One of the most significant changes a company can go through is a merger or acquisition. Integrating with another business while maintaining the company culture that you worked so hard to attain, can be difficult. Seamless integration is possible if you approach it with intention and strategy.
Regardless of which side you are on during a merger or acquisition, your company will have to successfully work with new departments, individuals and leaders. Successfully navigating this type of change may also require an office move or needing to fit new employees into your space, new branding, alignment of software systems, and more. Therefore, in the midst of a complicated change management strategy that often accommodates a merger or acquisition, it will also be important to focus on maintaining company culture. To help you do exactly that, consider the following tips:
1. Define Goals for the New Entity
It is crucial for leadership to be on the same page about the goals of the transition with respect to company culture. It’s easy for culture to get lost in all the minutiae of the legal and logistical details which are part of all mergers and acquisitions, yet culture is probably the most important element to address if “starting off on the right foot” is important to you - which it should be.
Leadership must decide whether one company’s culture will eclipse the other’s, if each company will maintain its original culture, or if there is a happy medium that can be leveraged. The answer will depend on your specific situation, but it is critical that the leadership team takes the time to discuss it and come to agreement so that a unified change management strategy can be implemented.
2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
We always stress the importance of communication as the key to successful change management, and arguably high on the leadership action priority list when involved in a merger and acquisition. Communicating clearly, early in the process, and often throughout the transition, will make it easier for individuals to adapt to the new organization. Individuals inevitably get nervous when rumors of a merger and acquisition start to percolate. They want to feel secure in their jobs and know that the place where they spend a significant amount of each day will continue to be somewhere they want to go. Communicating early helps allay those fears, and doing it clearly will go a long way toward helping you maintain your company culture.
Be careful, however. Simply placating individuals with blanket statements like, “Nothing will change,” or “This will be for the better,” will not make them feel better. Employees know that there will be changes in the organization. Instead, use a statement like, “We are still working through the details of the merger and you can expect to see some improvements in the way we operate. We will continue to be the same customer-centric company we have always been.” Confirming that the core ideals of the company are not going away and framing specific changes as improvements makes individuals more receptive to the transformation.
3. Get Individuals Involved
The more individuals are involved in the process of change, the more likely they are to embrace it and support it. For example, if your growing consulting company is acquiring a smaller firm and their six staff members are going to move into your office, you have an excellent opportunity to integrate them into your company culture from the very beginning. Remember that this is a change that will impact everybody, not just the new people. Your existing staff might feel threatened, excited, nervous, or apathetic. You have an opportunity, through communication and active involvement, to shape those feelings and steer the process in the direction that best fits your company culture. Some of the ways to involve individuals in a merger or acquisition that involves adding personnel include:
- Create a welcoming committee whose goal is to impart the values of the company culture
- Use a buddy system so new people have a consistent support system
- Hold training events early in the transition to teach the skills that you value
These tactics not only make the new people feel more welcome, it also allows the existing staff to foster the culture in which they already feel comfortable.
Mergers and acquisitions are no doubt times of major change for everyone involved, but that doesn’t mean your company culture has to suffer. If you do it well, the results can be a stronger commitment to the company’s core values and a refreshed motivation to living them everyday.