5 Best Practices When Crafting your M&A Onboarding Experience
[Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Jennifer Fondrevay, Chief Humanity Officer at Day1 Ready™ , an M&A consultancy.]
Post mergers & acquisitions (M&A) onboarding is NOT your typical onboarding journey. However, intentional planning and appreciation for your new employees’ mindset can play a critical role in setting your new employees up for success.
In an M&A scenario, employees have not been actively recruited to join your company. The excitement and eagerness to “be part of the team” are not typically there. In fact, if the newly acquired company will be changing its name to the acquiring company, these new employees may even think about revolting. This reality requires a different mindset and approach as you onboard your employees.
Here are five best practices when crafting your M&A onboarding experience:
1. Recognize onboarding post-M&A deal requires greater sensitivity. While each M&A is different and post-deal integration start dates vary, keep in mind that employees who join your company after an M&A deal are not proactively joining the company. It is happening to them. The onboarding process can feel like a constant reminder that their old company and ways of doing things are changing. As I shared in my book NOW WHAT?, depending on how the deal is executed, employees will likely experience stages of grief as they mourn the loss of their old company. Respecting these new employees’ emotions should guide every aspect of the onboarding journey you develop.
2. Simplify the paperwork to focus the first 30 days on employee engagement. Similar to traditional onboarding best practices, the first 30 days of post-deal onboarding are critical. If the first days are filled with paperwork, legal forms and tax documents, it can set a negative tone. Especially when employees are still evaluating how they feel about their new company. While these forms are necessary, take proactive steps as soon in advance as possible to simplify this aspect of onboarding. Pre-filling the documents with the standard personal information can make it less burdensome for acquired employees to complete. Employees need to be quickly introduced to the company’s benefits, not mired in mounds of paper.
3. Enhance their cultural education. Friction between cultures coming together post-deal has been highlighted as a key reason M&A deals fail. The difference in cultures can significantly influence how companies come together (or don’t). Perhaps your company is more corporate, while the acquired company is more entrepreneurial? Or your organization is B2C (Business to Consumer) while they are B2B (Business to Business). A company’s culture guides its internal language, decision-making process and how it conducts business. To integrate with a company whose culture is very different can be jarring. Onboarding can accelerate acquired employees’ understanding of the new company culture. Beyond providing branded t-shirts or coffee mugs, assigning “culture buddies” to new employees can go a long way in making them feel welcome. This match-up can help them ramp up more quickly as they gain insights into how their new company operates.
4. Educate employees on how success is defined. Post-M&A deal, the metrics for success may not be immediately clear. The new vision, objectives and strategies can take a while for acquired employees to understand and embrace fully. They may be more immediately focused on all of the changes happening. Determining upfront what the key performance indicators (KPIs) are against the new vision and strategy is critical. An onboarding portal can ensure that these KPIs are shared with everyone simultaneously and enable managers to focus their valuable and limited time on translating those KPIs for their teams and team members.
5. Provide a considerate offboarding experience. One of the negatives associated with M&A is “downsizings.” Not all deals have redundancies, and the magnitude of layoffs can vary, but people’s general perception of M&A is that people are let go. Should your deal require offboarding of employees, be mindful that those who remain will pay close attention to how you treat those who go. Not only is there a fear they may be next, they evaluate how you treat employees being let go as a sign of how you treat employees in general. If you honor departing employees thoughtfully, with dignity and grace, this will be a proof point for remaining employees that they have joined a worthy company.
So far in 2021, global mergers and acquisitions have totaled a record $2.4 trillion, up 158% from the same period last year. The number of deals continues to grow. Given the negative historical baggage attached to M&A, people are immediately afraid when they hear the words merger or acquisition. Creating an onboarding experience that reflects the unique challenges of acquiring employees through an M&A deal accelerates their transition into the new company and their ability to contribute overall.
Jennifer J. Fondrevay is the founder of Day1 Ready™, an M&A consultancy focused on providing human capital strategies that support executives and leaders to retain deal value. Her best-selling book, Now What? A Survivor’s Guide for Thriving through Mergers & Acquisitions, guides executives and middle managers through the challenges of business transformation to help them retain talent, maintain morale and minimize loss in productivity.