“I didn’t ask to be acquired!” How to Help Employees Cope With Change

Where do HR managers make mistakes with acquired employees? They treat them like new hires!

It’s easy to forget that an acquired employee did not choose to join the company. Many were perfectly happy with the way things were going at their old company. They are just living their lives and one day, their world is turned upside down.

The employees are called to a company meeting out of the blue, which is rarely a good sign, and they are told that the company has just been bought. What does it all mean?

How employees view an acquisition

No one seems to have all of the answers and when they ask their colleagues, they get different responses. Next they hear that they will have to interview for their job. Yes, really! The same job they’ve been successfully performing in for the last several years. Now someone that doesn’t even know the company wants to interview them to see if they should be able to keep their job.

Eventually, things seem to get back to normal and they end up with an offer of employment from the new company. When the close of the acquisition occurs, nothing really seems that different. Or does it?

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All of a sudden the employees are sitting at a New Employee Orientation and it hits them that things really are different. Thereafter, it’s a roller coaster ride for many acquired employees, so, by making onboarding as smooth as possible, you will surely make strides in winning their hearts.

4 employee audiences who need targeted help

My best advice to the receiving HR manager in charge of onboarding is to treat the acquired employees with the respect of a long-term employee but give them the level of information needed as a new hire. There are four (4) key audiences that you should provide with targeted sessions to help quickly assimilate a new team, outside of the regular company new hire training programs.

  1. Managers: Set up a session for the managers on “how to really get things done in your company.” This consists of a session that addresses the cultural norms, workarounds, and sharing learned experience by longer-term employees. Managers can share ins and outs of the ops review process and budgeting, two critical events for managers. Others can share company meetings, events, or blogs/website(s) that provide the most important information. Or, they can simply share all of the acronyms commonly used in the company. This meeting can take place over lunch to ensure the most productive use of time.
  2. Administrative assistants: Partner the incoming administration assistants with other assistants from the acquiring company. These resources are critical to keeping things functioning within the newly acquired team so, by pairing them up with a knowledgeable colleague, they can become effective and productive much faster.
  3. Senior leaders: Take the top handful of senior leaders and set them up for one-on-ones with key leaders from the new company. It is critical that the newly acquired leaders start building strong networks within the company. Some people will naturally do this while others will need prodding. Take into account the function that this leader oversees and help determine the critical people he or she should get to know.
  4. Employees: Create an alias for questions and then communicate this information to each newly acquired employee. Let them know that they ALWAYS have someone available to answer a question. Staff this alias for 3 months post-close to give them time to acclimate into the new firm. They should try the regular communication avenues first, such as call centers, etc., but if those don’t get them a sufficient answer, then they have their own special alias that can be used to get their questions answered. This is also a great way to monitor common questions to ensure you can build them into future training.

These four steps, taken effectively, can go miles in raising employee engagement levels, boosting morale, and making the team productive. And they are generally free.

Shari Yocum is managing partner of Tasman Consulting LLC, a strategic M&A human capital advisory firm based in San Francisco. Launched in January 2011, Tasman offers a broad range of human resource integration consulting and solutions. Prior to co-founding Tasman, Shari was an executive at Cisco Systems, where she led their HR Mergers and Acquisitions organization. She has also worked for several Fortune 500 companies including PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Nortel, and Management Systems Associates. Contact her at Shari@tasmanconsulting.com.