Welcoming New Team Players (After Their Startup Joined Yours)
How do veteran players feel about new draft pick? Along with the initial excitement there may be a considerable amount of upset. Much the same thing happens when a new rock-star employee or a coveted hire joins a company and is celebrated as the second coming, leaving everyone else feeling like a second-class citizen.
This dynamic is especially true when a company has been acquired and the new talent is being treated very well. The whole situation leaves the veteran employees -- the ones who didn’t receive a pay day but who are doing some heavy lifting to accomplish the integration -- feeling ruffled and resentful.
In any case, this kowtowing to new talent sets off a lot of complicated dynamics and staff morale can suffer. Jealousy, resentfulness and disenchantment can overwhelm existing employees. They become more competitive than collaborative.
CEOs and managers must recognize this complicated situation and prepare for it, much as as a parent preps an older sibling for a new arrival in the family.
The shiny new thing scenario. In 2011 while I served as the chairman, LiveOps, a startup based in Palo Alto, Calif., acquired Datasquirt, a startup based in New Zealand. I was initially concerned about how the two teams could communicate and coordinate considering the time difference and geographic distance. But the CEO suggested that if we planned properly it would not be an issue.
The company brought Datasquirt's founders to corporate headquarters to meet everyone during the deal negotiations and after the acquisition. More important, several LiveOps top engineers went to visit the New Zealand team and the company put in place projects to show the power of the integration.
The company assigned a team of engineers from both locations to a mission critical project -- a relaunch of the entire product line to bring the social elements of Datasquirt into the LiveOps product line. The company sent U.S. engineers to New Zealand. New Zealand engineers traveled to the States. There was an aggressive timeline and the rollout proved to be a huge success.
We did everything we could to help make the original Datasquirt players feel welcomed and essential. Although I was initially skeptical, the CEO ended up being right: With the proper preparation, it was possible to successfully combine these teams and talents.
Transition smoothers. Here's what to do to ensure things go smoothly when onboarding new team members -- especially after an acquisition:
1. Start planning right away. Learn about the previous corporate culture of the new team members. Ask them what they will do and what their new company can do to make this a successful transition. Designate a “sponsor” on the new team who can provide feedback during the onboarding process.
2. Talk to members of the existing team about the changes afoot. Help make them feel excited and inspired by the change. Stay in touch throughout the transition and see how they are faring.
3. Watch out for bad behavior and respond appropriately. Don’t allow people to say, “That’s not how we do things here” or try to intimidate new employees so they won't bring news ideas to the organization. Watch for eye-rolling while rewarding collaboration.
4. Embrace the new talent. Make the newly enlarged company a place they want to stay. Include them and listen to their ideas, but don’t show them more love than employees who've already been on staff. Share good humor with everyone.