How you engage and onboard acquired hires can make or break a merger or acquisition. Colin Sloman discusses why and how Cognican can help.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) are important inflection points for organizational growth and future prospects. Often, most of the attention is focused on getting the transaction through. Once the deal is done, stakeholders can celebrate the win and all that's left is to onboard the 'new' acquired hires. If only it were as simple as that!

While hopefully positive for the bottom line, M&As have a profound impact on the employees of the organizations at every level as they attempt to merge into one. Even when mergers run smoothly, getting two cultures integrated well is challenging, and a lack of alignment can swiftly derail the process. Because of these factors, it's unsurprising that an estimated 70–90% of M&As fall short of expectations.

Failures are attributed to incompatible cultures, management styles, poor motivation, loss of key talent, lack of communication, diminished trust, and uncertainty about the organization's future. All of these factors have one thing in common: people. A failure to fully engage employees – especially newly acquired ones – throughout a transition is one of the major reasons why M&As fail. This article discusses why it's essential to change your approach to onboarding acquired hires and how Cognician can help.

Onboarding Acquired Hires Requires a Different Approach

Onboarding acquired hires differs from traditional onboarding and requires a different philosophy. Acquired hires are generally not joining your organization voluntarily. They haven't gone through the recruiting process and chosen to join your organization. As a result, the eagerness and excitement of landing a new job are missing. Most importantly, acquired employees do not have agency in the transaction and feel that the choice is made for them. Instead of celebrating a positive career milestone, acquired hires are often fearful of an uncertain future.

M&As are a stressful time for employees. Acquired hires will wonder what they can expect from the new company and whether they will still keep their jobs. However, even if they do keep their jobs, M&As can leave employees feeling like they are new members of the team, having to prove themselves all over again and rebuild trust, even if they've been in a role for years.

In this time of change, it's essential to engage acquired hires in the right way, shifting their mindsets from a fear of the unknown and providing them with the information they need to set them up for a positive future. In addition, engaging with acquired employees at just the right time at every step of the process will make them feel welcome. A well-designed onboarding journey will help acquired hires feel like a valued part of the larger team, introduce company values, set expectations, and re-sell the employee value proposition.

How Cognician Can Help

Cognician's award-winning employee activation platform delivers daily micro-challenges and reflections to users to activate new habits and behaviors. This capability provides organizations with a golden opportunity to engage acquired hires and keep them engaged throughout the transition. Below is an example of what could be included in a program:

Pre-close (where legally possible):

  • Help employees understand the why: Communicate the reasons for the transaction to affected individuals. Our platform provides users with opportunities for feedback and reflection. We can analyze shared reflections to gauge the sentiment of your acquired hires about the deal in real-time in order to adjust the program and messaging.

  • Introduce your organization: Share your organization's mission, values, and culture to help acquired hires understand the heart of your organization. Embed links to important collateral, so your people have a central hub to find what they need when they need it.

  • Introduce leadership: Get your acquired hires to put a face to the name of the new executive team. Our activation platform simulates a 1:1 chat experience. Personalized avatars are used to help acquired hires feel like they are having a 1:1 with their new leaders, with the ability to share their fears and concerns.

  • Focus the spotlight of attention: Set the agenda for what occupies acquired hires’ attention, drawing it towards fulfilling, forward-looking, positive content and encourage a growth mindset.

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  • Welcome new employees: On day one in their new organization, a new learning path will be unlocked, providing acquired hires with an engaging welcome message. Users are provided with an opportunity to reflect on how they feel and share their reflections with their peers via our social learning capability.

  • Explore key performance indicators (KPIs): For their new roles, educate acquired hires on how success is defined. Determining up front what their KPIs are against the new company vision and strategy is essential.

  • Establish networks: Help new employees take action to connect with peers and build networks within their new organization to boost their sense of belonging.

  • Growth opportunities: Make your new employees aware of your organization's development opportunities and where to find them.

  • Personalize at scale: Acquired hires can feel like they’re losing their identities, but Cognician can personalize their experience with adaptive pathways and variables that relate to their roles, responsibilities, and context.


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Cognician's employee activation platform can transform the experience of acquired hires and help manage the 'people' side of your merger or acquisition. Our custom onboarding experiences address the common weak points of onboarding acquired hires by supporting them at all points of the process.

Is your organization going through a merger or acquisition? Contact Cognician today to find out how our customized employee activation experiences can help you manage this change.