How does a big company go about informing and motivating employees when the company is going though a major change – such as a merger?
No-one knows the answer better than Mike Taylor, the human resources director of Hewlett Packard UK and Ireland. “It has been a turbulent 12 months and the ground has barely stopped shaking,” he admits, referring to HP’s acquisition of Compaq Computer, the IT industry’s largest ever merger.
Speaking at Information Age‘s Empowered Enterprise conference in London, Taylor – a veteran of human resources (HR) management at large companies including Compaq, retailer the Burton Group, and car manufacturer BMW – said that everyone at HP “has been under enormous pressure”.
That is not surprising. After all, the new company had to integrate, and consolidate, a huge number of products and services from operations across the world, as well as reduce its combined workforce of 160,000 by more than a tenth. Of these reductions, HP will have shed 1,400 staff from a headcount of 10,000 in the UK and Ireland by March 2003.
Despite the scale of this task, Taylor says HP has already achieved most of its goals since completing the acquisition in May 2002. He attributes this rapid progress to the fact that HP put in place clear organisational and cultural change management processes. These plans were regularly communicated to employees via mechanisms such as the HP employee portal, poster campaigns, e-learning modules, and team workshops.
Reflecting this high-level of preparation were HP’s “clean room” members, the name given to a dedicated group of 500 senior HP and Compaq staff. These managers regularly met online to devise HP’s pre-merger and post-merger transition plans. Taylor says the clean room completed more than one million hours of work before the ‘new’ company was established.
This work helped HP to deliver some impressive results from the outset. These achievements included making the HP.com web site available in 21 languages across 72 countries; training all HP staff to deal with new products and customers; and providing all employees with a new email address, most of which had been integrated with email directories and an authentication infrastructure.
But of all the company’s internal IT-based innovations, the HP employee portal was the most crucial communication tool, says Taylor. The portal itself was a huge integration task that required 200,000 user accounts, including external contractors, 230,000 emails, 22,000 servers and nearly 120 web sites to be linked together.
But it was worth it. The portal delivered huge, often immeasurable, benefits, claims Taylor. “The portal created a real sense of impact for everyone at the company. This was not something going on at a distance. Employees could actually learn what was going on and feel involved and responsible from day one.”
He admits that HP still has much integration work to complete. For example, HP’s UK human resources (HR) operations still use two separate HR systems. This is because both pre-merger companies used different versions of PeopleSoft’s software, which have been heavily customised.
By April 2003, HP plans to roll out a global HR system, standardised on one version of PeopleSoft. Only when this is complete will the HR department itself feel the integration is complete.