The role of HR in Successful M&A

Having managed several mergers and acquisitions over the last decade (including managing the people and culture streams of the $4.5 Billion merger between Vodafone and Hutchison) Steve Reid shared his learnings for success at our latest 'Ask the Expert' lunch.

Mergers and Acquisitions seem to be the norm these days; with many businesses choosing to grow their scale and capability through acquisition, and others merging in a bid to survive or compete. However the stark reality is that while some M&A work, many don’t go to plan.

Culture is King

With culture being cited as the most common reason for the failure of mergers, the role of HR is critical in helping to shape and drive both the effective planning and implementation required for success.

Using tangible examples from his career, Steve explained that this goes beyond normal people planning and deep into the realm of culture and mindsets.

Although mergers and acquisitions are in effect change programs and follow many of the same patterns, there are several key nuances:

Firstly, they create massive levels of uncertainty! This uncertainty lies at the heart of what makes them so unique.

Secondly, they create a much greater sense of perceived loss. It could be loss of brand, leaders, security or even fundamentally loss of identity.

Remember mergers bring out the best and worst in people and therefore as leaders our actions will be scrutinised. Steve shared tips on how to manage the process, perception vs reality, and how to reassure your people in an uncertain climate.

Communication is Key

In leading M&A, the core fundamentals of good communication ring true but how do you communicate effectively when there are so many things you don’t know or can’t say?

This is where communicating at a principle level becomes critically important. By showing people that HR and the business cares about their experience, teams will be better prepared to face any outcome. The goal is to provide certainty in any way you can, as uncertainty is the enemy of acceptance.

Where there is no certainty of the outcomes, giving certainty around the principles, processes and approach will have the best results.

What Works?

• Run a culture audit
• Use multiple communication channels
• Provide certainty where possible
• Use frameworks
• Invest in cultural integration
• Importance of good leadership

M&A may be a key part of corporate growth strategy but navigating the nuances of the process can be unpredictable and complicated. Never is leadership more important than in a crisis and for many, M&A creates a deliberate crisis. According to Steve, success is in the hands of business leaders and successful M&A require leaders to step up!

Steve Reid on LinkedIn

About Steve Reid: With more than 20 years across consulting and internal roles in Learning, OD and HR, Steve joined oOh! Media as Group HR Director in 2014. Prior to this Steve spent 17 years in ICT and Financial services, helping build three start-ups in Optus Vision, Orange and 3 Mobile in Australia and managing the $4.5 Billion merger between Vodafone and Hutchison. He spent 3 years as General Manager, HR at Vodafone before moving to Bankwest as Head of HR and Organisation Capability.