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How to Build a United Culture Following a Merger and Acquisition

Image of fluid art representing the merging of organizational culture


If you were around in the 1970s, or love iconic retro TV, then you know from watching The Brady Bunch that coming together brings both challenge and opportunity.

When organizations blend through merger and acquisition, they face a similar setup in aligning disparate cultures, organizational traits, brand personalities, and team traditions. Unification is crucial to the health and wellbeing of an organization and it’s an opportunity to internalize and operationalize company culture—not water it down.

Here are seven ways to unify your organization’s culture post-M&A and get buy-in from employees.

Start with the end in mind

Start with the end in mind and build a solid change management philosophy to support the teams coming together. Whether your organization uses ADKAR, a proprietary approach, or any other change management methodology, planning for change is critical to its success.

This work includes understanding the rationale for change and conducting an impact assessment to uncover the magnitude of the change on a multitude of levels, including individual, team, organization, industry, and beyond. People change management is a discipline that drills down into how the change may be experienced by each individual and then plans accordingly. From messaging to support, and from programs to systems, thinking through this transformative experience well in advance helps design change management programs that better prepare the organization and its people for a more thoughtful metamorphosis, while identifying change agents within the team.

Employ the communication hat trick

You’ve circulated your M&A announcement to the team, now what? Be proactive in communicating the path forward to employees. Think of your strategy as what we call “the communication hat trick,” with the three goals of delivering frequent, transparent, and humanized communications. Communicating in a manner that is open and feels human resonates with our basic need for a sense of security…because we all crave connection and context, especially during times of transition. This supports retention and builds trust and connection with team members. By showing up consistently and keeping it real, you empower your team to feel part of what’s next.

Uncover your organization’s DNA

Every organization has its own culture DNA—the unique factors that make it tick. In an M&A, it is vital to uncover the DNA of both organizations. This helps in understanding and supporting their different strengths and identities, while deciding how to bring them together in ways that deepen ties, build community, and foster a harmonized culture. You can help discover what makes each organization’s culture its own special unicorn by speaking with employees via focus groups. You can also use culture assessment tools to better understand the unique qualities and behaviours of each organization. As a CultureTalk Certified Partner, we see value in uncovering the distinct archetype composition of each organization and how this is experienced by the team through strengths and shadows. To learn more about the CultureTalk system and how it can support transformational change, grow organizational self-awareness, and enable greater team collaboration, visit www.powerhousetalent.ca

CultureTalk Certified Partner Canada Culture specialists

Co-create the path forward

Don’t go it alone! Combining two organizations is the perfect opportunity to co-create the way forward. This is not just about sitting down with leaders in boardrooms, it’s also about connecting with employees, using a diversity of perspectives to mobilize a shared identity. Getting employees involved in what the future looks like means asking them how they work best. You can do this by establishing employee committees to share the employee perspective and weigh in on program design and policy development. Employee committees are also a great way of growing fresh traditions from shared interests.

It all boils down to this: Co-creation is getting employees involved to solve pain points and create the new future state together. This makes it a golden opportunity to elevate the merged culture above and beyond the sum of its parts.

Get the best of both worlds

As you fuse teams and working models, don’t fall victim to larger company conformity. This can lead to a broad, loosely defined culture that is hard to rally around. Instead, take inspiration from both organizations, remembering that unity doesn’t mean uniformity. Tap into the best practices, branded assets, operational procedures, and funtivities from each entity to design a shared future state (and some epic staff parties). This helps get employee buy-in because one culture isn’t unseating the other, so all sides feel valued and heard.

Keep evolving

Unifying your organization’s culture is not a one-and-done, it’s an evolution. This means building upon lessons learned, harmonizing, and tweaking. The philosophy of co-creation is valuable on an ongoing basis and not solely during times of change. Empower your team to help create the path forward and/or enhance the existing experience. When team members are involved, not only do we naturally solve pain points more effectively, we also create natural change agents, hence supporting adoption and advocacy. The work of self-improvement is ongoing and includes our organizations.

Align with your employer brand

Finally, review your employer brand messaging to ensure it represents the future of your united organization. Consider the employer brand identity of each entity and ask employees if it aligns with their experience. Now is your chance to update and fine-tune your EVP messaging, refreshing your brand not only around the merger but also in a way that reinforces authenticity. Fill your channels with the new you! Populate them with consistent messaging to deliver a brand experience reflective of your shared mission.

Blending organizations after an M&A is no small feat, but it is also an incredible opportunity to create a culture even more united than the OG. It’s a lot to execute, but you got this! And we’re here to help! If you need additional support or want to learn more about culture building after a merger, hit us up at www.powerhousetalent.ca. We are proudly a CultureTalk Certified Partner, offering culture diagnostics, leadership alignment, culture transformation, and more!

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