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Mergers & Acquisitions Playbook: Driving value through efficient HRM for your business

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Mergers & Acquisitions Playbook: Driving value through efficient HRM for your business

Mergers & acquisitions (M&As) are a powerful means of growth at scale and speed for businesses, and their popularity (especially in tech and manufacturing) is only increasing.

But M&As aren’t without their complications: somewhere between 70 to 90 per cent of attempted mergers and acquisitions fail.

Even with this high failure rate, the average amount of time to finalise a merger and acquisition has only been rising. Delays are rife, and it’s important to know that getting the deal signed off is only the first step in the process. Ultimately, the trick to aligning two organisations with different policies, systems, cultures and ways of working is about laying the groundwork early in this process to avoid later stresses. 

M&As fail for myriad reasons. Valuations are often misaligned, supply chain assessments can discover faults, and regulatory issues can halt the process. But the challenges of M&As aren’t all technical – often, what really matters in M&As is the interactions and people that guide them.

HR can provide a strategic advantage for companies looking to achieve this synergy: During periods of change and disruption, it’s more important than ever that employees feel heard and included, and informed. Too often, the opposite happens during an M&A.

It’s not just employees who benefit from efficient HR. Management also gains from close collaboration with human resources during the M&A process. Without strong HR input into the planning and strategy process, personnel – often a business’s most valuable asset – will be affected, making potential risks harder to notice and failures more difficult to manage. 

It’s useful, then, to consider including HR teams as one of the leaders in the M&A audit. Find the point at which your businesses differ the most – whether it’s payroll, workplace law compliance, culture or ways of working – and identify the key steps to achieving harmony. Issues can arise from differences between staff members in pay and conditions, especially where, post-M&A, equal roles do not hold equal pay. The hangover of varying levels of pay often lingers long after two companies have become one and can create major problems if left unchecked. 

Because of this, managers of payroll and HR teams have an obligation to identify major differences in pay and conditions and the reasons why they exist. Sometimes there is a valid justification for the so-called discrepancy. People with similar titles in mergers can often carry out vastly different tasks, justifying different pay and conditions. But where inconsistencies exist that do not warrant rhyme or reason, managers must take action to mitigate and resolve them.

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Communication is the vital next step for HR teams to manage the change brought about by M&As. It’s imperative that employees are told what’s going on, how they will be impacted, and have an opportunity to voice their wants, needs and concerns. A dedicated point of contact in HR for employees is often invaluable in this process: employees with a single point of HR contact are twice as likely to find HR ‘value-promoting’ as those with multiple HR contacts and five times as likely than those without. 

As the communication process is streamlined and employees begin to understand the business operations better, it’s time to address the dynamics and culture. Organisations can merge with somewhat different understandings of what makes a business work. But if done right, there is a great opportunity for collaboration, idea-sharing and testing to find the best path for a new organisation. Finding this alignment of understanding allows for better communication and fosters long-term worker satisfaction. 

It’s important to include employees in the process of merging cultures. The only way to find commonalities and opportunities for learning between any group is through collaboration – whether it be formal or informal. It’s often the case that businesses are able to learn new and improved processes from one another and invest in streamlined tools to drive further efficiency and growth. Group training can be a great way to both align the business strategy and develop new bonds between employees. It’s also great to set time aside for group catch-ups, allowing for greater connections and expediting the integration process. 

Done early and efficiently, taking early action in an M&A will ensure a stronger and more dynamic business with improved assets, processes and culture. But it begs the question: How can all of this be achieved while there are still two businesses to run, work to be done, and agreements to be finalised? The technical aspects of managing mergers is often where businesses hit a stumbling block in the process. 

If businesses want to focus on the bigger picture of a merger, it’s worth considering outsourcing and automating some of the details in the process that can chew up valuable time. Looking at the tech-driven solutions to managing mergers to adapt efficiently and easily. This can include managing and automating payroll processes, integrating new ways of working, managing workplace law compliance and more. Many businesses will only attempt one merger or acquisition in their lifespan, and the ability to create efficiencies is key to their overall success.

Going into M&As can seem daunting at first, but they ultimately serve as an opportunity to find optimal solutions and reinvent a business. It stands a business in great stead to set a plan early, communicate that plan clearly, and implement it efficiently – but also be willing to adapt. There’s no one way to integrate a merger or acquisition, but one of the key success factors is integrating HR from the start of the process – happy and motivated employees will foster business success in the short and long-term future. 

