Merger & acquisitions: What should HR consider?

Merger & acquisitions: What should HR consider?

One of the most challenging tasks for an HR professional is managing a merger and acquisition (M&A). As every phase is filled with potential risk for a business, as well as creating doubt and anxiety for employees. So, during merger & acquisitions: What should HR consider?

Get involved from the beginning
Sometimes HR can get involved in an M&A at the last phase but that can often be too late. If HR are involved from the beginning, they will be able to quantify the financial aspect of the people issues. It is especially worth considering certain hidden costs, such as pensions and benefits.

When you merge or acquire another business, changes to the business are sure to occur. It is important to consider Integration vs Transformation. Make sure that there is a clear people plan, especially for those that need to be retained, ensure these relationships are nurtured and they feel secure. One of the major reasons an acquisition fails is due to losing key employees and the information they hold.

Ensure that there is a definite strategy in place to integrate or transform the businesses post-acquisition. Allowing everyone to be prepared for if/when the deal occurs. These days technology will play a significant role in peoples productivity but it is one of the key area’s that can be forgotten.

It is imperative to mesh the cultures of the two businesses at a senior leadership level. It is HR’s role to ensure there is sufficient understanding and buy-in at the top, about the pitfalls of not addressing this at an early stage.

Don’t Fear Change
Change is something that is feared by most. Especially within an M&A, as it creates uncertainty. Again, HR is key in helping to smooth out the transition for employees. This can be done by calming fears, driving authentic leadership and being transparent about the change.

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Workplace flexibility: Is it worth implementing?

Workplace flexibility

Many companies have integrated flexibility into their employees working life, but there are also companies that have not. This begs the question as to whether it is worth implementing flexible schedules or are more hassle then they are worth?

Flexible working is a working arrangement that gives an employee a way of working that suits their needs. This could be working from home or even having flexible start and finish times.

It has been brought to the forefront recently, that men have been given more ‘workplace flexibility’ than women. In an article recently published by HR Magazine, research showed that men are able to work six hours per week flexibly, whilst women are just getting three hours.

Given the rise of Generation Y and their desire to work to live (rather than living to work) it makes us question why more employers have not implemented flexible working?

Here are some of the arguments for and against:

Benefits of Flexible Working
More productive
Increase of morale
Enjoyment of work
Control over schedule
Reduction of tardiness
Increases employee loyalty
Reduces employee turnover
Reduction of employee burnout
Allows for a good work/life balance
Reduction of fuel costs and commuting time & stress
Reduces fixed office costs

Setbacks of Flexible Working
May not suit everyone
Managers may find it hard to adjust
No separation between work and home
Difficult to tell if someone is actually working or not
Some people may take advantage of the working arrangement
Are business systems capable of managing a remote workforce

As you can see from the two lists above, at face value, the benefits may seem to outweigh the drawbacks, which is why many businesses have already implemented this type of working practice.

However, in reality, it is still a big change for many employers who have not yet seen the benefits of this or for those who are change resistant and adopt more traditional working practices.

In our view, this will undoubtedly change with time, as one generation leaves the workforce and another takes prominence. The businesses that succeed in the new ‘gig economy’ will likely be the employers who get this quickly as they will become employers of choice and will win the war for talent – in what will be an interesting market for businesses and its employees alike!

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Can you give a bad reference?

Everyone dreams of being the boss one day or of obtaining that dream job. One part of this dream, that you don’t always think about, is having a team and having to give references. But what if you have a bad employee? Can you give a bad reference? Will you get sued if you do? Could you just give them a “neutral” reference?

A “neutral” reference is one where only the dates of service and title are given. Many businesses have now implemented a policy of only giving “neutral” references. It is a policy that is backed legally and allows a business to avoid being sued. It seems to be especially useful to give this kind of reference for bad employees. From the perspective of a recruiter, this type of reference could be the difference between you and another candidate getting a job. However, there appears to be a way of being honest and still remaining on the good side of legality, below we have listed five ways to do just that.

1. If you cannot honestly recommend an employee for a new role then it would be best to let them know. This allows them time to ask someone else or forewarns them of what is going to happen.

2. If the employee in question worked for you for more than a couple years ago, then you can decline, on the basis that they worked for you so long ago. Thus, you cannot remember what work they did for you and that your reference will then be invalid.

