When Sides Collide: Integrating Brand Cultures After a Healthcare Merger

by | Mar 22, 2017 | Healthcare Industry Insights

Bringing multiple teams together and learning how to integrate after a merger or acquisition is no easy task. There’s uncertainty in the air and confused conversations echoing through the building. However, it has the potential to create boundless opportunity for both sides involved.

With more than 25% of health­care exec­u­tives say­ing COVID-19 has increased their like­li­hood of explor­ing M&A activ­i­ty, the abil­i­ty for dis­parate orga­ni­za­tions to accel­er­ate the inte­gra­tion process is crit­i­cal to future suc­cess. Inte­grat­ing brand cul­tures after a health­care merg­er is cer­tain­ly eas­i­er said than done. In order to make a merg­er or acqui­si­tion suc­cess­ful, numer­ous aspects must come togeth­er in an effi­cient and pro­duc­tive man­ner. This is espe­cial­ly true when it comes to the peo­ple involved.

A Bain & Com­pa­ny survey—which tar­get­ed exec­u­tives who have man­aged through mergers—found that man­agers cit­ed “cul­tur­al clash” as the No. 1 rea­son why their merg­er failed to meet its goal and promised value.

When a health­care brand merg­er takes place, the deci­sion is usu­al­ly based on prod­uct or mar­ket syn­er­gies. How­ev­er, cul­tur­al differences—such as access to man­age­ment, flex­i­ble work sched­ules and work­place values—can go large­ly ignored. Fail­ure to acknowl­edge these things can lead to frus­tra­tion among an organization’s per­son­nel and push some key team mem­bers and tal­ent towards the door.

These three guide­lines help merged teams move through the inte­gra­tion process—from the ini­tial form­ing stage through to storm­ing, norm­ing and final­ly, performing—so every­one can real­ize the value.

Diagnose the Differences

In many cas­es, the dif­fer­ences between the acquirer’s cul­ture and that of the acquired can be sig­nif­i­cant enough to cause rifts and ten­sion as the cul­tures come togeth­er. How­ev­er, it may be dif­fi­cult from a man­age­ment posi­tion to not only rec­og­nize these dif­fer­ences but also under­stand just how sub­stan­tial they are.

While dif­fer­ences such as geo­graph­i­cal loca­tions, size of team and basic func­tions can be deter­mined quite eas­i­ly, oth­ers may be hard­er to rec­og­nize. That’s where diag­nos­tic tools come in handy.

Using the fol­low­ing diag­nos­tic tools, an orga­ni­za­tion can get a sol­id grasp on the dif­fer­ences between their teams:

  • Man­age­ment inter­views to get an idea of man­age­ment style
  • Process flow maps indi­cat­ing how work is done
  • Deci­sion paths to dis­cov­er who has the final say in key/pressing decisions
  • Cus­tomer tes­ti­mo­ni­als to bet­ter under­stand the community’s per­cep­tion of each team
  • Team mem­ber sur­veys gaug­ing each person’s opin­ion and val­ues in regards to the organization
  • Cre­ate a “word cloud” where each team mem­ber selects three adjec­tives that they feel describes the company

Once key dif­fer­ences are dis­cov­ered, it’s impor­tant that every­one in the orga­ni­za­tion is aware of them. This will help teams from dif­fer­ent back­grounds under­stand where ten­sions may be com­ing from.

Commit to a Culture

With the dif­fer­ences rec­og­nized, it is impor­tant for orga­ni­za­tions to set­tle in on one, uni­fy­ing cul­ture for every­one to follow—a process that’s one of the trick­i­est chal­lenges for employ­ees when inte­grat­ing brand cul­tures after a health­care merg­er.

When cre­at­ing a cul­ture, it should be as clear as pos­si­ble for team mem­bers to fol­low. It should not only include vision, val­ue and mis­sion state­ments, but also be con­crete enough that man­agers from both merged teams can fol­low through with it on a con­sis­tent basis.

While it may be tempt­ing for the acquir­er to main­tain its own cul­ture, it may be best from a team morale stand­point to infuse cer­tain aspects of each cul­ture to cre­ate a new, bet­ter one.

A great way to cre­ate this new cul­ture is by host­ing intent work­shops that allow peo­ple from both sides to come togeth­er to dis­cuss their visions for the orga­ni­za­tion and its future. Includ­ing peo­ple from var­i­ous lev­els with­in the com­pa­ny will help paint a com­plete pic­ture of how the entire team is han­dling the changes.

Once a cul­ture is set, everyone—from the CEO and down—should active­ly man­age and rep­re­sent the new cul­ture. Put com­pen­sa­tion and ben­e­fit sys­tems in place to reward cer­tain behav­iors that match the company’s new set of val­ues. After all, it’s just as impor­tant to sell these changes inter­nal­ly to the team as it is to help them be embraced by share­hold­ers and the community.

Attend and Adapt

Under­stand that merg­ers and acqui­si­tions can be a man­age­able, but dif­fi­cult process, with a lot of changes tak­ing place in often a short amount of time. While it’s a good idea to com­mit firm­ly to cer­tain deci­sions, that doesn’t mean they’re locked into place forever.

There are cer­tain­ly going to be some dis­sat­is­fac­tion with some of the direc­tions the new com­pa­ny is going in. It’s impor­tant for the man­agers over­look­ing these changes to keep their ears open for any unrest or unhap­pi­ness with the new sys­tem. While it’s unrea­son­able to assume every­one will be sat­is­fied, the last thing any orga­ni­za­tion wants is for its top tal­ent to begin eye­ing the exit.

Pay­ing close atten­tion to the after­math and the deci­sions that were made will also help orga­ni­za­tions be bet­ter pre­pared if the process were to hap­pen all over again.

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