Building A Common Culture

Yesterday's New Jersey Organization Development Network meeting, hosted at ADP in Jersey City, featured a presentation by Steve Prentiss, Sr. VP of HR at ADP, called "Acquisition Integration: Two Approaches for Building One Culture."

ADP, an international powerhouse in payroll and brokerage services, has been growing by acquisitions, with 34 in the past 10 years. According to Prentiss, while they have had their share of "raving successes," they have also seen some "abysmal failures."

Recognizing that they needed to learn from their acquisition and integration experiences, ADP launched a impressive organization development effort to improve their hit rate. With the help of a consultant, ADP designed a process to:

- gather input from employees who had come into ADP via past acquisitions
- identify good (and bad) practices
- set goals for future acquisitions

Boiling it down for us yesterday, Prentiss described two approaches that ADP has come up with for smoothly integrating acquired companies into the ADP way of doing business:

1. The Blueprint Approach - In this approach, ADP communicates with the employees of the newly acquired unit, welcomes them to ADP, shares the business goals, and engages everyone in setting objectives. Other selected features:

- Make few promises, but keep them
- Expect and go looking for problems
- Establish clear reporting relationships
- Be there

2. The Blended Approach - ADP devised this approach when they had to merge four distinct acquistions into one well-meshed business unit. The overall goal they pursued was to define one common culture that all could feel comfortable with. Some of the features here:

- Form cross-unit teams
- Perform a culture assessment to identify what employees liked the most in their former companies
- Be clear about the ADP culture
- Celebrate the new

Prentiss shared some other overall learnings in regard to acquisitions, including:

- Ensure talent retention
- Be very direct and honest
- Inflict pain early
- Move swiftly
- Listen
- Learn

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 02/15/2006


Bruce Lewin said…
Sounds like a good framework - did it appear to capture the hearts though?
Terrence said…
Hey Bruce,

Welcome back!

Did it "capture the hearts" of employees? Good question.

The speaker shared with us that they use Gallup's Q12 instrument to gauge the "temperature" of the ADP workforce. His comment was that they are showing steady improvement.


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