Things have changed. It used to be that large-scale mergers were less common, but now we’re seeing acquisitions and mergers filling the news more and more often.

Joining two organizations can mean great things for everyone involved. It allows teams to pool resources, share technology, reach a wider client base and, hopefully, ensure long-term growth and success. 

But mergers and acquisitions aren’t devoid of risk. 

The Potential Pitfalls of Mergers

Businesses are unique entities. They all have different ways of doing things — from the systems they use to the cultures they foster. Understanding how to combine organizational personalities is critical to ensure the success of any merger. 

When a merger or acquisition happens, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the details of systems, economics, and bottom lines. But this approach ignores the most important resource a company has: its people. 

Teams and the relationships between them are at the very heart of driving success for an organization. When those relationships are out of whack, productivity plummets, creativity crashes, and efficiency takes a nose dive. 

How Leaders Cultivate People-First Acquisitions

Exceptional leaders understand that acquisitions aren’t just exciting opportunities. They’re also scary times for team members of each company. On the eve of a merger, people may be unsure of how their role will change, if they’ll even have a job, or whether their co-workers are going to be lost to other parts of the organization. 

Leadership must find ways to put fears to rest and guide their teams toward a positive experience. Here are four ways you can ensure you’re on track for a great blending of cultures.

  • Offer Full Transparency — Every merger is going to create a lot of uncertainty, especially for those in less senior positions who may not have a window into the broader goals of the company. To quell that uncertainty, offer full transparency about the merger as soon as it’s certain. Don’t allow gossip or rumors to spread. Being clear about the reasons and details for the merger will put people at ease and promote trust and loyalty. 
  • Lay a Clear Path Forward — Successful organizations always have a roadmap — something outlining the goals and projects for the next few weeks, few months, and few years. When an acquisition or merger happens, it’s unclear which of those are still relevant, and that can be scary for teams.Take time to lay a clear path forward and outline goals that represent the newly formed company’s direction. Such clarity not only keeps teams focused, it also helps bring teams together to work on new projects. 

  • Listen with Intentionality — It’s only natural that your teams will have lots of questions and concerns. Create forums and opportunities for those teams to provide feedback. Listen sincerely to their concerns and offer real answers to their questions. Don’t hide behind the most challenging queries. Go to the pressure with integrity and intentionality, and follow up on any promises you make for the future. 
  • Incentivize Positive Relationships — Nothing improves productivity, creativity, efficiency, and retention like the development of positive relationships. When team members enjoy and respect those they work with, they’ll always put their best foot forward. But, it’s intimidating to start working with new people. 

Design incentives that promote positive relationships in the months following a merger. Encourage teams to reach out to their new colleagues as often as possible, and celebrate those collaborations. 

At a time when two cultures are coming together, nothing is more important than being intentional about what that new, hybrid culture should look like. Because the reality is, a culture will develop. Leadership must take the time to cultivate an environment that puts people first. If they don’t, gossip, rumors, and negative interactions will grow like weeds through the cracks of an organization’s culture. 

The tips above are just the beginning. Want to completely transform your culture? Download our free resource: The Innovative Leader’s Guide to Transforming Company Culture: Starting with Yourself.