Being Sensitive to the Culture of the Acquirer

Managers who are part of acquisitions often have a tough time with their new employer.  While they may be expert in their position, ‘fitting in’ can prove to be a significant challenge.

To successfully assimilate, then thrive with their new employer, managers first need to understand the cultural drivers of their new employer.  Be aware that these drivers will often be unsaid, and tend toward ‘the way we behave’.  Sensitivity to these differences – quietly executed – will facilitate a smooth integration, and increase the chances of success in the job with the new owner.

Here are some key strategies for aligning with the culture of the new owner, post-acquisition:

  1. Analyze Cultural Differences Before the Merger: Thoroughly assess the cultural differences between the two organizations before the acquisition. Use tools like process flow analysis, customer interviews, management interviews, and employee surveys to identify the disparities in values, behaviors, and management styles[1].
  2. Communicate and Listen to Employees: Effective communication is crucial. Ensure that employees understand the rationale behind the acquisition and their role in the new organization. Actively listen to employee feedback through regular surveys and one-on-one meetings[1].
  3. Define and Implement a New Culture: Rather than trying to blend the conflicting cultures, consider building an entirely new culture from the ground up. Clearly define the new behavioral norms, organizational structure, and strategic direction, and onboard employees through orientation programs[1].
  4. Celebrate and Embrace Change: Instead of allowing the acquisition to make employees feel uncomfortable, celebrate the change and foster a sense of excitement. Organize team-building events to help employees feel connected and integrated into the new culture[1].
  5. Retain Strengths from Both Cultures: Avoid the assumption that the “best” elements from each culture should be combined. Assess whether the cultural elements can be integrated or if it’s better to retain separate core capabilities from each legacy company[2].
  6. Implement a Structured Decision-Making Process: Establish a rigorous program with a steering committee to address cultural integration. Ensure that the cultural work focuses on tangible and measurable outcomes tied to business results[2].
  7. Manage In-Group/Out-Group Dynamics: Proactively address the tendency for employees to form “in-groups” and “out-groups” by creating integration teams, unifying the organization under a new identity, and fostering complementary relationships between the groups[5].
  8. Embrace Debate, Then Settle It: Encourage healthy debate about differing cultural values, but ensure that the CEO is decisive in determining which protocols, behaviors, and norms to promote in the new organization[5].