We often think of onboarding for new hires, but effective onboarding is also imperative for successful transition during mergers and acquisitions. Even before the final contracts are signed, it is beneficial to have an onboarding plan. Sadly, more often than not, little preparation has been made for onboarding staff members who may feel uneasy even in the most exciting of times.
To successfully onboard an acquired team, great care must be taken to move these team members into their new corporate “homes” quickly and carefully. This calls for a particular set of change management activities that are far broader than the usual onboarding.
Why is Onboarding Important?
It is well known in the field of neuroscience that our brains resist change even when we know that a change will be good for the company and for ourselves. During mergers and acquisitions, employees are at risk for a loss of identity, feelings of vulnerability, lack of motivation, and increased stress from fear of the unknown. If employees don’t feel connected, a sense of “my company” may fade, and if there is a sudden change in management, relationships with strong personal loyalties may be severed.
Diligent onboarding will help create a sense of belonging in the newly structured organization. The time and money required for onboarding will save money in the long run by avoiding costly integration issues that could have been avoided.
Benefits of Onboarding
Onboarding should provide guidance, reassurance, and a sense of belonging. Effective onboarding will create trust and reduce anxiety by enabling employees to feel engaged and valuable. Benefits of onboarding include:
- Culture alignment through onboarding helps employees understand expectations and learn how to align with and adapt to changes. This helps open the path to trust and good communication.
- Increased productivity can occur when onboarding provides clarity of job descriptions, connections with coworkers, understanding of company goals and strategies.
- Reduce stress by including resiliency training in onboarding. As employees become more resilient, they feel less anxious and overwhelmed, become more engaged, exhibit improved work performance, and are less likely to make mistakes.
- Talent retention is a primary benefit of onboarding by identifying key employees and ensuring that they feel valued and see the merger or acquisition as a good opportunity. The goal is to reduce fears and uncertainty that might lead to them seeking other opportunities.
- Better communication benefits everyone. Many companies state that communication is a significant concern and affects all aspects of a business. Onboarding offers an opportunity to develop conversation intelligence for improved performance, quality, and employee engagement.
- Continuous improvement to collectively move the company toward increased performance, whether management is watching or not, is provided by engaged employees that care about the company and are committed to ongoing improvements
Components of Onboarding
Onboarding should start sooner rather than later. Create an Onboarding plan. Attack uncertainty right away; clearly communicate the who, what, where, and when. Pay attention to details. Little things like business cards and IT systems (new email addresses) hold powerful symbolism. Ensure that pay and benefits are seamless. Change is hard for most people. Onboarding should include empathy, active listening, and acknowledgment of feelings and concerns.
Presenting new company information shouldn’t sound like propaganda. Open and honest communication will establish the company culture and help employees adapt quicker and more effectively. Mentoring, orientation sessions, trainings, socials, and Q&A meetings are all ways to engage employees.
Be present. Get the “joint” teams (especially at the senior level) together as often and as widely as possible. Extend the welcome mat quickly and remember the “learned folks” may not be across the hall; they might be across the world. Celebrate when the parent company adopts something, no matter how small, from the acquired company; this is powerful.
Onboarding is more than a quick greeting and new manuals; engage your new team in the culture. Continue building trust and ask the “acquired” to take a lead in the next acquisition. There is no greater zealot than the convert.
Onboarding is a long process (some research suggests up to 2 years) because it takes time to develop a sense of belonging, build trust and learn with new processes.
Lack of effective onboarding is a primary reason mergers and acquisitions fail or underperform, especially if their biggest value is in client-facing staff or superior technical skills. A welcome email and an introductory video are rarely sufficient. Hire a firm with the experience and vision to address this critical opportunity to ensure successful mergers and acquisitions.
Stacey Bevill, BCC, ACC, NCC, MPM®
President of Golden Career Strategies, Consultant & Coach
Stacey has more than 20 years of business and marketing experience and has master’s level certifications in coaching, marketing strategies, entrepreneurship, and project management. Bevill is passionate about improving communication, employee engagement and motivation, mental fitness, and improving processes and quality. She also strongly supports individuals in transition and those interested in personal leadership and vision, resiliency, and wellness.
Stacey is a Board Certified Coach from the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE), certified by the internationally acclaimed Newfield Network Coaching Institute and credentialed by the International Coach Federation (ICF). Additional training includes Positive Intelligence (by founder Shirzad Chamine, 2nd cohort), Conversational Intelligence Enhanced Practitioner (by founder Judith Glaser), Inspired Leadership from Case Western Reserve University, and Coaching for Managers from the University of California, Davis. Stacey is also a HeartMath® Certified Coach, Trainer, and Stress & Well-Being Assessment Provider. She is a Flow Energy Balance Indicator (FEBI® ) Assessment Certified Coach (Leadership Patterns) and a Strong Interest Inventory® and MBTI® Certified Practitioner.
She has received “value-added” training for her manufacturing clients: ISO 9001:2015 Standard & Internal/Supplier Auditor, IATF 16949: 2016 – Understanding Standard and Auditing, Certified Local Change Agent (credentialed by APMG), Certified Master Project Manager® and has finished the classwork and passed the exam for her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. Stacey is a graduate of Leadership South Carolina, Leadership Spartanburg, The Women’s Campaign School at Yale, The Spartanburg County Foundation’s Grass Roots Leadership Development Institute, and Furman Connections: Women Leaders of the Upstate. Bevill is an active volunteer with One to One: Women Coaching Women as a coach lead and volunteer coach and serves as one of four volunteer coaches in South Carolina for Stand Beside Them. She was awarded the Rotary International District Service Above Self award.