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

BALTIMORE (AP) — Teams of engineers worked Saturday on the intricate process of cutting and lifting the first section of twisted steel from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which crumpled into the Patapsco River this week after a massive cargo ship crashed into one of its supports.

Sparks could be seen flying from a section of bent and crumpled steel in the afternoon, and video released by officials in the evening showed demolition crews using a cutting torch to slice through the thick beams. The joint incident command said in a statement that the work was being done on the top of the north side of the collapsed structure.

Crews were carefully measuring and cutting the steel from the broken bridge before attaching straps so it can be lifted onto a barge and floated away, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.

Seven floating cranes — including a massive one capable of lifting 1,000 tons — 10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats were on site in the water southeast of Baltimore.

Each movement affects what happens next and ultimately how long it will take to remove all the debris and reopen the ship channel and the blocked Port of Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

“I cannot stress enough how important today and the first movement of this bridge and of the wreckage is. This is going to be a remarkably complicated process,” Moore said.

Undeterred by the chilly morning weather, longtime Baltimore resident Randy Lichtenberg and others took cellphone photos or just quietly looked at the broken pieces of the bridge, which including its steel trusses weigh as much as 4,000 tons.

“I wouldn’t want to be in that water. It’s got to be cold. It’s a tough job,” Lichtenberg said from a spot on the river called Sparrows Point.

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The shock of waking up Tuesday morning to video of what he called an iconic part of the Baltimore skyline falling into the water has given way to sadness.

“It never hits you that quickly. It’s just unbelievable,” Lichtenberg said.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

One of the first goals for crews on the water is to get a smaller auxiliary ship channel open so tugboats and other small barges can move freely. Crews also want to stabilize the site so divers can resume searching for four missing workers who are presumed dead.

Two other workers were rescued from the water in the hours following the bridge collapse, and the bodies of two more were recovered from a pickup truck that fell and was submerged in the river. They had been filling potholes on the bridge and while police were able to stop vehicle traffic after the ship called in a mayday, they could not get to the construction workers, who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The crew of the cargo ship Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, remained on board with the debris from the bridge around it, and were safe and were being interviewed. They are keeping the ship running as they will be needed to get it out of the channel once more debris has been removed.

The vessel is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk.

The collision and collapse appeared to be an accident that came after the ship lost power. Federal and state investigators are still trying to determine why.

Assuaging concern about possible pollution from the crash, Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, said there was no indication in the water of active releases from the ship or materials hazardous to human health.

REBUILDING

Officials are also trying to figure out how to handle the economic impact of a closed port and the severing of a major highway link. The bridge was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore.

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Maryland transportation officials are planning to rebuild the bridge, promising to consider innovative designs or building materials to hopefully shorten a project that could take years.

President Joe Biden’s administration has approved $60 million in immediate aid and promised the federal government will pay the full cost to rebuild.

Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said trucks were still being processed at marine terminals.

The loss of a road that carried 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters, but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.

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Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C.; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

DALLAS (AP) — The Texas attorney general has opened an investigation into a key Boeing supplier that is already facing scrutiny from federal regulators over quality of parts that it provides to the aircraft maker.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it began looking into Spirit AeroSystems because of “apparent manufacturing defects” in parts that “have led to numerous concerning or dangerous incidents.”

In a statement Friday, a Spirit spokesman said, “While we do not comment on investigations, Spirit is wholly focused on providing the highest quality products to all our customers, to include the Boeing Company.”

Paxton asked the Wichita, Kansas-based supplier to turn over documents produced since the start of 2022 about communication with investors and Boeing about flaws in parts and corrective steps the company took.

The request goes into detail in seeking internal discussions around Spirit’s efforts to create a diverse workforce “and whether those commitments are unlawful or are compromising the company’s manufacturing processes.” Paxton asked for a breakdown of Spirit’s workforce by race, sexual orientation and other factors, and whether the makeup has changed over time.

Since a Spirit-made door-plug panel blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max in January, some conservatives have tried to link aviation safety to diversity at manufacturers.

Paxton is a conservative Republican who this week agreed to pay $271,000 in restitution to victims and take 15 hours of training in legal ethics to settle felony charges of securities fraud. Paxton did not admit wrongdoing in the 9-year-old case.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into Boeing Spirit after the Alaska Airlines incident. An FAA audit of manufacturing procedures in Spirit’s factory gave the company failing grades in seven of 13 areas.

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Boeing is in talks to buy back Spirit, which it spun off nearly 20 years ago, as part of a plan to tighten oversight of manufacturing in its supply chain.

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