Richard Tyler, compensation, benefits and HRIS manager at Alcatel-Lucent: Benefits play key role in successful mergers

Companies have long used mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as a way of strengthening their market position, increasing their global footprint and, or, bringing together the talent and resources of employees in order to challenge competitors. One of the most important aspects of any M&A activity is to ensure all staff who are affected by the change experience a smooth transition and feel part of the new company. A crucial element of this is employee benefits. Making sure employers harmonise benefits into the right package for all is vital in helping staff through this change to their working environment.

Even before Alcatel Telecom and Lucent Technologies merged to form Alcatel-Lucent in December 2006, it was recognised that benefits harmonisation would be one of the cornerstones of change management.

The first step in any benefits harmonisation strategy, but one that is often overlooked, is performing an in-depth due diligence exercise to identify all the benefits in place at each company. This is crucial in highlighting any similarities between the benefits schemes and, more importantly, any differences. One of the greatest risks to any benefits harmonisation is not having all the information available to be able to make an informed decision on what benefits strategy is required.

It is important to keep an open mind, study the facts and to take a best of breed approach when seeking to harmonise employee benefits. Look at each perk on its own merits with the information gained through the due-diligence process and then decide how it will be treated moving forward. Bringing the best benefits from both companies together to provide all staff with a clear and enhanced benefits package will play a major part in ensuring any merger will benefit all involved, creating a harmonious transition and avoiding any feeling of “them and us”.

If there is a flexible benefits scheme in place, no matter which company operates it, this should be used as a valuable tool to communicate and implement the benefits strategy throughout the newly-formed company. Full employee engagement is vital for the successful implementation of any harmonised benefits strategy.