How to amalgamate teams

I have previously had the task of amalgamating two large sets of staff, roughly each composing of around fifty people. At the time, amalgamations were occurring across many schools to make them into primaries.

Consequently, I spoke to other leaders who had been through the amalgamations listening carefully to both leaders and their staff. This gave me the opportunity to reflect upon how they had achieved their aims and where it had gone wrong so that I could transform issues and conflict into success.

Regardless of your business, consider the points below to inform how you lead and more importantly interact with others when joining teams or integrating new staff:

Key points where it is likely to go wrong:

  • Naively assume that just by giving the business a new name that everything will work out smoothly  at your establishment.
  • Continue to let the staff work as two teams that don’t get the opportunity to mix with and know each other. This will breed an ‘us and them blame culture.’
  • If you already know one of the teams, don’t ‘talk them up’ at the expense of the other team, as this will create low morale and disengagement from your new employees.

Key points to implement to get it right:

  • Let staff know your vision and give them the opportunity to contribute to this, so that a new shared vision gives everyone the opportunity to succeed.
  • Create purposeful opportunities for the enlarged team to be mixed up regularly to work on strategic activities that will move your company forward. (Be careful how you initially mix the teams up i.e. personality, attitude towards change.)
  • Share and celebrate the strengths each team has and promote this as an opportunity to learn from each other.
  • Use professional development as an opportunity to interchange a few key members from the two teams so that they don’t remain static and run the risk of negative culture towards the each other.
  • Get to know your staff. Use it as an opportunity to share both your own values and learn theirs. This is also a subtle way of gently disseminating your professional expectations for the workplace.
  • Be visible daily and available to listen, especially within the first six to nine months. It’s far easier to smooth out potential issues and conflict before they end up encompassing a large number of staff in the problem. This will save you time in the long run from not having to deal with major HR issues and ensure staff continue to focus and be productive in their work.
  • Share and celebrate your new team successes, especially with those who often are the unsung heroes and are easily forgotten about. A weekly ten-minute briefing is an ideal opportunity for this, as it also reinforces the sense of one whole team.
  • Be careful how you disseminate new information. Again, a weekly briefing or post on the shared portal means everyone gets to know the same information at all once and will respect you for it.

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