If you have worked for a large corporation in the 21st century, chances are good that you have been, or will one day be a part of a Merger or acquisition. With the volatile nature of the public stock market, companies are buying each other left and right like they are figurines at an estate sale. These multi-billion dollar transactions can have far-reaching consequences if you are an employee at either the company being purchased or the one doing the purchasing.
I have worked for two different large corporations that had a flare for acquisitions, and have been through the process multiple times. At the time that an acquisition is announced, there is typically a large amount of “synergies” between the two companies that will help offset the purchase cost. Translated, this means that the two companies will have a large number of people who will be doing the same job, and that half of those jobs will be redundant after the merger. To put it bluntly, people will be laid off. Knowing this, there are steps that you should take to position yourself well in the months leading up to closing date, to ensure that you are not one of those who become “synergized.”
Everything You Have Done.. Doesn’t Matter
I know, I know.. You are “the guy” (or gal) who understands the correct way to generate TPS reports for your company. The company sent you to training classes and you even wrote all of the documentation on this process. But with the announcement of a merger or acquisition, you need to realize that the times they are a-changing. The fact that you are good at your current job is not a guarantee that your position is safe in the company going forward. After the merger dust settles: teams will be combined, managers will take on new roles, and job functions can shift dramatically. After all, the new (combined) company may elect to not use TPS reports at all.
Many corporations have a bad habit of boxing their employees into vary narrow roles. These employees become an expert in one thing, but have no opportunities to see the bigger picture and understand how the work that they are doing is affecting the company’s bottom line. If this sounds familiar to you, you might have some cause for concern. You need to make an effort to diversify yourself and learn some new skills as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask management the big-picture questions about why things are done the way that they are done, and how they will be changing in the future integrated company. Identify yourself as someone who can help make that vision a reality.
Integration is the Buzzword
Chances are good that as the merger date gets closer and closer, old projects will start to get cancelled and resources will start to free up. The reason for this is that it doesn’t make sense for the business to continue to invest in the organizations and infrastructure of the past, when many of these things may not be a part of the future of the combined company.
However, in the midst of all of the cancellations, a whole new spectrum of projects will open up under the umbrella of “integration.” It is wise to try to get involved as much as possible in these integration projects, as they will be paving the way for the future. Ask to get invited to meetings, and try to reach out to employees in the other company to discuss the differences in procedures and processes, to make sure you will have a voice in the future direction. The more you know about the strengths and weaknesses of both methods of operation, the more valuable you will be. Tell your managers that you want to be a part of the integration effort and that you are willing and eager to branch into new roles and responsibilities, in order to get included.
It’s Time to Find It.. The Rainbow Connection
When two large companies come together, one of the first things that is done is a large assessment of the employees on both sides of the merger. The best way to position yourself for these meetings, is to have as many managers as possible know who you are, and be willing to speak up on your behalf. The old adage says that it isn’t what you know, it is who you know, and it is critical to have your name out there as somebody who can make things happen. You cannot simply bank on your own manager (and even his manager) to have your back, because you don’t know if their role will be changing in the new company.
I mentioned earlier that you should connect with folks doing similar jobs in the other company, and this is critical here as well. If you have people on both sides who bring up your name as a key contributor, you should absolutely find yourself on the right list coming out of those assessment meetings.
Reality Check: You Still Need to Prepare For the Worst
While the tips above were meant to give you some suggestions for how best to position yourself, every merger is going to be different. I have been through a merger where the company that I was working for acquired a huge competitor, and we all expected our worlds to change completely. But when all was said and done, there were no layoffs and our job functions remained unchanged for the most part. On the other hand, a different merger that I was involved with carried massive reorganizations, and many good people (and hard workers) lost their jobs.
In spite of your best efforts, this could potentially happen to you. News of a merger or acquisition by your company should at the very least be a wake-up call to get your resume up to speed, and to reach out to friends and former colleagues in the industry. The local market may soon be saturated with folks who are in the same boat as you, and if you start to see warning signs that you may not be a part of your company’s future plans, is would be wise to start looking around to see what else is out there.