How to protect your company culture

Jon Wilkins

Company culture is too often dismissed as a soft topic.

But culture is actually one of the most important things a business has – it helps to attract and retain talent. It encourages us to do our jobs to the best of our ability, it inspires us to do better – and ultimately it wins business.

When Karmarama was acquired by Accenture Interactive last year, many naysayers expected it to spell the end for our company culture. As a creative agency, we’re known for our witty neon signs and no nonsense attitude – surely, they said, this wouldn’t wash in a global company.

Well not only has this not been the case – our culture is stronger than ever because Accenture Interactive values it as highly as we do.

Whether you’re going through an acquisition, a merger, or simply a big period of change, here are our four top tips for maintaining company culture.

Make culture a priority

Many worry about their company culture being diluted, or worse destroyed, because they’ve been bought out. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Ensure culture is a priority from the start of a deal, so you can discuss ringfencing certain elements, such as your office or branding. Remember, your culture is fundamental to your business and probably played a part in attracting a deal in the first place – don’t forget its worth.

Of course, culture isn’t about your logo or beanbags in the lobby. We have what Accenture calls a “deal shepherd”, whose job it is to “protect our herd”. This gives us the confidence to do business in the way we always have.

Clear signals that a new owner or partner is willing to invest in your culture can help to quell anxiety in the early stages of a deal.

Appreciate difference

One size doesn’t fit all – you have to realise that cultures are different for a reason. Creative cultures are not the same as delivery or sales cultures, for example. These cultures contain unique approaches to getting the most out of talent, and one isn’t better than the other. The magic happens when you put these two together to work towards the same goals.

While it’s important to celebrate your differences, it’s equally important to find common ground on core issues. We have some fundamental things in common with Accenture Interactive. Knowing when you need to meet in the middle is key.

Collaboration culture

There is power in diversity, and by working closely with new colleagues, you can add new skill sets and ideas to the offering. It might be easy to fall into the trap of working in silos, but this breeds competitive practices which don’t serve the needs of customers and clients.

Make sure you create opportunities for new colleagues to work together. Remind everybody that it’s an exciting time full of new opportunities. Working collaboratively to solve customer problems doesn’t erode culture – it makes the most of it.

Celebrate good behaviour

For culture to survive and thrive it needs to be fully embedded into working practices. If you build a reward system around your key culture indicators, you can encourage teams to consider your ideals in everything they do.

Make sure these are tangible by showing examples of best practice when they arise. It will inspire teams to embrace the right behaviours.

The Karmarama culture is made up of our four core values: care, collaboration, candour and character. In order to make these as meaningful as possible, we celebrate examples with an employee of the month, voted for by staff. We also score against them in bi-annual reviews as a critical part of performance development.