This wave of M&A deals: Who will be made redundant now?

Posted on Thursday, 17 September 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Mergers, Personal Planning for Mergers |

Strategic acquisitions are once again headline news with the announcement of a number of massive deals on both sides of the Atlantic (see our blog entry: ‘ Has the M&A market returned? Green shoots turn into harvest time…’).

Wait a few weeks or months, and the headlines will talk more about the people who will be (or are already) being made redundant from those deals. As naturally as dusk follows day and water flows downhill, the merger of two companies results in people being fired, plants and offices closed, product lines shut down or merged and one of the two CEOs (plus one of the two CFOs, HR heads, Senior VPs for IT, etc) taking ‘early retirement’ or departing ‘for personal reasons’ and later showing up at a lesser well-regarded competitor.

Is there anything you can do about this if you’re one of the people in a company where a merger has just been announced? Yes, there definitely is. There are actions you can take as you ask yourself the question: ‘What do I do now that my company’s being acquired?’

As reported on 2 September 2009 in The Times in a review of my new book just released in July (Surviving M&A: Make the most of your company being acquired),

‘The spectre of a merger is enough to send a chill down the spines of most employees — with good reason. Mergers always carry a risk of redundancies: on average, 10 to 15 per cent of employees across both organisations lose their jobs in a merger, sometimes as many as a third. Even those who keep their jobs are likely to be fearful of the change to the status quo.

‘In a book just published, Surviving M&A: Make the Most of Your Company Being Acquired by Scott Moeller, director of the M&A Research Centre at Cass Business School in London, explains how to improve your chances of keeping your job, based on 350 interviews with employees who have been through M&A deals. “The first question you need to ask yourself is: ‘Do you want to stay?’ ” Professor Moeller said. “A merger might be the best time to leave.”’

There are many steps you can take to stay, as discussed in that book, ranging from ‘showing off’ your (hopefully) excellent work (and going against the natural tendency to ‘stay low’ at a time like this), increasing your internal networking and even volunteering for the planning and transition teams.

If the M&A market has truly started growing again and if we really are therefore at the start of a new strong M&A wave, then many people will be faced with the need to ‘survive’ in a way that they hadn’t anticipated. Best to get started now with some planning, even if you feel your company isn’t at risk. Do you think most of the employees at Cadbury anticipated the need to plan an acquisition survival strategy in 2009? Or did Mavel’s employees expect that they’ll need superhuman skills to retain their jobs in 2010?

[Note: you can find a variation of this posting on my other blog, Surviving Mergers]

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