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Growing together as a team

Interview with Viola (42), Team Leader Payroll Accounting in the SSU Human Resources

From FRB to Bilfinger FRB GmbH and now EQOS Energie: Viola has seen it all. And in the process, she has continually furthered her specialisation in her area of responsibilities. As part of the acquisition of Bilfinger FRB, she finally became Team Leader Payroll Accounting in the SSU Human Resources at EQOS Energie. She has seen the integration process from two different angles: as a colleague who changed companies and as an interface providing intensive support during the integration.

Viola, your work environment and the structures around you have changed time and again over the years. In your experience, what is important for you in order to be able to say that you have a good employer?

I would like to feel secure with my employer and feel comfortable. As far as EQOS Energie was concerned, there was a lot of uncertainty, especially at the start of the acquisition of Bilfinger FRB. A lot of concerns regarding the takeover were heard, but by now we have grown together. We now trust EQOS Energie, but EQOS Energie have also placed their trust in the old FRB. Today I can say that I found good supervisors and a great team here. I feel good.

Corporate acquisitions raise uncertainty and a lot of questions with a large number of employees. How did you fare when it was determined that EQOS Energie would be your new employer?

After such a change, I suppose you ask yourself the following question: “Oh, will I have a job afterwards?” This is particularly true for administrative departments such as human resources. Of course, there was an HR department at EQOS Energie prior to the takeover … will we be able to fit together? Will my job/function become expendable, because the position is already filled or it becomes redundant? This is a very natural fear. But the merger has worked very well. My new manager immediately addressed and allayed my concerns. After an early exchange, I was phased into the new team bit by bit and was assigned my own projects during which I also got to know my new colleagues directly. The rest worked out automatically.

There is no ‘we’ and ‘they’ anymore, just ‘us’.

During a corporate takeover, two cultures inevitably clash. Especially from human resources staff, it is expected that they work to bridge the gaps between the two corporate cultures. How was that for you?

My colleagues had concerns similar to my own. The most important thing was open communication and the corresponding basic attitude. It’s not that everything that is coming is fundamentally bad. It’s just that the change would make anyone uncomfortable. In my position in the human resources department, I found myself between two situations at odds with each other – the old and the new work environment. On the one hand you are part of the company being taken over, but on the other hand you are the person who provides intensive support during the merger. For me it was very important to keep the conversation going and to promote a baseline attitude that new structures will be simply accepted and then reflection on everything occurs later. And that even on a small scale you have to counteract that “old world, new world” thinking, which also includes communication. There is no “we” and “they” anymore, just “us”. It was very exciting to watch how this change was gradually embraced by our colleagues and how the mindsets changed.

Has your daily work changed based on the merger of the two companies? Do you still sense a difference between the two?

Prior to the takeover, I was primarily in charge of human resources on my own. My work was comprehensive and all-encompassing. After the merger, I delegated a lot of tasks to team members. That was definitely a change for me, but a good one. We also jointly performed process optimisation, because structures should not simply be transferred from one company to the next. Instead, we have many things today that come from the old FRB universe, but we also have many that came from EQOS Energie. Some things were all thrown into one bucket and put together in a new way – the processes did work before, but based on the approaches from both companies they became even better. Of course, there were also some initial stumbling blocks – past logic was no longer suitable or contacts changed. But over the course of time, we found our way, especially with the newly gained support within the department. In the past, I used to be in charge of many things on my own. Today, I can have a professional exchange with the large team and we mutually complement each other with our expertise. Especially for complex topics, I enjoy benefitting from a second perspective.

In your eyes, is a takeover an opportunity or an obstacle? What would you say to those colleagues who are worried about that? And did you have an experience over the past two-and-a-half years that you would like to share?

Basically, it is always an opportunity and never an obstacle! At the worst, you are your own obstacle, because you don’t approach new things with curiosity but are instead resistant to change. I learned a lot of new things during my tenure at EQOS Energie and have revised my own viewpoints. At some point, you develop some “operational blindness” for your own processes. Among other things, the merger has led us to question our old routines and make room for better things. And then there was that beautiful moment when I noticed that we are a team, that we had integrated and now belong together. At FRB, things already felt like family – but now the family has simply grown.