One of the most common questions we receive is how to integrate two vastly different company cultures. There are many ways company cultures can vary. Often, we see a bigger company and a much smaller company, an entrepreneurial company and a process-driven company, or a tech-heavy company and one that is not.
Sometimes cultures are different from the standpoint of people. Especially today, it’s becoming more common for employees to work from home, and naturally integrating a remote workforce with a more traditional company where everyone is expected to work 8 to 5 in the office has its challenges. Here are three key ways to bridge this gap.
1. Understand and document differences
The first step is to understand and document the differences between the two companies. Although it seems like a simple action, outlining your differences can be the first step in bridging a culture gap and allowing each side to have a better appreciation of the other. Often, we assume that the way we do things is how everyone does things, so documenting can help highlight areas that we might need to pay attention to moving forward. This step is also an opportunity for each side to gain a greater appreciate for the others’ culture. For example, at first, it may be challenging for a more traditional office to embrace telework, but by using technology like Skype and videoconferencing, the other culture can demonstrate that employees working from home are still productive.
2. Use “we” rather than “us” vs. “them”
It’s important for everyone to recognize that there may be some changes in order for the newly integrated company to be successful. Naturally, change is hard, so this is where using tactics like secondment, where certain key people from one culture work in the other culture, and vice versa, can be important. With embedding workers at both organizations, you help change people’s mindset. Rather than thinking of “us” and “them,” employees begin to think of “we.”
To get closer to “we” have influential, well respected and well-liked professionals from company A work at company B. Now it’s not “them,” but Suzy, and she’s great, passionate and excited. And Jimmy from company B moves to company A. Instead of asking “Why are they doing things do differently?” It’s “We are doing things differently moving forward.”
Moving away from divisive language seems like a small change, but it can have a significant impact in integrating two workforces.
3. Obtain leadership buy-in
An integration plan can only be successful with the buy-in of the CEO, board members, and other top team members who embrace the integration plan and are excited about the two companies becoming one. As you develop your integration plan, think about how you as a leader can demonstrate your commitment to bringing your two workforces together.
While you can’t force people to change overnight, by being committed to the acquisition, understanding the organizational differences, and having some cross-pollination between the two companies, you can move from two separate teams to a united workforce.
* This blog post is adapted from the webinar Keys to Integration Success with due diligence and integration expert Joe Burke.