IT training during an acquisition: Planning and scheduling

The process of one company taking over another is traumatic enough without technical problems. Alicia White explains how, during an acquisition, to plan and schedule classes, including make-up sessions and train-the-trainer courses.

Acquisitions are tough on everyone, but a good training plan can ease the transition. Last week we talked about how to prepare for the changeover. This installment will cover the training of the acquired employees that is done before the transition.

The acquisition described in this series of articles happened at the end of January. Since my company couldn’t hold training sessions during the holiday season (Thanksgiving through Christmas), training began in January—with one exception. One market started training in December because it had the most people to train, 107 people. The challenges I will address in this section are scheduling and attendance, training duration, employee turnover, and staffing classes.
I work at a bank in the Southeast and my company has been in the business of acquiring other companies over several years. I was a software-training manager for the bank before becoming a business analyst. My role in the acquisition process was to make sure everyone could use the branch automation software. Retail branch automation is software and hardware that automates teller and customer service functions.
This article is the second part of a three-part series about training before, during, and after an acquisition.
The preparation phase: Scheduling classes
At the start of the acquisition process, an acquisition training coordinator is named to handle all training efforts, including branch automation, loan operations, product knowledge, and policies and procedures. The acquisition training coordinator made sure that training classes covered all topics, and that all acquired employees were scheduled to attend and did, in fact, attend training. The training coordinator also spent time in each market monitoring training classes, checking to see that all training centers were functional, and checking attendance records. Each market training schedule had a few make-up days built in to account for missed classes.

Market trainers took care of the training required in their assigned areas. All market trainers submitted training schedules to the coordinator, who tracked schedules and attendance. In this acquisition, there were 441 people to train in six markets in 29 days.

On average, the acquired employee spends four to five days in training. The training is intense and very specific to job function. The amount of training required depends on the specific job description and how much cross training is needed.

One of the biggest pitfalls to watch for during the training phase of an acquisition is overwhelming the acquired employee. We addressed this by varying the class schedule so the acquired employees were not in class every day. Classes were held during the workday, in the evenings, and sometimes on weekends. The schedule was designed to give them a break between classes.

Training new hires
Employee turnover also affects the acquisition-training plan. Employees who are resistant to change typically resign or accept the severance package. Employees who come on during the acquisition process need to be trained in time for the acquisition. They need to attend the full training program, not the acquisition-specific version.

Where did we find the time and the staff to do this? All training efforts at this time were geared toward acquisition training. If the market had a large training staff, then new hires went through the regular training program in the market. If there were no trainers in the market, additional trainers from other markets were borrowed to cover these needs.

Finding enough trainers
Staffing can become an issue for the acquisition training coordinator. In the case of this acquisition, two markets had just hired new trainers. In one market, I held a “train-the-trainer” class. In the other market, I conducted teller training with help from a newly hired trainer. Both markets brought in other experienced trainers to assist with training.

Because different markets have different ways of processing work, the trainers trained the acquired employees as they did for their own market areas. This created confusion for the acquired employees. We did not realize this was a problem until the acquisition and we were unable to solve it until the support phase of the training.

Lessons learned
These are the most important aspects to cover when planning IT training for acquired employees:
  • The acquisition training coordinator should monitor training efforts.
  • The acquisition training coordinator should be responsible for distribution of all training materials.
  • The training schedule should include training new hires. This affects staff, time, and equipment resources.
  • All training personnel should be trained on the policies and procedures of the market they are teaching in.

Check back next week for tips on how to manage the support phase of an acquisition.

Alicia White is a former training manager for the branch automation project at a bank headquartered in the Southeast. She is currently a business analyst for the branch automation application. She is also an IT Instructor at a local business college.

Have you had to train newly acquired employees? Have you combined training staffs from two companies? Send us your stories from the field about training and acquisitions.

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