The Challenge of Merging Two Cultures
“Our people!” was the company owner’s response to the panel moderator’s question: “What is your company’s greatest asset?”
Yes, it’s the politically correct, popular, make-everyone-feel-good response, and it sounds nice (especially in a public forum), but how many company leaders really believe, deep down, that their employees genuinely are their greatest asset?
Statistically, the answer is less than 40 percent.
Hence the reason a fair number of acquisitions don’t go as planned. It’s likely because a company culture integration strategy was either poorly planned or poorly executed or, in rare instances, was nothing more than an “Oh crap!” moment after everyone moved in together.
Failing to give adequate thought and consideration to building a company culture integration strategy will inevitably lead to unexpected employee attrition, causing significant disruptions in all of your business operations.
The fact of the matter is that developing a successful company culture integration is relatively simple and unintimidating.
If you’re planning an acquisition, or if you find yourself in the middle of one, consider the four-step process below to optimize its success, which is indeed one hundred percent dependent on the mindsets and attitudes of all your people.
- Perform a culture assessment of the company being acquired to identify its most positive and negative attributes. Is it a particular leadership style? Technology? Process? Quality control? Communication? Whatever the positive qualities turn out to be, you’ll need to do your best to match. Whatever the negative, take advantage of the time you have to make sure your acquired employees recognize that things are as good at your company as they were prior to the acquisition—or perhaps even better.
- Perform a culture assessment of your own company to acquire the same intelligence, compare the two, and get to work on making necessary improvements at your shop. I’ll explain how in step 3. Don’t dismiss or underestimate the importance of these first two steps. If you start losing key players soon after they move in, they will be tough to replace, and you already know how difficult it is to find good people.
- To make necessary culture improvements at your shop, you’ll need to organize a culture steering committee. A culture steering committee is a small group of people who will put together a strategy to move toward the culture you desire – one of continuous improvement and operational excellence. Talk about it. Brag about it. Make sure everyone knows about it so they understand how much they are valued. Again, if the culture you create isn’t at least as good as the one your new people had before the acquisition, you risk them looking for greener pastures. In other words, leverage a healthy company culture to protect and preserve.
- Retool your onboarding process for your new employees, with a heavy emphasis on communicating your company culture, what it stands for and why living it is so important. And even if you cannot make it as good as the culture they left, they will know you take culture at your company seriously.
Once you’ve come this far, you’ll be in an ideal position to (re)define your employer brand. You’ve completed the research and put forth the effort, and you’ve upgraded the mindset and morale of your team to make your shop a place where people feel a purpose and want to come to work each day.
Create an employee advocacy initiative and start searching to fill new positions with a quality and skilled workforce.
Of course, if you would like any support or guidance with putting together a culture-integration strategy, an employer brand, or an employee advocacy initiative for your company, contact us today.