CASE STUDY: MERGING CULTURES IN AN ACQUISITION

A company acquires a new unit in a different city and uses the Workplace Genome to ensure the right balance of customized and unique experiences (subcultures) and consistent enterprise identity (umbrella culture) exists across the enterprise, resulting in increased engagement and productivity, and growth.

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PROBLEM

A technology company with about 300 employees recently acquired a new company in a city 650 miles away from their headquarters, and was faced with the daunting challenge of integrating the new group into the existing culture. With future growth plans already in the works, it was critical that they learn how to quickly and seamlessly integrate new acquisitions while still maintaining their historically high levels of employee engagement.

SOLUTION

As a result of running the Workplace Genome, leaders were able to pinpoint the key differences in how people at headquarters were experiencing the culture compared to the acquired company, which led to specific interventions to (a) protect parts of their culture that were essential to success, and (b) introduce new cultural capacities that would bring the new company (and future acquisitions) into the fold more effectively.

After running their Workplace Genome, they immediately identified two of the Culture Markers that revealed the largest difference between what employees at HQ were experiencing and what those at the new company were experiencing: Solutions, and Transparency. Solutions measures how an employer pays attention to unique user needs and anticipates changing landscapes internally and externally. Transparency measures how the employer builds trust and shares information. The company’s overall culture had evolved to be more futurist in general, but for both Solutions and Transparency, the scores leaned more traditional than any other Culture Marker. Furthermore, they leaned even more prominently toward traditionalist within the new company, compared to the scores at HQ. The company’s newly formed Culture Council dug deeper into these contradictions, and teased out a more nuanced understanding of which of those contradictions needed to be more closely aligned with the company’s success drivers.

Out of that work, they developed a clear set of cultural priorities that specifically zeroed in on these issues. This included elevating the importance of collaboration internally, which included the specific desire to maintain the “collaborative DNA” of their culture, by making sure everyone demonstrated an “unwavering commitment” to each other in the culture.

Those may sound like “feel-good” statements that lack punch, but the internal culture team didn’t stop there. They translated those higher-level priorities into a set of distinct action plans to make this culture shift a reality. For example, this company developed action steps like developing explicit programs and processes for integrating newly acquired businesses and developing a subsidy program to ensure that everyone, regardless of location, had access to the right connectivity tools to produce a more consistent level of communication and transparency. Budgets were even procured for more frequent travel of team members between locations for heightened exposure and relationship building.

Now, a year after the acquisition, the Workplace Genome was measured again, and it turns out that the efforts of the Culture Council and the related plans they’ve implemented actually closed the gap between the earlier disparate experiences around both Solutions and Transparency by 75%!

This means:

  • Information is getting disseminated to all parts of the organization more consistently.

  • Remote locations are getting the kind of attention and customized experience they were

  • previously lacking

  • Employees with the newly acquired business feel less like new kids on the block and more like

  • part of the same team.

Now that those distractions are minimized, the entire organization can get back to building superior software for their growing client base.

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