So You’re Getting Married: What to Expect When Your Company Decides to Get Hitched
Learning and Development (L&D) organizations rarely get attention during high profile corporate mergers and acquisitions, even though L&D efforts after a merger are critical to the organization’s long-term success. If you find yourself tasked with the responsibility of harmonizing two sets of learning strategies and technologies into one, you have an opportunity to play a key role in achieving the stated objectives of the merger. You are also likely feeling overwhelmed; a good place to start is to understand some of the common stages L&D professionals go through when consolidating two learning organizations:
1. The Engagement: This is the period between the general agreement on a deal and when that deal becomes a reality. L&D organizations are faced with the daunting task of assessing the work ahead: When will we be combining HR data? Which LMS will we use? Where do we even begin in terms of harmonizing the inevitable redundancies between our two course catalogs?
When faced with these questions, here are some best practices to consider:
- The level of coordination required to merge two L&D organizations is frequently underestimated; be proactive in looping in legal, compliance, sales, marketing and other groups that will have input into the eventual training catalog.
- Take the time to develop a comprehensive data migration plan. Doing this in piecemeal fashion is a recipe for missing training records, content and other valuable data.
- Identify functional and technical experts for each application/data source that you will be working with, and if any of those experts are going to be leaving the organization make sure you conduct a thorough knowledge transfer before they do.
2. The Move: Once the learning technologies that will be used by the combined enterprise are selected, the challenging phase of migration begins. This stage typically begins with IT and L&D personnel from both sides sitting down together to decide what to bring, what to leave behind, and if necessary, what to stash in long term storage.
3. The Housewarming: Eventually, the many months of migration planning come to fruition and it’s time to go live on one platform. Not unlike the experience of new homeowners learning about the quirks and creaks in their house after they’ve moved in, the period after go-live is often spent training a sizable portion of the learning administrator population on how to utilize new functionality and execute existing business processes within a new LMS. A solid change management plan will help to ease this transition.
4. The Sendoff: At this point, the marriage illustration is admittedly a stretch but let’s give this a try: Eventually, the kids grow up and leave the nest. Similarly, corporate mergers often involve a spinoff of some sort, whether it is selling off a non-core business unit or some other asset. When this happens, it’s actually the reverse of an acquisition: the L&D professional is tasked with extracting data from the combined platform and delivering it to the acquirer as part of the transaction. If this fourth stage is relevant to your particular situation, the degree to which stages 1-3 were executed well will determine L&D’s success in supporting a spinoff.
Every corporate merger has its unique terms, but these are the common stages an L&D professional should prepare for when faced with a pending tie up. With careful planning and awareness of the challenges at each stage, the L&D organization has an opportunity to play a pivotal role in delivering on a merger’s promise of greater growth, efficiency and innovation.