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An effective M&A onboarding process post-close can dictate employee retention. But what's even more important is retaining the acquired company's leadership. Leadership has massive influence inside the business, and helping them transition properly will positively impact the overall transaction. This article will discuss lessons learned from leadership onboarding with Kim Jones, HR Director M&A at Microsoft.

"What makes M&A onboarding difficult is that uncertainty and change typically decrease productivity, but the expectations remain the same." - Kim Jones

M&A onboarding vs. Traditional onboarding

M&A onboarding is a lot similar to onboarding a newly hired employee. But the most significant difference is that the acquired employee didn't choose to work for the buyer and was forced to be a part of the process. 

Also, an acquired employee comes with roles and responsibilities and with a specific way of getting the work done, unlike a new applicant who needs to learn everything from scratch. Even more challenging is that the newly acquired employees must meet customers' expectations and continue delivering on deadlines while learning new systems. 

Challenges in Onboarding Leaders

The hardest part about onboarding a leader is the pace of integration. 

Integration can happen extremely fast, especially for leaders with many responsibilities. The worst thing that could happen is overwhelming the leader with new information while they are trying to run the business. At that point, they will not be at their best, and productivity will go down.

Also, leaders are often accustomed to not having to report to someone above them, and post-close, they wil be expected to ask permission for even the simplest things. That new reality is often hard for long-time leaders to accept. 

How to Onboard Leaders

"There's no magic formula in onboarding leadership except for time, attention, empathy, and curiosity to work through it." - Kim Jones

Customize each onboarding based on the leader's experience and position. Onboarding a CEO should look different from onboarding a manager. But regardless of their status, the most important thing is to stay connected to the leader and help them understand what's coming. Be with them every step of the way, communicate, and get them acquainted before putting them into the company's formal training.

Microsoft created a community for leaders who came from acquisitions. They call it "inside-Microsoft," where everyone shares their journey, experiences, and success stories during the transition. Inside-Microsoft is a place where everyone can help each other and normalize their challenges.

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