Navigating Organizational Culture Change in Mergers and Acquisition

Merging and aligning two organizations is a huge undertaking. Aligning two different entities to form one new organization requires complex planning, mass organization, and high-quality communication. Maybe a business is for sale, or two similar businesses decide to combine forces.

In either instance, company culture is bound to change significantly – and the last thing leadership should do is leave personnel and employees feeling lost or dejected during a transformational period. Company culture should always revolve around the organization’s values, and leadership should keep employees in clear and consistent communication as everyone figures out this new phase. Below, we break down some of the best ways leadership and their teams can accomplish successful and meaningful transitions together and come out stronger on the other side.

How might systems change?

As organizations merge and align, both must undergo significant internal and structural changes to their organizational systems as they integrate the merged company into their existing operations. This is enough to throw even the most grounded companies for a loop. Some of the key ways organizational systems may be in flux during a this transformation period include:

1. Reporting lines and organizational structure are always adjusted to accommodate the merging company. To make sure teams are successful in adjusting to these new leadership roles, departmental structures, and reporting relationships, consistent high-quality communication, and direct feedback systems need to be in place and high-functioning.

2. Organizations must revise or develop new policies and procedures for the aligning company or address regulatory and compliance requirements. To make changes in areas such as human resources, finance, operations, and IT more fluid, it’s of utmost importance that leadership harmonize policies and procedures between organizations to ensure consistency and uniformity in operations.

3. Merging and aligning also calls for significant changes in information systems and technology to further integrate the merging company’s data, processes, and systems with those of the merging company. To smooth out this process, the aligning company must invest time into data management, data sharing, and data integration process, and make sure the appropriate teams understand any new systems or processes along the way. Read more in-depth about integrating systems after merging and aligning here.

4. Performance management and incentive systems should be revised to align with the goals and objectives of the newly merged company, as well as to create a unified approach between both organizations. This is incredibly important to company culture as it involves changes in performance metrics, target-setting processes, and incentive structures to drive desired behaviors and outcomes.

5. Companies need to address cultural differences and create a cohesive culture that reflects the values and vision of the merged organizations. Employee engagement strategies may be revised to ensure that employees from both organizations feel valued, engaged, and motivated during the integration process. Having an open and transparent feedback loop is essential to make sure employees are heard and feel valued.

So… how do we keep company culture strong during transformations?

Of course, every merger has a similar list of “to-do’s” to keep the ball rolling and make sure the transformation is successful. To get the most out of the reorganization of company systems, leadership should always have a firm and enthusiastic plan for company culture.

Without a doubt, the most delicate on our above list is aligning company cultures. Keeping culture alive and well throughout the transition is what will keep employees engaged, on-board, and motivated to incorporate the new team and processes. Below, we explain the most comprehensive way to successfully navigate cultural transformations as different organizations merge and align. 

  1. Develop a Comprehensive Integration Plan

Companies should develop a detailed integration plan that outlines the key objectives, timelines, and responsibilities for the organizational changes. This plan should be well-thought-out and catered to the organization’s needs, wants, and specific company values. Having a clear roadmap and actively following it helps guide the alignment process and ensures that all aspects of the transformation are considered and managed effectively. In practice, this could look like leadership working with their teams ahead of time to create a list of expectations for communication and scheduling during the transition.

  1. Communicate transparently and regularly

Companies should communicate early and often with all employees, providing updates on the progress of the integration, the reasons behind the changes, and how they will impact employees’ daily work lives. Organizations must be ready to address employees’ concerns and questions, and provide opportunities for anonymous feedback and other employee input. Communication should meet the expectations we mentioned prior and be timely, consistent, and delivered in a clear and concise way. Some examples of clear communication could involve team meetings scheduled in advance alongside weekly email updates detailing the status of the transition. We are aware that there is so much going on during a transformational phase in an organization, but this step cannot be overlooked, as it is the foundation for mutual trust between leadership and employees.

  1. Involve employees and provide support

Involving employees in the transformation process eases concerns and fosters ownership and commitment to the transformation. Companies should provide opportunities for employees to share original ideas and participate in decision-making as the transition takes place. After all, employees are the ones who will be involved with new systems every day. If leadership finds that employees are reporting feeling lost or misunderstood, providing support and resources, such as training, mentoring, and coaching, aids in adapting to the transition and acquiring new skills necessary to succeed.

  1. Foster a positive organizational culture

A positive culture embraces change, promotes collaboration, and encourages open communication to facilitate a smooth integration. One might consider studying an organization they look up to for positive examples of work culture. How does leadership communicate with employees and with what frequency? What workplace benefits does the organization provide? What does HR’s budget and subsequent event planning look like? 

The top priority should be to align and integrate cultures by creating space for culture to continue to take shape. Ensure that the new entity’s culture reflects the values and vision of both merging organizations by hosting events and communicating based on those shared values. Management and leadership must take the steps to properly recognize and celebrate success, bring teams together by reinforcing their shared vision, and reinforce the importance of teamwork and collaboration.

  1. Anticipate and address challenges

It’s only natural that challenges and conflict occur during transition periods. Leadership would be wise to be prepared to anticipate and address these challenges proactively, instead of waiting passively for the inevitable. Readying a company for these difficulties may involve developing contingency plans, conflict resolution training, and making timely decisions to overcome obstacles before they grow into something larger.

  1. Seek expert advice and support

Experienced consultants, transformation management specialists, and legal advisors provide valuable insights and guidance during the merging process. These experts offer leadership and employees objective perspectives, help identify potential risks, and offer strategies to mitigate challenges, ultimately increasing the chances of a successful integration. Navigating change and big transformations is a learned skill; let leaders in transformation management help you avoid missteps and common mistakes.

This last step is where LaMarsh comes in. Our experts provide strong and knowledgeable leadership during organizational transformations like merging and aligning organizations. We also offer leadership and change management training; equip your team with tools to successfully navigate cultural changes and big transformations by contacting us here.

Stay up with our news

Join our newsletter. The latest news, articles, and resources, sent to your inbox weekly.