HRbuilders dinner

21 december 2017

December 19th we hosted the last HRdinner of 2017! Our honoured guests were International HR Business Partners from diverse companies such as Daikin, Sanofi, International Paper, Ansell, Agfa, Bridgestone, PWI, AGC Glass, Godiva, Euroclear, Deme, IBM, Unibra. 

International HRdinner with Peter Vosch & Jos Blykers


With guest speakers: 

Peter Vosch and Jos BlykersPeter Vosch, International Executive with 20+ years’ experience in Human Resources & Corporate Affairs, in FMCG Companies (Kraft, Danone, Nicols),and in B-to-B (Hilti) and Professional Markets (Ansell, as of 01/03/2014) &

Jos Blykers, European Lead with IBM in which role he facilitates the integration of newly acquired companies and outsourced departments accepted the role as moderator and subject matter experts.

We kicked-off assessing the expectations of each individual attendee (learning, sharing, sparring, become inspired…) and came across next topics of interest:

  • How to manage change after change - after change-… transformation is always ongoing
  • What are good practices for mergers & acquisitions?
  • How to change organizational culture?
  • What is an ideal culture after a merge and how do you define / quantity this?
  • How to break silos?
  • How to help the business create new capabilities in order to transform the organization and support the digitalization agenda?
  • How to build structure in companies with an African culture?
  • How to mitigate between by buying and developing talent?
  • How to stimulate innovation?
  • How to create an optimal fusion between HR & The Business? ...

A lot of expectations and questions came out of the group. Peter and Jos have both extended experience with M&A and a big part of the evening handled about this exciting topic. Peter stated that he also learned a lot of a recent divesture in his career, a movement in the other direction and even more difficult to manage.

When the acquisition of another company is targeted, IBM has a dedicated specialist team for cultural integration. The acquisition and integration of other companies is an element of the company's growth strategy, driven by the gaps in the solutions portfolio. Gaps call for a make or by decision, and when an acquisition turns out to be a faster and more efficient way of complementing the solutions portfolio than through in-house development... IBM starts a journey to assess potential target companies. 

For a period of two years after the close of the acquisition, a specialized HR team identifies people-related-integration risks and executes a mitigation plan. Both integration risk at the company and at the individual level as well as the required integration effort ,ultimately translated into cost, result from the due diligence phase.

The duration of the integration phase, the early involvement of the HR function starting from due diligence, integration meetings and regular employee surveys contribute to the successful integration. Gathering data and facts are the credible basis for action. A continued focus on the people aspects of the integration and the availability of reporting and escalation channels at top corporate level during the integration phase enable rapid decision making.

The underlying model for the approach that Jos subscribed is influenced by Edgar H. Schein, Peter had useful experiences working with the cultural dimensions model of Geert Hofstede. In the context of acquisitions, Ansell analyses agility and the way to become more customer centric. The audience agreed that it even is difficult to identify 1 corporate culture, different dimensions can be analysed when talking about culture: 

• The corporate level
• The culture within the country where the organization/division operates
• The culture of a specific function or professional community  within the company. 

And then still,... pointed Peter out…

aren’t one size fits all programs something from the past
and shouldn’t we focus on customized, tailored solutions for our employees?

In the context of breaking silos and assessing culture, Peter used social network analysis with Kraft which seemed very helpful.

An interesting insight we gathered that evening, is the idea to give the acquired company time to adapt. Instead of stating that “They” have to become as “Us”, as soon as possible, the main objective can be defined as:

“How can they stay successful?”

Jos even shared the fact that sometimes his team has to protect the new acquired Company from IBM people who tend to go too fast in the integration. Visits from top-management are also a tremendous leverage in the whole integration process.

Since the goal of a corporation mostly is expressed as maximizing value, or Return on Capital Employed (ROIC) as Peter stated, one of the attendees raised the discussion point that if we want to measure success of an integration, we also need to define what success means. Financial results are important for sure, however as organization, we also have to stand for our corporate responsibility towards society. In this context Peter underlined the importance of company reputation, sustainability and CSR and the potential to support herewith the employer branding of the company.

There is still a lot of work to do by HR Business partners and in this global world… cultural integration still seems to be a very hard topic to cope with. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time, however a debate between people around the table with experience in Japanese companies, also would have been interesting to explore further.

Peter’s final statement was a good conclusion for the evening’s discussion:

“Whatever you want to do in the company, start at the top.”

Unanimity by all people around the table… however, seemed to be…also the most difficult part!


While we were driving home an attendee thanked us for the evening:

“Thank you HRbuilders, I enjoyed the evening, the discussion and exchange energized me” 

Another attendee gave the feedback: 

"It’s good to share ideas with peers, it also points out that each organization has his challenges and most often… you are not doing bad at all in your own organization. Rome wasn’t built in a day indeed…"

We would like to thank all our guests for their presence and openness to share experiences and special thanks to Peter and Jos for their insights and great energy! 

We're off for holidays now... enjoy the X-mass break and see you next year!

Cécile & Sofia

International team


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Written by

Sofia Van Overmeire

Business Manager Europe & Managing Partner at HRbuilders

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