3. You may decide to still give a “neutral” reference but be ready for a reference checker to ask whether this is the policy of the company or just for this candidate.

4. You may sympathise with the manager and decide to be honest. However, ensure that you remain factual and objective.

5. Lastly, ensure that your employees know where you stand on their work. This will give them a good indicator of what to expect from your reference.

References can be a minefield at times but, if you stick to these simple methods, you can ensure that everyone remains happy and informed.

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

London HR tech scene

In this edition of In:site, we speak to Philip Alexander, CEO and Co-Founder of Mentorial. Philip started his career with the UN, and then as a Strategy Consultant in Accenture’s Human Capital practice. He then left corporate life to be Head of Talent, Strategy and Operations at a leading Venture Capital backed healthcare technology company. Last year he set up his own company, Mentorial, an innovative Career Development Platform to help HR work as well for staff as it does for companies.

He curates a weekly Global Startup Digest on HR and Employee Experience and very much has his finger on the pulse of London’s HR tech scene and today he highlights five other companies to look out for.

London’s hottest HR tech companies:

London has a thriving scene for world-class HR technology companies.

Below are five startups helping companies of all sizes with their biggest challenges:


Bob sorts the people management for businesses who love their staff. It’s a new platform that brings together HR administration (including leave & absence management, automatic reporting, task workflows, etc.) with benefits management and employee engagement. Although that’s a lot to fit into one tool, they’ve worked hard to create a simple and attractive user interface. They want to be HR software that people actually like using.

Some of the key features that makes Bob different is the Club view – allowing HRs and employees to see information about the people within the company (like hobbies) as dynamic visual columns – and their digital benefits store using the existing data in the platform to help find and administer staff benefits in an easy way. This is particularly helpful when it comes to pension’s auto-enrolment.

Having launched in June, they already have 500+ businesses who have registered with them and are getting positive feedback on the basis of time-saving and usability – on both the HR and employees’ sides. Bob also has an exciting product roadmap, not least of which is to change the way that employees engage with their workplace benefits.


CultureAmp is working with some of fastest growing and innovative companies, from Slack to Adobe, to use real data and validated insights on their people. They work with over 500 companies across the world to survey their staff on engagement, onboarding, exits, pulse surveys, or specialised surveys backed up by world-class organisational psychology insights. Culture Amp takes running an employee survey and combines it with a great user experience and powerful analytics.

They have recently launched a performance review tool which collects feedback from managers and their employees to help individuals, teams and managers better figure out where they can improve. Employee Effectiveness aims to ask questions the way people would say them in real life. It also doesn’t use ratings and scores.


Onfido is a rapidly expanding company which uses machine learning technology to perform background checks. Candidates enter basic information through a website and this enables them to perform basic background checks in seconds, followed by more rigorous checks as needed.

They are able to integrate Onfido with corporate HR systems through their API to create a seamless experience for users and companies. They are able to use their technology to learn more about fraud patterns to identify quickly when people are trying to hide their backgrounds in more sophisticated ways.

Their mission is to build a “trust engine” that can be used to verify employees across any business scenario, from people creating funding pages on JustGiving, to accelerating the hiring of contractors.

Move Guides

Move Guides is based out of London and San Francisco, and is a market leader in talent mobility software. Their cloud solution acts as a one-stop-shop for companies, employees and vendors, from shipping, immigration and more. This enables HR departments to help staff move geography more easily, with a better employee experience.

Not only is it easier for companies and staff, but they claim to reduce total costs by up to 10% against traditional relocation management companies.


Lystable is platform that allows companies to easily manage their contingent labour, from onboarding to payment. It has gained significant traction in the market, with customers including The Economist, Google, ASOS and AirBnB, and over 20,000 freelancers and vendors on the platform.

With the rapid increase in freelancers working in large organisations, Lystable is built for the on-demand economy. On this one platform, companies can onboard contractors, conduct background screens, assign them to projects, record feedback and invoice.

They have attracted funding from Peter Thiel among others, and are expanding their presence in London as well as San Francisco.

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Pension stats

Pension stats

The thought of one day cashing in your pension and retiring is what keeps some people motivated and happy in the workplace. But with the state pension age rising in November 2018 to 65 and then in 2028, to 67, will workers feel the same? Will the percentage of those that leave work before their state pension begins increase? Only time will tell.

What are your thoughts?

To discuss further, you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.