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Employees of Zimmer/Biomet – What to Expect

Drue De Angelis • Mon, May 12th, 2014

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When Zimmer Holdings, Inc. announced it was buying cross-town rival Biomet, Inc., 25,000 employees and stakeholders at both companies began to wonder about their jobs and careers. As former Zimmer sales executive turned human resources expert, Drue De Angelis said: “Merger & Acquisition 101 teaches that the top brass must convey the message that, “everyone is going to be fine! Don’t run away.” “There’s room for everyone in the New Zimmer-Biomet.” “Both companies were highly profitable separately and we’ll be fine as a new entity, so relax and keep your head down.” But, as we all know, cuts will come. The issue is how will you maneuver in new corporate mash-up.”

Having been through a massive M&A process before, Mr. De Angelis has a unique, objective and practical view of the changes coming to employees at both Zimmer and Biomet. For example; ”Unfortunately, you’re not safe just because you are doing a great job in your respective role.”

So Mr. De Angelis wrote an open letter to his former colleagues where he gave them some clear advice. We thought it was one of the best we’d read in a while and he allowed us to reprint it here.

Walter Eisner – Senior Writer, Orthopedics This Week

Dear Former Colleagues:

If you are part of either Zimmer Holdings, Inc. or Biomet, Inc., as a direct employee or an independent contractor, congratulations on the big news last week. These are exciting times in orthopedics!

But, now what?

The phone calls and emails have already started coming in from people on both sides wondering what to expect. What can you expect to happen and when? No one has a crystal ball, but having been through the Stryker/Howmedica acquisition myself in 1999 and watching many others, I can provide you a little insight into what you might expect to ensue over the months ahead.

Cuts Will Come

Merger & Acquisition 101 teaches that the top brass must convey the message that, “everyone is going to be fine! Don’t run away.” “There’s room for everyone in the New Zimmer-Biomet.” “Both companies were highly profitable separately and we’ll be fine as a new entity, so relax and keep your head down.”

Every manager in the company on both sides will be chanting the mantra from on high as good soldiers. But know this: cuts will come. They will be deep and many will be impacted by it.

Political Players

Unfortunately, you’re not safe just because you are doing a great job in your respective role. This is where, if you haven’t been a good strategic “political” player, you’re going to wish you had. In the end, they will pick sides. Sometimes these decisions are obvious and other times they are counter intuitive. This is why Politics plays such a huge part of these decisions. Consider that there is duplication in virtually every single position in the new combined company. And even though they told you that there was room for everyone, we all know better. That never works. It’s just what they tell you so that they get their pick rather than having it be made for them by someone leaving before they get to choose.

Focusing on Job Security

The simple fact is that there is not room for everyone in the new company. One of the reasons an acquisition this large works is the “Economies of Scale.” Yes, you can expect another round of commission cuts as well, but for now, let’s focus on your job security.

You always thought that there was greater job security in a larger company. You were wrong. An acquisition changes everything. Don’t get too confident just because you work for Zimmer either. That alone will not ensure you are safe from being part of one of the RIF waves. (Reduction in Force) You’re not safe. In fact, if you’re not already a savvy political player, it’s probably too late for you.

Engage Your Colleagues

But it isn’t too late to learn that the best way to ensure that you are kept around through an acquisition is to play nice among your peers and beyond.

People wrongly believe that simply by doing a great job in their specific role, they are immune from ever losing their jobs when a downsizing happens. But they are most certainly vulnerable if they don’t spend significant time and energy positively engaging with the people around them.

Companies going through the merger process benefit greatly from the good-will of hard working people who stay focused on the prize of being part of the “chosen” in the new company. But many unsuspecting people will get their “Pink Slips” and feel betrayed because they did what they were told and didn’t look out for themselves.

Learn From “Survivor”

The truth is that it is your top priority to provide for your family and the best way to do that is first by building strong relationships within your company as this is the key to survival in corporate America. You only need to watch one season of Survivor on TV to get a microcosm of what a merger of two separate companies looks like. If you have the right alliance, you might survive. But beware, because just when you thought you were in the right alliance, you’ve been “blindsided,” and voted off the island.

Follow the Power

No one can know with total certainty what their fate will be, but there are things you can do aside from keeping your head down and trusting that the corporation has your best interests at heart.

Brush up your resume and pay very close attention to who is making a play for power and build an alliance to the best of your ability throughout the company. The fact of the matter is that there will be multiple phases of layoffs. It happens every time there is an acquisition.

Unfortunately, it is part of the code to mislead you that everything will be fine, but it isn’t. Don’t be naïve and caught off guard. Because the merger won’t happen until early 2015, there will be a lot of business as usual with the two companies as they merge.

Build Alliances

My advice is to start building alliances with as many people as possible, and not just the people on your side of the fence. You cannot afford to assume that your side will win regardless of the logic of the argument. You simply cannot predict who will win with any certainty. The only thing that you can be sure of is that there will be very deep cuts in the number of people in the new combined Zimmer/Biomet.

Playing politics is widely regarded negatively and I would say that if that is all you rely upon for your job security, shame on you. If, however, you are great at your job, and not a political player, that isn’t enough to survive. You must be great at both. You must be proactive and effective in building rapport with all constituents within your sphere of influence.

Having said that, you’ll see some people get to keep their jobs who clearly shouldn’t and you’ll see some outstanding talent kicked to the curb. Remember, they’re only human. These people have to make some difficult decisions and many of them labor greatly over them, knowing that their decisions will hurt people.

Life After Zimmer/Biomet

Lastly, if you are one of the unfortunate ones who get laid off as part of one of the RIFs, don’t take it personally and don’t let it drag you down. There IS life after Zimmer/Biomet. Keep your chin up and strive toward finding a great place for you to contribute to the ongoing success of a new team. Leverage your talent and experience in a fresh environment. Godspeed!

Drue De Angelis’ website is http://www.tdg-llc.com/#about

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One Response to “Employees of Zimmer/Biomet – What to Expect”

  1. Mace Horoff says:

    Drue, I want to support your point that there is indeed life after Zimmer (and Biomet). I spent over 20 years with Zimmer and I am forever grateful to have represented such a great company. In my work, I meet many former Zimmer employees, as well as those from other large medical device companies. Your tenure has prepared you for more than you might realize. You will seek your next opportunity carefully and it will provide you with more rewards than you ever imagined. If you get to stay or decide to stay with the new company, you will enjoy greater opportunities than you did before. Just don’t expect your job to stay the same, because your world has changed. You have a bright future either way…it’s up to you.

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