No matter how big or small, change is never easy in an organisation. However, when a business is faced with a three-way merger and a complete restructure, the sense of belonging can be jeopardised.
As phase three of its merger was approaching, the Karbon Homes team identified cultural integration as its number one priority. Its workforce composition was 50 per cent from the largest predecessor organisation, with the remaining half split three ways between the two smaller predecessors and new entrants. It needed to help people let go of their “legacy organisations”, emotionally connect to Karbon and rally together as one team.
It ran an engagement survey three months after the merger in May 2019 and discovered that new entrants were highly engaged, but colleagues who had come through the merger were “mourning their losses and feeling unmoored”. There was a collective fear that in becoming bigger, the company had “lost its heart and soul”.
The assistant director of people brought in an external organisation development consultant and a bold approach was taken. The assistant director of people stepped down and became the strategic OD lead, tasked with designing and delivering a leadership programme for all managers aligned to the senior leaders programme. The plan was to share key learning and create a common language, realising a cost saving and offer a powerful way to co-create the new ‘Karbon Way’ and people strategy.
They built trust and psychological safety through storytelling workshops, and covered change and transition using William Bridges model through innovative methods – particularly the leadership coach dressing up as a wizard – and covered contents from the senior leader programme, positive psychology, and began action learning sets. However, when Covid hit, it all had to move online.
But this didn’t hinder progress. By September 2020, all ‘my manager’ scores increased and the level of engagement delivered outstanding success. Its year-on-year mental health related absences also dropped by 45 per cent.
The judges said Karbon Homes carried out a “fantastic project” underpinned by great OD practice, which created a “sense of belonging after a merger that is inspirational and the success of which is borne out in their results”. The judges felt that Karbon Homes’ pride and passion came through powerfully throughout the team’s presentation, and said “in a year of very strong entries, Karbon Homes stood out as worthy winners”.