For a CHRO, culture change management during times of growth and acquisition can feel like changing the tires on a moving car. Leadership changes, divestitures and other related challenges can jolt even the most stable companies and have a downstream impact on the employees.
In an episode of HRMorning‘s “Voices of HR” podcast titled, “When Companies Merge: How HR Can Be Effective Facilitators of Culture Change Management,” Corey Berkey, the SVP of People and Talent at recruiting and talent acquisition solutions provider Employ Inc., discussed his unexpected culture change management journey. He transitioned from leading HR at a 100-employee company to overseeing people and talent across an organization of 800 employees after an acquisition.
Culture change management strategy
According to Berkey, HR’s top culture change management to-do’s when integrating business brands in a merger and acquisition situation are:
- Learning about the incoming business without losing sight of how the current business is running
- Getting to know the existing culture of the incoming business, and understanding and respecting the similarities and differences. Voices of HR host Berta Aldrich commented, “From a business perspective, a lot of (mergers and acquisitions fail) because the purchasing organization doesn’t lend enough credibility to the culture of the organization that they’re purchasing. And that the culture is made up of the people … that they had to employ in order to be successful.”
- Making a fair assessment of opportunities to improve, and
- Defining and aligning core values, vision and mission across the newly merged organization, which Berkey noted requires patience to get right.
“We did a lot, I think, early on to level set and say, ‘Hey, we don’t necessarily want to change in big sweeping ways up front, but we want to acknowledge that change must come. We must evolve into a cohesive culture,'” he said of a merger that involved JazzHR and Jobvite.
Berkey added that it’s important to take the time to listen to employees during the integration onboarding process and properly decode the feedback.
“Where I think we didn’t do such a great job … is … translating out some of those messages that we heard, particularly around DEI and employee resource groups. We thought we nailed it. And as we started to send messaging out into the organization about what these critical, critical components of our culture are, the feedback was pretty clear that we weren’t completely off, but we weren’t close enough yet,” Berkey said.
“And so we needed to say … ‘Let’s try and understand where we went wrong. Let’s try and understand how we prevent that from happening again in the future. And then let’s revisit how we want to send this message.'”