New information from the 2018 National Business-For-Sale Trends and Transaction Activity report states that business acquisitions have increased year-on-year for the past six years hitting a record high. Up from 7,056 in 2013, the number of transactions in 2018 was recorded as 10,312 indicating a 4% increase on the previous year.
There have been some huge names involved in take-overs and mergers including in the Tech Sector IBM acquiring RedHat for $33bn, Oracle acquiring DataFox and Cisco acquiring Duo Security; retailers including Sainsbury’s and Asda, Co-Op and Nisa and Amazon acquiring Whole Foods.
The fast pace of change requires significant and effective M&A strategies and the integration and harmonisation of the newly formed entity falls largely to the HR professionals. Over the past year, HR Heads has seen a significant increase in the demand for HR professionals who have change management skills. Business transformation is increasingly at the top of the agenda for HR and is likely to continue with broader business activities looking at how they capitalise on economies of scale, increased customer base, better talent and new technologies gained through M&A activity.
So, what is it that makes an HR professional good at change management and business transformation? Whilst there is no set formula here, there is one magic ingredient; the ability to work with ambiguity. As a function, HR is bound by legislation, best practice and policy and none of these should be ignored or taken for granted. However, increasingly, I am being asked for HR professionals who really understand how to put the ‘Human’ in HR and work with people to affect change. Often the goal-posts are moving, the transformation schedule slips, the project plan is torn up and re-written numerous times. The HR professional that adds most value to an organisation at this stage is the one who can flex their style, their own agenda and schedule and their ideas.
Cultural alignment is often key at this stage. Where the M&A activity means the joining of two entities that span different continents, having an HR function that can navigate the cultural differences is invaluable. Gaining market share through expansion into a new territory is often the motivation for the acquisition but ensuring the two organisations are ‘joined up’ is no easy task. Creating a business identity through a collective culture is easier said than done. Finding common values, recognised behaviours and building engagement to the new organisation through these takes time and patience. I suggest this is where HR really earns its place in the C-Suite.
To be able to position yourself to achieve the above, you need to have significant stakeholder engagement. Influencing business leaders to flex their own ideas as to how this transformation will look is invaluable in managing expectations. Persuasion, engagement, trust, influencing and managing relationships is the key to HR’s success here.
Founder and Director of HR Heads. Passionate about the innovative and successful recruitment of HR talent and creating strong, lasting networks built on trusted relationships. Industry specialist for the Hampshire region.
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