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ImageEvidence shows that 75% of all corporate mergers fail to achieve the expected benefits.  The most frequently cited reasons for poor results following a merger are people-related and reflect a lack of attention to people issues throughout the process. 

When two major corporations in Ghana decided to merge earlier this year, the management of both companies were committed to ensuring that both employees and customers regarded the merger as a positive development and that the two organisations retained their key employees within the new merged organisation.

The Human Resources Department, as internal consultants providing strategic advice to management and staff, had principal accountability for the process of identifying the talent in the company and placing it to optimise the success of the business strategy.  Line managers were required to take ownership of their human resources responsibilities, including identifying and selecting their staff.  Human Resources were needed to support and guide managers and staff through the employee selection process and the resulting organisational design, and to provide training for managers in the skills that they needed to achieve their objectives.

Given its expertise in Human Resources strategy and management, Interims for Development was approached to assist the two companies with making the people aspects of the merger work.  The Interim Manager deployed was John Meikle, a senior Human Resources Manager recently retired from a multinational Swiss company, with experience of managing change and the HR implications arising from mergers and acquisitions.

During his 4 week assignment, John’s brief was to assist the lead company’s HR Director with the people planning for the merger.

 “Following discussions with the company, I was given the responsibility of conducting a number of Culture Workshops with senior and middle managers of both companies, as well as helping to shape the selection process to be used to identify the employees for the new merged organisation,” he explains.

“As part of my input, I was also involved in the process of structuring and communicating the managed selection process that was to be used.”

Balancing these activities with the workloads of busy executives and the need for the company to maintain its business operations proved a major challenge.  At the same time, the merger process and the original timelines agreed had to be extended due to external factors. 

Although the merger has not yet been finalised, the project represented a strategic investment by the lead company in training and developing its senior managers to deliver what was expected of them.  Through this project, HumanResources was, in partnership with senior management, able to define an efficient, transparent and effective selection process to ensure that the aptitude and technical competence of the company’s resources are recognised and placed where they can be of optimum value.

John’s impact on the project proved extremely positive.  “I was able to add value to the company by bringing a new energy to the process at an important moment.  Using a decade of merger experience helped the team to shape the right elements of the people process to fit the circumstances that were taking place,” he adds.

Although he had made previous visits to South Africa, the assignment provided John with a new insight into West African culture and its impact on the workplace as well as a personal appreciation of what he describes as ‘the excellence of Ghanaian middle to senior management.” 

“For me, overall, it was an excellent experience in giving and learning”, admits John, “and I commend it to anyone.”

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