Good relationships are founded on give and take, and it's as true in the world of business as in marriage. But when Canadian information publisher Thomson acquired UK-based Reuters in 2007 for $18bn - the largest acquisition in the industry's history - the merged firm's human resources department faced a big headache: how to integrate 54,000 workers in nearly 100 countries, and turn two HR functions into one? Oh, and do it in just 12 months ...
In absorbing Reuters, Thomson sought to create 'one company in a year' and make annual cost savings of $500m. For HR, that meant appointing or confirming 30,000 people in their roles, developing a new corporate vision, harmonising benefits plans in 37 countries, negotiating with more than 20 unions, integrating over 40 HR systems and implementing a single redundancy process.
At the same time, HR had to ensure the usual day-to-day tasks - recruiting new staff (about 120 a week), performance appraisals, salary reviews - weren't neglected. And then there was the prickly issue of how to integrate the HR function itself: two very different teams, each with its own focus, structure and geographical spread.
Deloitte was brought in to assist with the integration, helping the Thomson Reuters team to create 16 workstreams, of which HR transformation was one. From July '07 to June '08, Deloitte fielded a team of five consultants, based in London, New York and Toronto.
Deloitte helped the HR function assess existing structures, services and systems, the results of which enabled the combined team to outline the key reasons for and benefits of transforming HR, as well as getting approval for a $5m investment to integrate HR systems.
A new HR function was designed and a new blueprint created for HR systems. To deliver this new structure, Deloitte recommended an innovative 'design, appoint, design' approach - design the top-team structure and appoint members before designing the next level, which then creates its own processes for appointing team members.
Once the senior leadership team had been appointed, it came together for three two-and-a-half day workshops in London, New York and Stamford (Connecticut) to develop the HR vision.
All the while, this HR transformation work depended on other activities taking place. Deloitte's ability to develop networks across the integration programme helped Thomson Reuters work effectively within a fast-changing, uncertain and sometimes ambiguous environment.
'The HR team was fundamental to our success in the integration, from supporting appointments and organisational design through to aligning recruitment, HR function and systems, compensation, benefits, talent and performance management,' says Thomson Reuters integration director David Turner.
Thanks to Deloitte, Thomson Reuters arrived at 'day one' with corporate values defined, 500 senior appointments completed, line managers equipped to manage the change, a single benefits framework, a fully operational HR leadership team, integrated HR systems and a three-year HR plan in place.
'Deloitte made a significant contribution to this mighty project of ours,' says Stephen Dando, chief HR officer for Thomson Reuters. 'Deloitte's objective, collaborative and flexible approach provided us with exactly the right support to deliver what was required in a very challenging environment and to tight timescales.'
A small team of Deloitte consultants was drafted in from London, New York and Toronto to help the newly merged Thomson Reuters build a united HR function - a task central to the integration of the whole enterprise. Deloitte provided a blueprint by which the new division was to be created layer by layer, from the top team down. Come the deadline, corporate values had been defined, 500 senior appointments made, line managers fully briefed and, for a fully operational HR team, a three-year plan was in place.
- Maintain momentum with regular injections of objectivity, openness and pace;
- Ensure commitment to later decisions by securing the early involvement of senior leaders in key decisions on the corporate vision;
- Snuff out competitive rivalries between teams by embedding a collaborative approach to development.