Managing people matters in acquisitions: how i made a difference

We are very acquisitive – 31 companies have joined the group since Oval was established in October 2003. We need to integrate our acquisitions quickly and efficiently, getting all the employees on board and pulling in the one direction. We also need to make sure that they are focusing on Oval’s strategic goals while retaining some of the elements of their regional identity. This is central to Oval’s growth strategy and what makes us unique.

Oval involves HR from a very early stage in the acquisition process. It really helps us build a relationship of trust, respect and understanding right from the beginning, which is crucial. So if there’s a single most important thing that I’ve done to help integrate the acquisitions, it’s building really solid relationships.

This allowed me to work closely with the business unit leaders, and it became clear early on that some of the decisions they wanted to make in a smaller organisation wouldn’t work in a larger one with a dedicated HR team. I realised they needed my support and guidance.

Some of the companies we’ve acquired have had their own HR people, and we have retained them. Where there hasn’t been an HR team in place I’ve had to work very hard to get under the skin of what’s going on. And I couldn’t really do that without the support of Oval’s HR team, who keep in regular contact with key team members within the acquired companies.

The whole transition process can take up to six months, but as HR people, we visit the new company within a week. Then we deliver a suite of basic training. It’s just a case of making them feel comfortable with Oval processes and cycles – for instance, performance management.

What I have done personally is to create bespoke training where I felt people most needed help. I have run team-building days I’ve delivered one-to-one coaching on dealing with difficult people run training on having difficult conversations and had one-to-ones on their own personal development. It’s very much a case of being accessible.

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