Mergers, buyouts, hostile takeovers – whatever the specific scenario, it is always high drama in the halls when Company A is about to absorb Company B. As a Human Resources or talent pro, if you find yourself on ‘acquiring’ side, once you get over your often undeserved feeling of smugness and superiority, (if you ever do), straight away you’ll find yourself knee-deep in what is most often called ‘synergy’ planning and modeling. ‘Synergies’ are a nicer way of referring to the almost inevitable cuts and consolidations of functions, locations, processes, systems, and of course people that the acquiring company (and typically the ongoing concern), expects and is pretty much required to realize with the execution of the merger and the subsequent reductions and cuts. ‘Synergies’, when looked at as a stand alone term, sounds kind of cool – dynamic, exciting, and even intriguing. But in the practice and execution of corporate consolidations, particularly if you are on the side that is getting acquired, synergy is just a boardroom word for ‘The amount we will save in labor costs after the layoffs.’
I think, at least from what I have seen, that HR and talent pros on the acquiring side, while helping to plan and recommend the number and timing of the workforce ‘synergies’, can often wield the sharpest and most unkind axe on their HR colleagues (or more correctly their ‘never going to have a chance to be colleagues’), on the other team. Maybe it is a natural protection and self-preservation mechanism setting in, but when it comes to the HR people and policies that are unearthed in Company B, well the HR and talent pros are uninformed and unskilled, and the people practices they’ve dreamed up over there are a collection of the nuttiest, most ill-advised ideas they’ve ever seen.
But here’s the thing – once the acquisition and synergy finding process is fully underway, it is typically much less about who has the better ideas and more about whose side has the better parking spaces and whose name is on the new letterhead. If you as an HR pro find yourself on the winning side, please at least consider, even for a brief moment or two, that the HR pro on the other side of the table might just have some great ideas of their own. They might have actually implemented some programs and policies that made perfect sense for their company and their employees.
They might just have something to teach you, despite the fact that you won and they lost.
Steve Boese is fondly known to many as the HR Technology blogger. By day, he is the Co-Chair of Human Resource Executive’s HR Technology Conference. He is also a former Director of Talent Management Strategy at Oracle and an HR Technology instructor. Steve can also be found hosting the HR Happy Hour Show and Podcast … you know, where a bunch of HR pros get together and call in to talk about HR stuff. Sounds like an SNL skit, we know. But when you have Dave Ulrich, the grandfather of HR as show guests, well, I guess you’re doing something right. Talk to Steve via email, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.