Mergers and Acquisitions: Tips for HR to Get It Right

3 minutes • Dec 18, 2018HR

Mergers and acquisitions aren’t only happening at the handful of big-name companies making the headlines; they’re also taking place between companies of many sizes and in many industries. According to the Institute for Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances (IMAA), a record number of US M&A transactions closed in 2017—15,100 deals, which was a 12.2-percent increase over the previous year. At some point in their life cycle, many companies may participate in a merger or acquisition, and when they do, it’s not just the financials that need to be coordinated, but company culture as well. Aligning two cultures, however, is no small undertaking. In a survey of more than 400 executive leaders, only 17 percent felt they had succeeded in effectively managing culture alignment after an M&A event.

Although HR doesn’t own company culture, it can play a valuable role in helping to align two separate and distinct company cultures successfully. When it comes time to undergo a merger or acquisition, here are some tips for ensuring that company culture helps to achieve rather than prevent M&A success:

Create Opportunities to Connect with Employees

In the aftermath of a merger or acquisition, it’s not uncommon for employees to wonder how things will change, which things will remain the same, and how all the changes will affect their individual roles. It’s at this time that HR can be a catalyst for helping leaders connect with employees to help answer questions and also ease any anxiety that employees may be feeling about the change that has occurred.

HR can encourage leaders to engage in the following activities to support deeper connections with employees:

  • Holding team meetings and one-on-one check-ins to better understand how employees are experiencing the merger or acquisition

  • Acknowledging challenges the team is facing as a result of the merger, and empowering employees to work on finding solutions

  • Using an employee management tool such as a live org chart to get to know their employees, understand their skills and capabilities, and then determine how those capabilities can best be utilized in the new organizational structure

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Increase Overall Employee Communication

As with any important company initiative, frequent, transparent communication informs employees, helps them connect with the new organization structure, and facilitates an understanding of how their roles will be affected by the merger or acquisition. HR is often well informed when it comes to knowing who leads new functions and how teams have been reorganized, and can help to ensure that as much pertinent information is communicated to employees as possible.

Team meetings and email communications can be helpful for disseminating new information and announcements, but given the number of changes that can occur as a result of a merger or acquisition, employees will benefit greatly from being able to access information on an up-to-date platform. As an example, a live org chart syncs with HRIS and calendar apps, so employees can use it to find other employees and teams, and even know when they’re in the office and available. A live org chart also illustrates the complete organizational structure, helping employees easily see reporting relationships as well as newly formed teams and those teams with shared leadership.

According to the Institute for Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances (IMAA), a record number of US M&A transactions closed in 2017—15,100 deals, which was a 12.2-percent increase over the previous year.

Involve Leaders in Workforce Planning

Even after a merger or acquisition has taken place, there can often be lingering issues of organizational structure to be resolved. Newly formed business units may require new leaders, and there may be a need for further reorganization of specific teams. To ensure the seamless creation of a new organization and culture, it’s necessary for the C-suite and HR to involve other company leaders in the workforce planning decisions that will affect their teams. Involving leaders outside the C-suite in talent-planning exercises helps to bring new ideas into strategic planning discussions. It can also help to engage leaders at a critical time when they might be struggling with the changes that a merger or acquisition can bring and might be considering leaving the organization.

The effort to involve other leaders in workforce planning need not be cumbersome. With the help of a live org chart, HR and other leaders can work on collaboration versions of the company org chart and publish changes for employees to see when the time is right.

HR Can Help Make a Merger or Acquisition a Real Success

Getting company culture right after a merger or acquisition is a major undertaking, and it remains a struggle for many organizations. Though the success of a company’s M&A transaction is certainly not all in the hands of HR, HR can play a key role in helping to ensure that employees get the information they need to understand the new organization and where they fit in. A live org chart is a key example of a tool that not only offers employees a way of finding and learning about their new team members, but also assists leaders in making connections with employees and making well-informed workforce planning decisions.

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