Too often, we've observed HR functions default to pure "react" mode when an upcoming deal is announced; working furiously to duct-tape together diligence and integration plans while simultaneously juggling their day-to-day operations. Root causes of this reactive vs. proactive often lie within lack of M&A skills and infrastructure that allow HR functions to rapidly staff a team of subject matter experts who can practice the art and science of identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks and opportunities. To avoid these common pitfalls - we advocate that CHROs and their teams explore this best practice:

Rapid Response Team - Serial acquirers and/or very large enterprises will often have a well-oiled M&A team that includes at least one dedicated HR resource with all the supporting infrastructure in place. . . Most others have to make do. 

HR organizations that prioritize the design of a flexible HR M&A staffing plan (the Rapid Response Team) to ensure that HR always has the necessary resources to provide support for any deal volume, size, or complexity beyond the initial skillsets of the core M&A team are at a significant advantage to those who consistently operate on an ad hoc basis. These high-performing organizations identify those key HR functional areas that require additional support during most deals (compensation and benefits, communications, project management, payroll, immigration, staffing, training, and relocation) and assign a "check-down list" of primary and secondary team members with the requisite subject matter expertise to rapidly mobilize and get to work on a deal. In addition to this critical "check-down list", HR teams will also build out an M&A staffing and scalability matrix to better prioritize and match resources to deal requirements (see below).

Source: AlixPartners

To round out these key pieces of infrastructure, best-in-class HR organizations will ensure that their M&A Rapid Response Team has the requisite knowledge and skillsets to properly complement the native M&A team. This means that HR leaders are ready and willing to give these individuals the resourcing and time to get a strong base of M&A knowledge - mostly through OTJ training, but also supplemented with learning sessions with Corporate Development / M&A, Finance, and IT as needed. 

The goal is to have that established set of processes baked into an HR team so that when an upcoming deal is socialized - a cadre of individuals can quickly mobilize, assess, and jump into the fray. This gives the CHRO and M&A lead some breathing space to not worry about whether HR has adequate resourcing and knowledge levels to serve as a critical value lever to a deal.