor are difficult to decipher and interpret through the screen or over the phone. Further, it is difficult to compare notes and mismatched information in a remote setting, so it is important to address discrepancies and disagreements in a timely fashion.
- Encourage team members to turn on their cameras during video conferences in order to create an in-person atmosphere
- Exchange phone numbers, when applicable, to text and less formally check in with one another on a day-to-day basis outside of calendar invites
- Host one-on-ones with each team member to learn more about his/her career interests and development goals, as well as a bit more about hobbies and life outside of work
- Make an effort, when possible, to engage in casual conversation at the beginning of team calls, such as asking the group about their weekend or following up on a team member’s earlier comment about upcoming plans
- Create an environment where all team members contribute regularly on team calls, whether it is a quick status update or a question to pose to the group; participation will increase engagement
- Check in with colleagues after project or client calls; if there is any question that information was interpreted differently or that directions may have been ambiguous, follow up immediately to clarify
- When issues arise, address them immediately to maintain productivity and engagement moving forward
4. Driving internal communications and change management
In the remote environment, overcommunication and getting in front of how companies will drive culture, change management and executive engagement throughout the integration process and for Day One is important. To bring two companies together throughout the integration process, as well as for Day One, we recommend regular CEO communications to both companies, which could include videos and virtual townhalls with each leader at close. In the absence of communication, assumptions and rumors may occur.
For example, we hosted an all-day, open, “virtual conference room” for the integration team to allow team members to have ad hoc conversations throughout the day. The IMO had morning and afternoon check-in calls daily. These calls provide a forum for team members to provide updates, ask questions to the broader group, solicit feedback and report on the status of agreed-upon items.