Blending Cultures for Maximum Results in Business Development: Part 3

Part 3 of 3

Corporate management, through the direction of their HR professionals can facilitate and achieve culture agreement. Their combined efforts can help in the facilitation of any culture merger. Each group can find common ground and have a positive experience by following these steps for blending business cultures.

  • Assess the CEO’s perspective of the company’s principles, policies and procedures. Use an empirical tool (as well as common sense) to measure what he or she has established.  Address any sensitive or problem areas to ensure the spirit of the law is being communicated effectively. Make sure that the measurement process identifies central core behavioral, attitudinal and value issues as well as their impact on the employees.
  • Use the same empirical measure with staff and management to isolate their perspectives. Staff members should define the reasoning on which they believe the guidelines are based.  Note any unclear areas for future discussions. Their perspectives of behavior, attitudes and values will also be critical.
  • Compare and contrast what you learn from the differing groups. There will be obvious discrepancies in thought as you move from the CEO to the staff.  Define the differences and describe how these differences may affect the workforce. Many times the CEO is charismatic and people will be drawn to him or her.  However, this does not mean that his or her principles, policies and procedures will be widely accepted. Sometimes these very things drive employees away from the company.
  • Sample the workforce.  Be sure the sample is indicative of the group as whole, as well as each individual department or merged groups. Make sure that the entire workforce understands they are participating in a culture development process and their opinions are valued.  Have a sample or representative group solicit input from everyone, and present it at the appropriate time.
  • Take the results of each of the individual departments or merged cultures and compare and contrast them. Have each department select “representatives” that are comfortable with and willing to present their perspective of the results. The empirical results will need to be visually and objectively presented to the group so they understand how close or divergent their views are. Individual groups should note the similarities and divergences of views and be willing to work together to find the correct vision, etc., that is acceptable to all parties.
  • After the staff and management team has reviewed their results, they should meet with the employee representatives, exchange their merged concepts and finalize recommendations for the executive committee. Ask for input and build trust; creativity will flow.  Human Resources should facilitate this process to insure there is a balanced approach that provides congruency, rather than adversity.
  • Redefine existing principles, policies, procedures, all vision, mission, objectives and other cultural related concepts to conform to the executive (or his appointed committee) desire for a positive performance-based approach. The CEO may have some final “tweaks” in some areas, but multiple sources of input from employees with different behavioral types will provide a greater opportunity to benefit the company as a whole. Once the finalized concepts are developed, the committees should be reconvened and be tasked with finding their individual departmental objectives and how they will enhance the completion of the corporate goals.  This will alleviate any confusion employees may have and provide a clear explanation of the outcome expected. It will also provide each department with an opportunity to identify their specific role in the profitability of the company.

Now, share the results with the company in meetings, bulletins and corporate newsletters. Use this as a public relations opportunity. Make the most of the employee-driven culture concept. Most employees will embrace ideas and concepts they have played a role in assembling. The new revitalized corporate culture and philosophy, as well as the employees, will be prepared to meet any new change on the horizon. Additionally they are mentally prepared for growth, due to a higher morale, creating conditions perfect for performance enhancement and profitability.

Blending Cultures for Maximum Results in Business Development: Part 2

Part 2 of 3

The HR professional, or people expert, struggles between meeting the employees’ 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 from 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 seems, 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, addition of new divisions (products and services) and rapid growth has 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 sales people 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 previous. 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.



Blending Cultures for Maximum Results in Business Development: A Series

What makes a company outperform its competitors?  Why is it that some companies are able to achieve profitable quarters, year in and year out, while others struggle?  What is the mystery that allows organizations to persist year after year while others soar to the top, only to disappear a few years later? The secret is in the cultural dynamics of the organization. It all starts with proper business team development. The key to long-term success is keeping a company's vision and culture strong. This may be especially difficult as the company matures due to mergers, acquisitions and internal expansion. Maintaining a strong and positive corporate culture has become harder in our rapidly changing business environment, but it is not impossible.  Consider, for example, The Coca-Cola Company, which has been around for many years, and continues to thrive over a long period of time, despite minor ups and downs in the market.

The key to success for Coca-Cola can be found within the company’s succinct mission statement: “As the world's largest beverage company, we refresh the world. We do this by developing superior soft drinks, both carbonated and non-carbonated, and profitable non-alcoholic beverage systems that create value for our Company, our bottling partners and our customers.”  The corporate culture remains strong and focused, regardless of what avenues their competitors take, or changes occurring in the marketplace.

Think about the normal startup process of a new business. An entrepreneur brings his product or service to market.  He initially struggles to handle all aspects of the business on his own.  Eventually, he increases the business enough to hire help.  New employees arrive at the company with expertise in specialized areas crucial for growth and expansion of the original business.

New markets open and sales increase.  Additional employees with expertise and behaviors more diverse than ever before must be added. With the advent of new departments and expertise new subcultures are formed within the organization due to new behaviors and skills needed to produce the expanded product and services offerings. New, smaller and often times, more progressive organizations will be acquired or merged to build momentum and revenues.

Soon, the company develops either a fragmented or very different personality in no way resembling the focus the entrepreneur first envisioned.  If the individual departments, especially those consisting of employees of merged or acquired companies, don’t create conflict, the new diverse departments with their differing behaviors, attitudes and motivations will. This may splinter most parts of the organization while cementing only a few. A resistance to these changes can occur.

Traditionally, the CEO wants his or her employees to share the vision and dream.  In many cases, however, this dream has become a money machine that is difficult to maintain and control while trying to hold on to the same "family" atmosphere with which the business began. Enter the human resource professional, who accepts the responsibility of codifying the entrepreneur’s vision, developing principles, policies, procedures as well as job descriptions. In many cases their main functions may be to find ways to bring the diversity together, stabilize employee focus and harmony, provide intended direction from a human perspective, and assist in developing a congruent and positive working relationship between all departments. While it is rarely stated, HR professionals are also tasked with making work a positive experience.