New rules have been published that could have the effect of improving the success rate of mergers and acquisitions overall. Pre-recession there was definitely a lot more activity in this area, but even at the moment this should be viewed as a welcome change to practice. Anyone who has studied business or even worked in companies that have merged with others will know that often it is the organisation of human resources or people management that has a negative effect on the move.
Businesses will say time and time again that staff are core to their business. This is true, in the most, regardless of what field they are in. So why is it that in the past their needs and their concerns have been put on the back burner when considering whether to merge or acquire another company? People fear change and information is often a simple way of helping to keep staff on board with the direction the company is hoping to move in. Through interactive communication a business can become aware of the needs of its current staff and of those who may soon become a part of their staff. Early fears can be reduced and the company as a whole can move forward into its new venture knowing that its staff are behind it 100 per cent.
Since the controversial take-over of Cadbury by Kraft Foods Inc. the need to get the people who look after the staff involved at the earlier stages of discussions on merger and acquisition became ever clearer. When Kraft Foods Inc. took over Cadbury they had been involved with discussions to keep open the UK factory in Somerdale and had said that production would not be moved to a cheaper site abroad. In the end, however, these statements were not upheld and production was moved. Arguably, there are many people issues that arise in these circumstances and the HR expertise has to be involved as soon as possible to help the business move forward as smoothly as possible for the good of its staff.
This is why the amendments to the City Code on Take-overs and Mergers (the "Code"), which became effective on 19 September 2011 should be warmly welcomed by HR departments. All too often the concerns have laid with the financial aspects of take-overs and they looked too late at the human effects. Peter Baynham, the UK head of a mergers and acquisition consultancy, agreed that: "In the past, HR directors have tended to receive a late invitation to the deal table. The rule changes should prompt a higher profile for HR in the early development of business expansion strategies."
In effect, HR departments will see a shift in the balance of power as they will now be included much sooner in the process. In turn, they can put in place the people strategy they deem necessary and speak up for any concerns they might have earlier on. The more involvement they have at these earlier stages the more likely the merger or acquisition is to be successful from a people management point of view and so on the whole also.