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How Do I Integrate New Employees After a Departmental Restructure

Takeaway: Your actions should be nothing short of heartfelt, sincere, and selfless

Q: I work for a publishing company that recently acquired a niche publication with large readership. The company was struggling to scale their operations and the owners maintained it as a side hustle without interest in growing it beyond a certain point. When my company bought it up, we acquired half of the original team. Currently, we are figuring out what roles the new team members play within the organization. For my team, my bosses have tasked me with integrating three of the new employees into the division I manage. Some of my original teammates feel as if the new employees are stepping on their toes. They’re worried that it will become a competition for limited roles.

How do I ensure my core team that their positions are safe while also creating environment where the new members are able to thrive? What advice do you have for integrating new employees after a departmental restructure

A: Integrating new employees after a departmental restructure isn’t easy for all the reasons you mention. You don’t always get to see the best side of humanity when people are afraid the ship is sinking and running for the lifeboats. Still, failing to address the elephant in the room shouldn’t be an option because both sides—your existing staff as well as the new team being acquired—are anxious about the transition and the “new normal” that’s soon to follow. . . as well as whether they’ll be part of that future.

First a very important piece of advice: You can’t and won’t have all the answers and can’t make any promises because your crystal ball likely isn’t working any better than anyone else’s. And this doesn’t have to be a perfect exercise: it simply needs to be a heartfelt, sincere, and selfless one where you can make it safe for everyone to integrate into a newly formed team, while assuming good intentions and encouraging the newly combined group to have each other’s backs.

While there’s no set script for situations like these, try and incorporate the key following points into your group message. . .

Team,

It’s time for us to hold a state-of-the-state meeting, and for those of you who don’t know me, I’m known for my transparency and candor, which is so important at times like these. My expectations for the newly combined team will focus on supporting one another through the transition—both existing team members and newly acquired team members. It’s critically important that we establish trust and goodwill immediately and sustain that type of environment going forward. That means that I expect the original team not only to welcome the existing team and ease their transition into our company. It likewise means that I expect the newly acquired team members to listen, learn, and defer to the core team members who are attempting to help you integrate successfully.

What this won’t look like under any circumstances is withholding information, creating unnecessary competition, developing separate cliques, or otherwise creating an us-vs.-them environment. I can’t emphasize this enough: Does anyone have any questions about my expectations in this regard? [No] Then I’ll ask you verbally as a team: Do I have your commitment that going forward—no matter what the outcome of this merger, which is out of our control—we’ll integrate as a new team in good faith, help each other succeed, and have each other’s backs? [Yes] Good. I’ll be holding each of you as well as myself to that critical teambuilding standard.  

If you have any questions along the way or suspect that anyone isn’t upholding that standard, then my door is always open, and you have every right to meet with me. This isn’t about tattletaling or speaking behind anyone’s back: I need to know if anyone is dropping the ball in terms of communication, productivity, goodwill, and the like. We’ve been a strong, solid, and cohesive team up to now, and none of that should change with the integration of the three new team members. These are my expectations going forward, and I’m holding each of you accountable to them. We’ll plan on having follow-up team meetings on a regular basis, so let’s make ourselves part of the solution and our newly combined team’s success.

Once the group message is made, follow up with the three newly acquired team members as a group and then with each person individually. Listen to their concerns, look to remove roadblocks and smooth their transition in any way you, and ask them to identify anyone from your original team who’s been particularly helpful. Consider anointing that individual as the team transition lead, which is an excellent stretch assignment for an existing team member while also giving that individual some skin in the game in terms of making the three new hires successful.

Hold follow up team meetings at least weekly for the next twelve weeks or until the integration is deemed complete. You can’t communicate enough at times like these when the atmosphere is tense and people are worried about losing their jobs. And it’s critically important to practice MBWA—Management by Walking Around—and checking in with people, both formally and informally, with a careful eye toward resentments, jealousy, or any type of squabbling. In short, if there’s ever an opportunity to demonstrate your outstanding leadership qualities, this is it. No issue is minor, no questions are dumb, and concerns are valid unless proven otherwise. Just remember that just because you don’t have all the answers doesn’t mean that you can’t demonstrate outstanding leadership.

As multiple industries continue to undergo mergers, acquisitions, downsizings, and conglomeration, you have an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate who you truly are as a leader, subordinate, and peer. Your goal is to exhibit role-model behavior, make yourself the first domino, and make it safe for others to follow your lead. No matter what the ultimate outcome, you’ll have made the organization a better place, and you’ll have paid forward an example of how to exhibit outstanding leadership through disruptive change. It’s this level of leadership agility that will set you apart from your peers, and in a world where constant change appears to be the only constant, you’ll have set the bar high on goodwill, cooperation, teamwork, and camaraderie. Leading successfully through change won’t only serve you well both personally and professionally—it will also create a harmonious and aligned team where everyone can do their best work every day, no matter what challenges come your way.  

Paul Falcone

Paul Falcone is an HR executive who has held senior-level positions with Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, and City of Hope. A long-time contributor to HR Magazine, he is the author of many bestselling books, including 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews. He lives in Los Angeles.

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