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5 Questions for Luan Fox—Passive HR in Acquisitions

September 2, 2009
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Related Topics: Mergers and Acquisitions, Career Development, Employee Career Development, Workforce Planning, Featured Article
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With mergers and acquisitions picking up as many potential buyers see good deals to be had, Luan Fox laments that HR at the acquired companies often is too passive. Instead of helping buyers understand their talent management programs and which talent they should keep, too often HR managers sit back and hope not to lose their own jobs. Fox recently spoke to Workforce Management New York bureau chief Jessica Marquez about her concerns.

Workforce Management: You have worked on many acquisitions. What do you see as HR’s common mistakes in these transactions?

Luan Fox: This is not a recent phenomenon, but what I have traditionally seen is that once the deal is announced, the HR team at the company being acquired sits back and says, “Someone else is running the show, so I am going to do what they tell me and hope for the best.” Years ago when folks had that attitude, they knew they were going to walk away with a nice severance package. But today, that severance plan might not be enough to get them to their next job.

WM: What should HR be doing?

Fox: The first thing that the acquiring company is going to be doing is mapping out jobs, and they aren’t going to interview people. So if what’s on paper about the talent isn’t accurate, HR isn’t giving its employees a fair shot.

    WM: Can HR at the acquired company really save their own jobs by being proactive?

Fox: Well, they have no chance to be looked at if they do nothing to provide insight into their talent.

WM: How has HR’s focus changed in transactions today given the economy?

Fox: In the past couple of transactions, we have seen HR use a level of discipline that is very heartening for me as an HR professional. They are able to translate their HR activities into business successes. They are much more like their finance counterparts today in that way.

WM: What does that sense of discipline look like?

Fox: In the past there would be a deadline and finance would come out and do it. HR would say, ‘Well, we had hoped to get around to harmonizing the payroll system and we will probably look at health and welfare.’ But now HR is really on top of this. And once someone has been through a transaction, they understand that there needs to be lot of rigidity when things get done.

Workforce Management, August 17, 2009, p. 8 -- Subscribe Now!

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