Engaging with Research

This paper reports empirical data from an exploratory study aiming to examine the role of the HR function in mergers and acquisitions. Given the exploratory nature of the research, there are no specific research questions outlined and the main objective is to provide empirical evidence for Ulrich’s (1997) four-fold typology of the role of the HR function in large firms. This entails an emphasis on HR as an “administrative expert” (managing the infrastructure of HR policies like staffing, training etc), an “employee champion” (enhancing employee commitment), a “strategic partner” (alignment of HR policies with company strategy) and finally a “change agent” (an aspect of HR work which is expected to be more prominent in the context of M&As).

Bjorkman and Soderberg (2006) justify their focus on Ulrich’s conceptual framework by arguing that his typology frames our understanding of the nature of HR especially in the context of broader debates around the differences of the latter (strategic orientation) from “old-fashioned” personnel management. They also suggest that since Ulrich’s typology highlights both operational and strategic issues, it can be used as a lens through which the role of HR in mergers and acquisitions can be understood.

Overall, the brief review of the strategic HRM literature on page 655 provides justification for the selection of the paper’s main conceptual framework. However, some clarification is needed regarding previous research in mergers and acquisitions. The authors defend their choice of topic by citing previous studies (e.g. Buono and Bowditch 1989) which have highlighted the need to consider the “human side” of   M&As. They also add that previous research has not examined in detail the role of HR within such a context. While this may be true, the authors could acknowledge that there is a significant amount of research considering the impact of post M&A management on employees (in terms of levels of commitment, turnover,...