Mergers often look great on paper – especially the dollars and sense of it. Not all mergers are successful. One of the reasons many of them aren’t as impactful as they could be, or even fail is because of company cultures that do not align. It’s sometimes difficult, but possible to predict and proactively work to resolve.
Management must decide which corporate culture to adopt or if they want some sort of combination of the two cultures. This is best done as closely as possible to the onset of the merger. Otherwise, the uncomfortable transition stage going from what life is for employees today vs. post-merger can lead to reduced productivity or even paralysis of the workforce.
Effectively combining two different corporate cultures requires management defining broad cultural objectives. Such objectives are laying out the ground rules of anticipated leadership structure and behavioral norms for employees. The ideal or the smoothest transition would be to try to change a little as possible. In most merger situations, one company culture will arise as more dominant than the other. It’s it important to protect that while also preserving certain parts of the other entity. Specifically, the focus should be on protecting the elements of the company culture that contributed to success.
Once the changes have been identified, management must communicate them as soon as possible. Again, with the focus on being as specific as possible. This will reduce confusion and allow for a quicker transition, avoiding unnecessary productivity losses. It is also important to allow feedback from the employees to gauge what changes are or are not working. This is the first step to deciding if further changes must be made.