Concerned about retrenchments

My company is being acquired by a larger Europe-based organisation, and I have concerns about local layoffs.

Dear Laurence,

My small software developing company, where I work as an HR generalist, is being acquired by a larger Europe-based organisation and I have been invited to represent HR on a transition team. This should be a fantastic opportunity to showcase my skills to the new management, but I do have concerns about the number of local retrenchments currently being considered. Obviously, some cutbacks go hand in hand with a merger, but how can I advocate for my local team, while also presenting my best possible self to the new bosses?

Tough situation, Jakarta

The win-win in this situation is to really understand the strategic motivation behind this merger and the expected benefits and synergies. You need to really understand this. Then, and only then, can you do the best for the organisation, the local team, and yourself.

While some of that may be difficult, you also have to be realistic. It is a business at the end of the day, but I also fundamentally believe that it is the responsibility of the business to treat people well. If you understand the context, then you can build a business case which demonstrates the value and benefits of keeping more of your local team, reskilling some of them into different roles, or of maintaining your market reputation by helping people migrate to opportunities outside.

You can’t just advocate for local employees in a vacuum. You need to understand the reason for the merger, the expected synergies, and how whatever you’re recommending will make the company better as a whole.

Laurence Smith is a board-level advisor to With 25 years of working experience in consulting and HR, his career has spanned across different industries and countries, including stints and projects with LG Electronics, GE Capital, McKinsey, the World Bank, and as Managing Director of Learning and Development for DBS Bank.

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