Lessons from Iraq that provide HR’s answers

Some striking HR lessons can be taken from the early rebuilding efforts in

For anyone involved in cross-border merger and acquisition (M&A)
projects, the lessons are similarly relevant and parallels close. Regrettably,
they include several ‘should-have-been-dones’, just as in corporate life.

The recent hostile acquisition of Iraq might have benefited from a little
‘shock and awe HR’ work.

In any cross-border M&A there are several key HR areas that must be
looked at, planned for and executed. Although a domestic M&A can be
challenging, cross-border work can be even more so. When a company chooses to
project itself into new countries and cultures, it is essential that the
planning teams don’t forget several key post-acquisition HR issues.

One is manpower planning: what type and size of workforce will be needed
once the dust has settled? Within days of the fall of Baghdad a well-planned
downsizing was, and still is, clearly under way.

In a corporate world, we would witness initial tumult following an
acquisition. HR’s role is to be certain that the rush for cost savings (fast
layoffs) doesn’t undermine longer- term goals. It has to consider whether it is
fully equipped to manage the newly sized business.

Ask yourself: is your HR infrastructure in place and working? Do you
understand the cultural and legal requirements in the new country, and have you
planned for market practices? Can you deliver payroll in the new country?
Again, consider how the coalition forces in Iraq had to figure out early on
arrival how to deliver payroll to government staff to get them back to work.
You would be in a similar boat.

In a corporate M&A, it is important that careful thought is given to
executive leadership after the acquisition. The corporate goal is most likely
to have someone from the acquiring company run the local show initially. But
have you made plans for them to move back out as soon as things are stabilised?
Do you look at the behaviours likely to lead to success or failure in the new
country and its culture, and then vet any proposed executives against that?

The seemingly rotating door of coalition leadership in Baghdad could be
suspected of slowing overall progress in rebuilding Iraq. The very same issue
could be problematic for your acquisition too.

Have you thought through your staff communication strategies? Do they take
into account the culture of the company acquired, and the new country?
Effective communication strategies must be fast, constant and consistent and
will go a long way towards getting the acquired employee population settled down,
back to work, and back to being productive.

By delivering thoughtful and results-focused solutions in a cross-border
acquisition, HR can demonstrate concrete value to its organisation.

By Lance Richards, Board Director, SHRM Global Forum

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