May 19

Blending Cultures to Drive Business Development Results: Part 2

By Chuck Coker

The HR professional, or people expert, struggles between meeting the employee’s wants and needs and ensuring that the company is protected in our litigious society not the easiest of tasks.  As it often happens, the HR professional successfully produces the guidelines and vehicles for a smoother operation.

However, they often end up utterly frustrated when trying to combine executive direction (with which the company is tasked) with the cultural diversity and perspectives that business team growth, merger, and acquisition bring.  Having fun or a positive attitude at work becomes difficult at best. As a result, management, staff, and to an even greater degree, employees may not feel inspired or even heard.” The company looks great on paper, but morale is low and performance flounders.

A thriving culture can only occur when morale is high.  A company will never realize its full potential until employees feel a sense of belonging, ownership in the processes, pride in their accomplishments, and look forward to coming to work. The only way to accomplish this is to work in two directions. You must start at the top and the bottom. Management must commit to and support efforts for a unified corporate culture and the employees must play a part in establishing and developing that culture.

Creating a unified corporate culture is not as difficult as it may seem, even though there are many individuals involved. The key is participation and support by the employees. Consider the two different potential problem areas we have discussed and their unique challenges:

1) Departmentalization, the addition of new divisions (products and services), and rapid growth have a less negative impact on the corporate culture than mergers or acquisitions. However, this can cause fragmentation due to the need for greater diversity in internal services as the organization grows. Each time a new job description is published, new behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are required to fulfill those responsibilities. As those new characteristics are introduced into the culture, change is affected.

Change is the most difficult issue most employees face. The introduction of a new paradigm of thought can even be offensive to some individuals. For example, as an organization grows the need for a constantly expanding IT department is a necessity. Most IT people are linear thinkers and prone to introversion. They must wrestle with complicated issues and integrate them into processes they are familiar with. This can be frustrating when they have to deal with salespeople who are predominantly extroverted and more global in their thinking processes. The natural result is a clash in daily business interaction as well as their perception of how those interactions affect the culture. They will undoubtedly disagree as to how the culture will benefit from their department’s unique skills and talents.

Each department formed will have its own perspective of the company’s vision and reason for existence. Each one will have biases based on their place in the organization. Each one will be less tolerant of other departmental needs and perspectives based on their job descriptions and the behavioral skills needed to complete the task.

2) Mergers and acquisitions can try the best HR professional because there is limited opportunity for either culture to adjust before being thrust into a situation that requires results, often with less staffing and familiar support systems than previously. All of which is done in the name of efficiency.

Often the cultures are so different that the change can simply overwhelm some employees. If the changes in policies and procedures aren’t enough, the company’s principles, vision, and objectives may take employees out of their comfort zone. They may have to do a full 180-degree turnaround in their philosophy about the reason their employer is in business.

This synergy between them is vital to proper business team development. These two groups must find something in common or they will end up divisive in their efforts, inconsistent in their behavior, and generally unproductive. The company and the employees will never grow organically if this is the case.

About the author 

Chuck Coker

For more than 30 years, Chuck has focused his career on people's development. He has implemented proprietary Personal Formation, Human Capital, Talent Management, and incentive-based programs across a broad scope of Fortune Companies, regional organizations, and educational institutions.


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