HR’s role in merger and acquisition deals is growing, say M&A experts at management consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“Clearly we’re seeing deals that are bigger, more complex and broader in geographic scope,” said Mike McHale, a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ transaction services group said in a recent webinar. “We are typically seeing HR being of significant importance as it relates to transactions.”

In PwC’s 2011 M&A integration survey, 83% of respondents said selecting the right people to lead the newly combined organization was of great importance to the deal’s success. Retaining and engaging pivotal talent during the transition was cited by 46% as key to the deal’s success.

“Cutting costs remains important [in an M&A deal] but is perhaps not as paramount,” said Steve Rimmer, global coordinator of PwC’s human resources transaction services practice. “There’s a growing consensus that good talent is hard to come by and even harder to replace. And talent is really a critical element to pursue in some of these growth strategies. Acquirers need to engage employees in ways that produce innovation, not just boost productivity.”

Articulating a clear definition of deal success was cited by 47% of respondents in the integration survey. “This goes hand-in-hand with understanding why organizations embark on a transaction and how they communicate that to employees,” said Lawrena Colombo, partner in PwC’s people and change practice. She added that change management is fundamental to a deal’s success and should be planned for in advance. “It shouldn’t happen after day one and should occur across the entire planning cycle,” she said. “Companies should think about it as early as possible in their planning.”

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