Career Resources

Finding Your Fit

If your organization is joining forces with another, you need to determine whether the evolving organization will be a good fit for you.

Roger W. Nutter, CHC

As healthcare continues its evolution, the trend of consolidation and mergers is picking up speed. Major not-for-profit and for-profit systems are moving aggressively to serve the needs of their communities and be better poised in the competitive marketplace, affecting the careers of many healthcare executives in the process.

When two or more organizations unite to form a single new organization, the issue of "fit" within the new culture can have some serious implications for those whose careers are affected. While a person's skills, work style, and goals may be in synch with those of the organization they work for, after a merger that may no longer be the case.

If your organization is joining forces with another, you need to determine whether your style and goals will be in line with those of the new organization. Doing so ahead of time will help you adapt more quickly or give you a head start if you decide to, or need to, leave the organization. Following are some ways to make that determination.

Learn the Facts To learn what the culture of the new organization will be like, you must learn about your organization's merger partner and its leadership. Successful healthcare executives will seek out information to better understand the fiscal, competitive, and strategic reasons for the merger, and thereby better determine how and if they will fit into the culture of the new organization. Talk to your colleagues in the field to learn about the histories and cultures of the organizations. Evaluate organizational documents such as annual reports, paying special attention to the mission statements and balance sheets. Learn about the professional reputations of the key players in the merger.

Consider how you feel about the culture of your current organization. If you are already dissatisfied, the merger is not likely to change that.

However, if you are satisfied with your organization's culture, you should talk to mentors and decision makers within your organization and ask them what they expect the new culture to be like. Will it be similar to that of your current organization, or will it change significantly? Get in the Loop If you are a decision maker within your organization, staying "in the loop" on the merger will give you a great deal of insight into the culture of the merged organization. By being an active participant as the merger unfolds, you will be able to determine if one organization's culture and processes will take precedence over the others and who is likely to lead the new organization. In addition, through your participation, you will have the opportunity to help shape the new organization's culture.

Also, if you stay informed on the merger process, you may gain the advantage of knowing well in advance if your position will be eliminated, allowing you to get a jump on your job search, if necessary.

Being involved in the early phases of a merger offers other long-term career advantages, among them accumulation of new skills. Mergers will continue to play a significant part in the evolution of healthcare, and healthcare leaders with merger experience will be in demand.

Know When it's Time to Leave In some cases, you may find that you do not fit in the merged organization's new culture. For example, if you prefer to work for a religious organization, a merger with a non-religious one may create an organization with a culture that is inconsistent with your professional goals. Similarly, if you prefer the atmosphere of a small, community hospital, it might be time for you to move on if your hospital becomes part of a large, national organization. Be proactive in deciding what your professional needs and goals are and if the new organization's culture will enable you to work toward them; if not, it may be time to start looking for new opportunities.

In many mergers, when there is overlap between the staffs of the merging organizations, some employees may be offered severance packages. Although a severance package or buyout may seem attractive at first, seriously consider the long-term effects on your career: How long will it take to find a position with another organization? Will accepting the buyout look bad to recruiters? Seek counsel from appropriate colleagues before choosing to remain with the new merged organization or accept a severance package.

Stay Flexible In a swiftly changing field such as healthcare, it is important to develop new skills and remain flexible in your career goals—that way, you can always fit in as the needs of your organization evolve with the marketplace. That adaptability can also be applied when learning to fit into a new organizational culture.

Be a positive and willing contributor to the planning, consolidation, and reengineering involved in forging new cultures; the more you learn about these cultures, the easier it will be to find your place in them.

Roger W. Nutter, CHC, is president of the Nutter Group, a consulting firm in Cincinnati.

This article is reprinted from Healthcare Executive.