Integrating EHS Values After a Merger or an Acquisition

When your employer is involved in a merger or an acquisition, your\r\ncompany's safety values do not have to go by the wayside.

In today''s global business climate, an EHS professional''s employer likely will be involved in an acquisition, a joint venture or a merger. When that happens, will you be ready to integrate your company''s EHS values into the newly acquired organization?

That has been the question facing Ronald J. Kitson, CSP, the past couple of years as director of Worldwide Safety Management Services for Corning. Kitson told attendees Tuesday at the American Society of Safety Engineers'' Professional Development Conference in Anaheim, Calif., how his company has integrated EHS values into 14 major acquisitions.

Corning has gone from about 40 facilities to 90, several of which are overseas. "The expectation was that we would ramp up to meet all our compliance needs and to ensure that all the new locations are brought up to speed as to our culture and practices," Kitson said.

Corning found out that will not happen instantly following a merger or acquisition. There are a number of activities, conditions, expectations and values that must be shared early and often with the acquired to ensure integration of the EHS culture. These include:

  • Felt leadership from the top. This is where integration begins. Leaders of the acquiring company need to be strong, genuine, continuous and personal toward the acquired organization.
  • Assessment of culture of new organization. "Find out what makes them tick," Kitson said of acquired companies. This is especially important for overseas acquisitions, where the parent company also may not have a previous understanding of that country''s culture.
  • Install agents of change. Put people in place as liaisons with the other company''s EHS operations who can be trusted to manage and direct change. "If you send your weakest employees, do not be surprised that the other organization does not [adapt to your EHS values], because you have put nothing there to make it happen," Kitson said. The acquired needs to understand the acquirer''s processes, corporate needs and why things are done a certain way.
  • Link to acquirer company''s operations. Make sure the acquired organization has someone in your company to contact regarding problems and information about the process. "People don''t like to feel like they''re alone out there," he said.
  • Stabilize the newly acquired organization. Be truthful about future plans for the acquired, whether good (expansion plans) or bad (plans to sell one of the acquired facilities). "The worst thing that can happen is to communicate indecision or indifference," Kitson said.
  • Develop positive, supportive relationships. Provide someone from your EHS staff to be there for the acquired company, almost like an internal consultant.
  • Create an EHS vision of the future. Give the acquired a goal to shoot for that fits in with your corporate EHS vision. "My vision is simple: for every employee to have an accident-free career," Kitson said.
  • EHS orientation. Make available all tools needed for the acquired organization to become part of your EHS culture.
  • Live out your vision by example. This is the biggest test for the acquirer, Kitson said. "You''ve got to walk the talk. If you don''t do that, you will be held to task, and rightfully so. You''re just blowing smoke."

These early interventions will pay off, he said. "When they are combined with good business practices, your probability of success will greatly increase."

by Todd Nighswonger

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