We celebrated my daughter’s wedding a few months ago and it was a joy to be part of the planning process. Often, a wedding ceremony includes a symbolic exercise of joining two people and their families together. In modern wedding ceremonies, there are so many choices, like lighting a unity candle, mixing different types of wine, tying a cord, and blending different colors of sand in a beautiful container. This last example reminds me of the leadership responsibilities of blending workplace cultures together.
Imagine an empty jar or vase alongside containers of different colors of sand, which members of your organization would figuratively pour into the larger, empty vessel, creating a newly designed “sandscape.”
As workplace cultures combine, a beautiful image emerges. Each person, or each organization, adds pieces of themselves and existing workplace culture into the design of the combined organization. An organizational masterpiece can unfold if leaders provide the right direction and support.
As workplace cultures come together, after mergers, acquisitions, integrations or any number of other changes, leaders must be purposeful and intentional to provide the space and time to evaluate the past and have open dialogues for the future. This includes acknowledgement of existing company culture and the vision for the new, blended organization.
Leaders should also ensure, as the empty jar is figuratively filled with sand, that everyone has a voice in the new design and the container is not overfilled with one type of sand, such as the purchasing organization or a team or team member having celebrated great success prior to the acquisition.
The contribution to the blended organizational culture can allow team members to feel engaged, connected, and included and lead to a strong sense of belonging. Both formally and informally, organizational leaders should:
Encourage visible, open engagement from employees from each company,
Take time to address fears and perspectives about what the changed organization will look like,
Evaluate the state of engagement and morale throughout the process,
Listen to employees from all companies,
Find common beliefs and values,
Invite all team members to be co-creators, not passive recipients, of the new, combined workplace culture,
Keep the workplace vision front and center at meetings and gatherings,
Communicate the integration status and shared values and goals,
Remind team members about their contributions to the new, combined organization, and
Celebrate successes, big and small, along the way.
Ultimately, the vision of a blended organization, celebrating the strength of each contributing person and group, analogous to combined sands in a vase, should be mentioned regularly and not placed on a shelf or hidden from view.
During transitions, leaders often talk about the need for collaboration and connection early in the process, only to be long-forgotten words, not actions. The successful integration of workplace cultures can only happen through intentional and purposeful leadership to make the combined organizational masterpiece possible.