Leadership Matters

By Karen Stone, CHRE

This month’s cover story is all about mergers and acquisitions (M&As) – an area in which HR has a critical role to play to ensure a company’s success.

When we read about M&As in the news, so often the focus is primarily on the business aspects of this occurrence. What are the financials related to the deal? Will there be any dramatic fallout within the industry? Will the competition bureau intervene? When the news considers the human capital lens of M&As, it’s focused on the headcount impacts, and even then, only if the headcount reduction is significant.

The impact to people (employees) is a pivotal concern for HR practitioners when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. Managing employees’ questions, their anxieties and the uncertainty around their future can be very challenging. Leading the process of change well should be of upmost importance to how our profession adds value. I would argue HR has an invaluable stake in the success of an M&A: promoting a culture of resilience.

HR should be the promoter of a positive organizational culture – and it can be challenging in times of M&As. When any two distinct cultures from two organizations join together into a new entity, a new set of challenges requiring expert human resource support exists. It can take many years for two separate organizations to assimilate into a single shared culture and to operate as one common “identity” – and the process is shaped in large part by how effectively HR practitioners utilize and advance strategies that promote strong change management practices toward realizing the vision that the newly formed company establishes.

This is where this month’s theme of change resilience really comes into play. HR professionals must have an innate understanding of how to effectively navigate change – even change that can be volatile, disruptive and uncertain – and they have to ensure these challenges have minimal negative impact on employees, work culture, engagement and morale.

It’s certainly a tall order – and that’s why the concept of resilience is so crucial.

HR professionals who are involved in the beginning of any M&A contemplation and take the long view – who preemptively address potential issues, and who promote a culture that is strong, collaborative and well-equipped to embrace change – are the ones who will see their organization’s culture not just survive, they can see it thrive. 


Karen Stone, CHRE, is chair of the Human Resources Professionals Association.