Managing A Successful Cultural Integration

Maruf Ahmed
c/o Maruf Ahmed
How leaders approach merging two separate workforces can make or break M&A. Here’s what to do to create a unified culture.

When it comes to M&A, companies are bringing more than financial assets together—they’re also merging cultures. It makes sense then that transactions can fall apart from clashing strategies, processes or values. But this is a problem that can be tackled proactively, with the right approach.

Maruf Ahmed, co-founder and CEO of consulting, staffing and workforce solutions firm Dexian, shares advice for how C-Suite leaders on should approach M&A with an eye on maintaining their company culture, as well as how to prepare for the future of work.

Why is company culture imperative to successful M&A?

Culture is often overlooked as a vital, intangible asset and value driver for an enterprise. In fact, a failure to integrate cultures is a key reason for why many M&A transactions fall apart.

It’s a common occurrence for employees to feel anxious or uncertain about the changes taking place during a merger or acquisition, but instilling a strong and positive company culture can help employees navigate the transition with a greater sense of confidence, stability and motivation. Employees who feel more engaged and motivated are more likely to contribute to the best of their ability and collaborate effectively, driving the success of the merged organizations.

It’s also important to keep in mind the impact that company culture has on organizational synergy. As different groups of people are brought together during M&A transactions, so are the differing strategies, work processes and values of each organization. A well-aligned culture can help bridge the gap between these differences, facilitate a smooth integration of varying operational elements and minimize conflicts and resistance.

By nurturing a positive and unified culture, leaders can create a strong foundation for the success of the combined entity and ensure a smooth transition for all stakeholders.

How can C-Suite leaders foster a unifying company culture through M&A transitions?

Transparency and effective communication should be a top priority among C-Suite leaders when it comes to fostering a unified culture. In addition to articulating a clear, compelling vision for what the merged company will look like, providing regular status updates and reasoning behind certain decisions will ensure that employees feel informed and engaged.

Establishing open communication channels—such as town hall meetings or company-wide polls—for employees to share feedback can also help address concerns and build trust across the organization. By being transparent and involving employees in the decision-making process, C-Suite leaders can create an environment where individuals from both organizations feel valued.

Additionally, C-Suite leaders can actively promote collaboration and inclusion by encouraging employees from both organizations to regularly work together. This can be achieved by forming cross-functional teams and initiatives that bring individuals from other departments together.

Furthermore, C-Suite leaders can invest in additional resources that promote cultural integration, including workshops, training sessions and team-building activities. Following these steps can assist in creating a cohesive and united company culture during the M&A process.

What are the most important trends that you see shaping the future of work?

The digital landscape is constantly evolving, and so are the trends that are shaping the future of work. Right now, I believe there are three trends that will be top of mind for decision-makers for the foreseeable future.

Artificial intelligence and automation. To no surprise, the rise of AI and automation is transforming job roles and responsibilities across industries. But there is a lot of concern that the result will be job losses. That shouldn’t be the case if approached in the right way.

AI can create increased efficiencies and productivity, freeing up time for employees to engage in different and more complex tasks—like helping to grow an integrated enterprise. However, with more AI and automation, those in the workforce will require reskilling and upskilling in order to stay relevant in a technologically advanced work environment.

Remote and hybrid workforces. Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote and hybrid models have become more prevalent in today’s workforce. While not without its complexities, as we look to the future, remote work will continue to be a constant, offering employment opportunities to an expanded talent pool and promoting the adoption of more sophisticated digital workplace technologies.

And for companies that have recently merged, managing a hybrid workforce can create additional opportunities and challenges that need to be addressed.

Hiring nontraditional talent. For many functions—like cybersecurity—the number of job openings is continuously outgrowing the number of available workers. Looking at nontraditional talent to fill these positions will become more common. Organizations will need to assess candidates based solely on their skills, certifications and experience rather than focusing on their credentials, like having a traditional college degree.

This will increase the chances of finding the right person for the job, speed up the hiring process, save resources on training and onboarding and even create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. We’re already seeing some states enact legislation to support this transition, and some large employers are making these policy changes on their own.

How can leaders embrace these trends to ensure their organizations are set up for success?

By getting ahead of these trends and prioritizing the development of comprehensive future of work strategies, organizations can position themselves for the utmost success. CHROs and other HR leaders will need to face upcoming challenges head on. They will need to proactively implement workforce solutions and technology that address changes around AI, remote workforces and expanded talent pools, to name a few.

Organizations should also incorporate a modern, dynamic staffing model to ensure success. One that allows them to flex their current workforce and adapt to evolving trends in their respective industry to address shifting workforce needs.

This includes offering upskilling and reskilling for current employees through internal training programs, cross-functional projects, external webinars, etc. Outsourcing certain projects and outcome-based workforce solutions can also support organizations in meeting these fluctuating demands.

Companies who get these aspects right will differentiate themselves as innovative, progressive employers in an ever-evolving workforce. And that will power growth, whether through acquisition or via organic business drivers.

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