HR professionals in organisations facing takeovers should warn senior managers that neglecting staff is a business risk, according to a leading practitioner.
Carol Bode, group HR development manager at the AA, said personnel staff need to take the initiative during takeovers to avoid being edged out.
Speaking at a conference on the role of HR during mergers and acquisitions, Bode told delegates that when Centrica bought the AA last September, the integration body was disbanded on the day of acquisition, leading to communication problems.
She said the reality of being in an acquired organisation is that managers find they are powerless to implement measures they know are important.
"While the AA executives were prepared to back us, in the end most were scared for their own position and wanted to see how Centrica was going to play it.
"In hindsight we should perhaps not have asked for permission. If we had to do it again we would just go ahead and do it."
Initiatives introduced included an integration newsletter and one-day workshops for middle managers covering issues such as managing resistance.
Bode said, "These were the most oversubscribed management courses we have ever run. I think we sent people away feeling a bit more confident. We were also able to give tips on how to maintain productivity."
She said that although there were no redundancies "seven to 12 months in there are still issues about communication and pay and conditions to finalise".
Mergers and acquisitions: HR dos and don’ts
Do be involved in discussions about post-acquisition strategy before deal is concluded
Do have a strategy ready on the day the deal is signed
Do ensure redundancies are handled sensitively
Don't disband the integration team as soon as the deal is done
Don't allow the importance of people issues to be downgraded