Thomson Reuters’ HR chief Stephen Dando recognised for his part in merger

Thomson Reuters’ chief HR officer has been recognised for his successful work in overseeing the merger of the news and information giants.

Stephen Dando was awarded the Human Capital Award for HR Excellence by the CBI last week for leading the successful ‘One company, one year’ initiative which was launched in April 2008 following the £8.7bn merger of Thomson and Reuters the previous year.

Former BBC HR chief Dando told Personnel Today the success was due to the HR function’s forward planning, strong communication skills and the early articulation of the new company’s vision and values.

He said: “What experts tell you is that during a major period of upheaval, like an integration, it’s not unusual for employee engagement levels to slip. But this shows if you handle change well, it’s not inevitable.

“There was no single silver bullet but we put a huge amount of effort behind communication. Most employees agreed that communication had been open and transparent. They had a reasonably good sense of what was going to happen and when.

“We also put a lot of work into defining the purpose, the vision and a core set of values for the company, and that resonated with our employees. That gave people a sense of the coherence of the company and what it stood for. Many people plan to come back and do that later but it’s essential to do that at the outset as it helps to engage people.”

The merger of Thomson and Reuters meant the two HR functions were responsible for the integration of 16,800 Reuters staff in 94 different countries with 32,000 Thomson staff. Judges pointed to the results from an employee engagement survey that showed the index had increased by five points from 79% to 84%.

The hardest part of the initiative, Dando said, was the “duality of the HR role” as the function had to assist with the integration of the business as a whole, but also the merging of HR teams.

He said: “Not only were we having to help business integration, as an HR function in the spotlight, but we were also having to do that for ourselves. That makes it uniquely hard for an HR function. If you don’t have an integrated HR, you don’t feel like one company – you have to do that.”

But while admitting savings had been made, Dando refused to reveal how many jobs – including HR jobs – had been cut as part of the restructure. In May 2008, Thomson Reuters announced 700 jobs in sales, content, technology and operational divisions would be cut.

Dando said his HR team was now making talent management a priority. “I have recently hired a new global head of talent who is taking a fresh look at how we reorganise our talent approach. A lot of fresh thinking is going on there,” he said.

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