Keys to Cultural Integration

That’s Nice sat down with Catherine Hanley, Alcami’s Director of Marketing, to find out how to successfully integrate after a merger.

Why is cultural integration following a merger so important to the success of the newly formed entity?

The impact on employee morale and turnover can be painfully high during and after a merger, and repairing it can be nearly impossible. If cultural integration doesn’t happen, companies see significant and costly consequences. In order for a merger or collaboration to work, both parties must first agree on the same goals, values and culture for the future company. People must be aligned with the strategic goals of the new entity and come together as one, just as processes and systems that are in place on both sides of a company will need to be merged. Ultimately the success of the new entity depends on a successful integration and understanding of the company’s direction from each and every employee. It is evident that being connected at every level is paramount.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of integrating the cultures of AAI Pharma Services and Cambridge Major Laboratories to the new culture of Alcami?

External perception of the brand was one of the most challenging aspects of integration. As we have changed and improved so much internally in a short period of time, it is difficult to gain back customers that may have felt wronged by one of the former companies. We are taking innovative approaches to bring our sites to customers via virtual tours and working to get clients — new, former and existing — back into our sites for a visit. The change of culture is palpable and we want them to experience it firsthand.

Where is Alcami in the cultural integration process today? What are the main issues you are tackling?

Communication. It sounds simple, but even with regular communication it is easy for people to become confused, frustrated and anxious if they don’t know or understand the vision and direction that executives have for the company. We address this with regular business review meetings, town halls, communication calls and internal newsletters to share the bigger picture and how it filters into every part of the company. Most important is to have ambassadors within the company to drive home a consistent message.

Can you share some of the most valuable lessons you have learned while going through the process? 

Before starting the rebranding project, we formed a “Branding Team” comprised of a cross-functional group of people from all businesses, sites and levels of the company to support the change. This was the first important decision made regarding cultural integration and a large contribution to our successful integration. By having people from across the company and from both former companies, we were able to discuss the differences between cultures and gain our own brand ambassadors to drive the change within the company. We have continued the emphasis on the brand with a Brand Awareness team that focuses on ways to maintain a strong brand both externally and internally.

Without the buy-in of your employees, a brand is like an advertisement with nothing to back it. When customers visit our sites today, they can see and feel the cultural shift that has taken place. The accountability that is so important to success is there, and the energy of an innovative, thriving new company can be felt the moment you walk into our facilities. Employees feel and show ownership and pride in the brand, which sets the tone for the culture moving forward.

How do you know when the integration process is complete?

Integration and culture shift are difficult things to measure. We regularly measure employee engagement as an indication of cultural integration; however, we don’t see the integration as ever being fully complete. As we continue to hire and expand our businesses, we need to continue regular exchanges across sites, businesses, and between commercial and operations groups to stay integrated and continue to work more closely.


Nigel Walker

Mr. Walker is the founder and managing director of That’s Nice LLC, a research-driven marketing agency with 20 years dedicated to life sciences. Nigel harnesses the strategic capabilities of Nice Insight, the research arm of That’s Nice, to help companies communicate science-based visions to grow their businesses. Mr. Walker earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design with honors from London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, England.