10 Ways to Effectively Integrate Company Cultures During Mergers & Acquisitions

Integrating company cultures is critical during mergers and acquisitions


Kendall Barndollar , Fri 9 February 2024
In 1998 Daimler Motor Company Group (now Mercedes-Benz) attempted a merger with Chrysler Corporation. On paper, Daimler-Chrysler was a perfect combination. Daimler and Chrysler brought price points for different target audiences and their respective leaders had high hopes for a successful merger of the companies. Internally, Daimler had a vertical structure with enforced hierarchical roles while Chrysler used a horizontal structure with less formalities. The two entities split shortly after because they could not find a mutually beneficial culture or compromise the two hierarchical structure approaches. 

Finding the perfect team culture is challenging as is. Combining with another entity only creates additional battles for managers to face. Finding ways to maintain team or group culture through organizational changes puts a further burden on executive leadership and team managers within companies. 

In learning to deal with this new, unique workplace challenge, here are ten tips for managers in leading their teams through organizational changes:

  1. Understand the Stages of Team Development
Using the four normative stages of team development, leaders should allow teams to autonomously develop and grow into a culture that fosters specific team values. Allowing teams the time to go through the stages of forming, morning, storming, and performing to find the best-fit roles can be a daunting challenge for hands-on leaders going through organizational changes. However, by enabling new teams to flow through these changes, they will develop a productive team environment that allows a team to be efficient and effective.

2. Practice Effective Communication
Effectively communicating in times of change enables leaders to collect feedback and grow from two-way communication with their direct reports. Leaders practicing active listening will be able to voice employee concerns throughout the process of organizational change. On the flip side, leaders effectively communicating with their direct reports will provide clarity and reduce resistance to changes within a company. 

3. Use Inclusive Decision Making
In management decisions, allowing direct reports to voice concerns and opinions whenever possible will improve adaptability and allow for creative solutions that will satisfy all levels within an organizational hierarchy. Ensuring that team members feel heard and valued will foster a team culture that is beneficial to employees and executive management. Inclusive decision-making empowers company leadership to adapt from direct reports' experiences when undergoing an organizational change in addition to whole team efforts to creative problem solving that will be most beneficial to sustaining the organization's culture. 

4. Develop Employee Support Programs
If managers find that certain employees struggle with organizational changes, they should consider developing an employee support program. This may be as simple as having a point person for employees to direct questions to or creating a guide of all expected changes and how the firm will adapt. Unexpected changes create anxiety for team members that some may struggle to overcome. In dealing with anxiety in crucial conversations and organizational changes, managers need to practice caution and 

5. Prioritize Psychological Safety
In addition to developing employee support resources, a necessary concern for management should be the psychological safety of all professionals in the organization. Psychological safety can be a largely impactful aspect of an individual's ability to adjust to organizational changes and to maintain the most beneficial culture for the company. To maintain an environment of psychological safety, managers should focus on clear communication and allowing individuals a safe environment to grow and learn with the company. 

6. Foster Cohesion
In going through a merger, acquisition, or general organizational changes, establishing an environment that fosters cohesion and camaraderie can make a drastic difference. Facing changes as a united front will communicate support and community to all direct reports, especially those struggling with finding their place in organizational changes. A cohesive group also creates a safe environment for direct reports to voice concerns, opinions, or opportunities for growth. 

7. Set SMART Goals
A smart goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Managers setting team-wide SMART goals will provide realistic and effective areas for professionals to concentrate on when undergoing hectic changes that frequently disorient teams' progress. Setting SMART goals with continuous feedback is essential for the stable growth of an organization undergoing foundational changes. 

8. Celebrate Success
Celebrating successes through an organizational change brings a variety of benefits to the team working to maintain their group culture. Specifically, celebrating success at all levels will boost team morale and work to reinforce the best practices before and throughout big changes. The ability to reinforce best practices will highlight values, behaviors, and achievements that are best for the organization. In addition to moral support, acknowledgments of individuals' hard work and dedication throughout the process.

9. Collect & Utilize Continuous Feedback
The collection and use of continuous feedback is crucial to sustaining an organization's culture through large changes, mergers, or acquisitions. In collecting this feedback, consider using a platform such as AIM Insights that will aid in setting SMART goals, finding measures of feedback, and collecting the feedback year-round to provide opportunities for continuous growth across all hierarchical levels in an organization. 

10. Seek Guidance
If a manager feels that they need additional support for guiding a team through a foundational organizational change they should consider finding additional support and guidance. First, leaders should consider joining a horizontal mentorship group that will create an environment for executives and managers to speak to other professionals at their level for collective feedback and learning. Additionally, if managers feel that they need additional guidance in aiding their team, they should reach out to their company's human resources department. The HR professionals will likely have developed guides or tools that will help teams practice flexibility and adapt to continuous changes within a firm. 

Addressing organizational changes is a unique challenge with unique experiences for every team. Although a daunting challenge, managers have the tools necessary to sustain organizational culture throughout times of change. It is crucial to collect and use feedback from direct reports as the most impactful tool for determining a team's next steps, growth areas, and opportunities for learning or development. In supporting teams through organizational changes, leaders can boost employee engagement, hopefully improving job satisfaction and commitment. 



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