The heart of the deal: People

by Angela Splinter

A merger or acquisition is a significant change for any organization, especially for the people who work there. Some will be uncertain about their futures, top performers may consider other employment, and decreased productivity can hinder your overall operations.

How you manage employees before, during, and after a transaction can have a big impact on your deal. Look at the Polaris-J.G. Drapeau acquisition as an example. In its press announcement, Polaris cited the importance of Drapeau’s human resources (HR) program, specifically mentioning its 2017 Top Fleet Employer recognition from Trucking HR Canada.

Clearly, a well-managed HR program has value. And too many transactions fail to live up to expectations because too little attention was paid to the “people” side of the business.
From an HR perspective, here are steps you can take before, during, and after a transaction to make sure it is a success:

Before the deal
Clarify roles: Whether your business is exploring an acquisition or merging operations with another company, identify who should be in-the-know, what they need to know, and when – long before any deal takes shape. Assess who your key people are and have a clear strategy for keeping them informed and under contract.

Cultural fit: Evaluate the management styles, corporate values, and work environments of the two companies. Are there systemic or organizational issues that could be a concern? Identify the cultural leaders – employees who may not be in leadership positions but have earned their coworkers’ respect and provide guidance and assurance. You want these people onside.

During the deal
Communicate clearly: Managing the rumor mill means managing morale and productivity. Be consistent and clear about how people on both sides should handle confidential information. Keep everyone focused on the facts and carrying on business as usual.

Retain talent: Losing key talent can diminish the value of both companies during the transaction. “People are valuable assets,” says Mark Seymour, CEO of Kriska Transportation Group, which has acquired several companies over the last few years. “I want to ensure they will continue to be a part of the organization.” Be aware that once word gets out, headhunters may see some opportunities. Who are the most likely targets and how will you respond?

Compensation and benefits: Assessing compensation, benefits, and retirement packages at this stage is vital. Consider what you are taking on, including collective agreements, employment contracts, potential liabilities, and more. Determine whether all practices, policies, and programs adhere to employment standards and regulations.

Assess workforce demographics: With an older workforce, pending retirements could have impacts on any benefit plans as well as future performance and recruitment efforts. A younger workforce demographic could mean more training investments.

After the deal
Plan now for how employees will be told: Once an agreement is in place, how will you communicate it? Misinformation and false assumptions create stress and anxiety that no business can afford, especially when those concerns involve potential layoffs or restructuring. Be prepared to manage a range of emotions and expectations. A calm and reasoned approach can alleviate feelings of uncertainty and fear.

Meshing of cultures: Now’s the time to formulate a new mission statement, vision statement, and to define corporate values for your new operation. Policies and procedures will need to be revised and coordinated with significant input from your HR team. The corporate culture for the combined organization will be established through this process, and will have a major impact on your success.

A merger or acquisition is an exciting time for everyone, and it’s also when your HR manager can really shine. A well-crafted HR strategy is as important as any plan for combining finances and operations. With a new entity moving forward, a motivated and engaged workforce will support continued business success.


Angela Splinter leads Trucking HR Canada, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to addressing the human resources challenges and opportunities in the trucking and logistics sector. Learn more at or follow them @TruckingHR.

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