CAP: A Search for Expertise


The in-depth conversations that made up the bulk of the interviews conducted in the study were probably the richest part of the experience.

One of the strongest and most disturbing points was the need by executives to have particular distinct competencies at their disposal. Given that the study focused on distinguishing best practices in the implementation of acquisitions, the focus of these competencies are most likely to be found in the HR function.

One response stands out in connection with the following question:
What is the importance to accomplish M&A’’s….. in the area of:
Expertise with people/organization/culture integration? On a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 indicating disagreement, and 0 indicating full agreement, the score given was 94%.

When asked what the current level of capability was to accomplish M&A’s with their organization in the same area, the response fell to 62%.

Our research showed that while executives were looking for this particular expertise in “people/organization/culture integration”, they were steadfast in not looking to their current HR executives and managers for that support.

This dichotomy showed up all throughout the study: a refreshing sensitivity to cultural differences and the need to account for difference in corporate and national culture, coupled with a lack of faith in the HR expertise on staff to provide what they said was needed. We connected that with a variety of roots causes, all of which were mentioned in the interviews:

  • A historical bias to view HR as little more than “Personnel.” In this case the HR executive would have to take the lead in changing the popular perception.
  • An uneasiness with their HR department’s ability and competence to play a strategic role
  • The inability of the HR department to effectively get itself into the fast-moving waters of an acquisition process
  • A failure of the HR leader to clearly establish their knowledge and expertise in the area of M&A’s before the opportunity came up

A deeper investigation of the exact cause would be the subject of a different study.