Career coach: handling acquisitions

My company has recently been acquired and is planning a major restructuring exercise. I am worried about the impact this will have on staff and how best to handle the situation.

At the same time, I am also concerned about how these changes will affect my own position as HR manager, and need to discuss my concerns with someone.

In my position, I’m supposed to look like I have all the answers, but don’t. Where should I turn, and what advice can you offer?

First, it is natural to feel unsettled during acquisitions, particularly as cost-saving redundancies may follow. However, instead of panicking, stay realistic about the situation.

Initially, you may feel somewhat in the dark about where you and your fellow employees stand and may have minimal insight into what the acquiring company intends. However, your HR role puts you in a unique position to add value to the acquisition. The acquiring company is likely to use an integration team to smooth the process. Your informal understanding of the individuals within the organisation is likely to prove valuable and provide you with the opportunity to work closely with the new team so you can make a positive contribution.

Make yourself available and helpful to both the acquiring organisation and existing employees. You can act as a two-way channel to communicate the acquiring company’s intentions and your fellow employees’ concerns. However, be careful about how and what you communicate and stay ‘on message’ – don’t stray from the corporate script.

Be objective by providing relevant data to the integration team in a tactical and practical way. For example, if redundancies are part of the agenda, the services of an outplacement specialist may be required to manage employees out of the business.

Refresh your contacts and do some research around potential suppliers. This step could be useful for the acquiring company, showing your initiative, while also potentially acting as an insurance policy for you.

Talk to other people in the business to gauge how they are feeling. It’s also useful to seek selective counsel from your external professional network as they won’t have a vested interest and will be able to offer you an apolitical perspective – they may also have been through a similar experience. However, be careful about the information you disclose, as much of it will be confidential.

This is a challenging journey – good luck.

By Adrian Starkey, head of executive coaching, DDI

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