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How a FTSE 100 company merged cultures following an acquisition of smaller rival

A FTSE 100 professional services company with 7,000 employees across 30 global offices.

18 Sep 2023 | 2 min read

Merging pains and failure of top-down approach

It’s a story as old as corporations themselves: a large company buys a smaller competitor to deliver economies of scale and grow market share. But what happens if the culture clash between the two organisations is greater than expected and potentially puts the benefits of the deal into jeopardy?

This unwelcome situation happened to a FTSE 100 Professional Services company. Having completed the acquisition, the ‘Buyer’ initiated a top-down integration strategy with direct communications from the CEO (including monthly town halls and weekly emails) around the alignment of systems and working practices. In particular, the FTSE 100 company announced a major rebranding across external retail hubs and on internal employee channels.

However, tensions soon arose with employees resisting efforts to unify and refusing to embrace each other’s ways of working. Senior leaders struggled to understand the root cause of the friction, let alone know how to address them.

Building consensus with two-way dialogue 

The management team brought in Rungway to find out what was really going on.

Rungway advised that traditional methods of voicing opinions, such as town halls and surveys, don’t suit everyone, while too many corporate top-down broadcasts can mean key messages actually get lost in noise. Instead senior managers need to engage with individuals in real time and prioritise resolutions based on the scale of sentiment and potential impact.

The company used Rungway to understand, engage and empathise with individual and group concerns. In particular, they prioritised those questions relating to culture, so potential blockers to cultural integration could be addressed first. The company also used Rungway’s question matching feature to ensure they had a cross section of responders from both companies.

With Rungway’s two-way dialogue and option of anonymity, leaders were able to surface true concerns, learn about flashpoints and tailor their integration strategies.

After three months, senior leaders had surfaced and responded to hundreds of posts, and learned about a wide array of previously unknown flashpoints affecting integration, such as culture differences over meetings style, use of language and even what was considered appropriate profile photos. In particular, some employees did not support the external rebranding campaign, so the company created an alternative set of messages for internal communication.

Driving data-based change

The leadership had previously tried to drive organisational change without real data on employee concerns. However, with Rungway continuously tracking colleague posts, sentiment across different cohorts and providing actionable metrics on key themes, the new leadership team and the board had visible success measures for cultural integration and a means to truly hear colleague voice across both organisations.

As such, the leadership team were able to realise the economic rationale for the deal and retain key talent through the unsettling period.

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