In December, companies finalize their 2022 budgets and sign off on a range of plans for next year. Creating plans around recruiting, training, and events is a top priority for many HR teams at the end of the year.
Yet, there’s another essential type of planning that many companies probably left out of their year-end planning: Culture planning.
Culture planning is the process of determining and documenting the work that needs to be done to move a company closer to its ideal culture and outlining an action plan for achieving it.
For teams looking to recruit and retain top talent, creating a culture plan is a strategic move that certainly deserves to be a priority. So, why not give culture planning a try in the new year? In this article, we take a closer look at the benefits of culture planning, and share four steps you can take now to create an effective culture plan that carries your company through 2022 and beyond.
Three reasons culture planning belongs on your must-do list
In short, culture planning lays the groundwork for developing a work environment that allows existing teams and new talent to do their best work. Here are three additional benefits that make culture planning worthwhile for the new year.
1. It ensures a Culture First company
Didier Elzinga, Culture Amp’s Founder and CEO, said years ago, “A Culture First company recognizes that if you take care of the culture, then the customer experience and profits will take care of themselves.”
Providing an ideal workplace and empowering employees to do their best work is the foundation for succeeding in all other business areas. However, being a Culture First company doesn’t just happen – you have to plan around how to take action on it.
This means making sure culture planning is done consistently and transparently and that HR teams work collaboratively with other teams in the company to turn these plans into reality.
2. It emphasizes a strong compliance culture
GAN Integrity, a compliance specialist and solutions provider, defines a culture of compliance as “when compliance is a central and unalterable part of the corporate culture.” In this culture, team members strive to comply with rules and regulations and place a strong value on ethics. This is important, as a well-done compliance culture fosters internal and external trust, improves operational efficiency, boosts engagement, and more.
For these reasons, culture planning can and should include strategies to strengthen your company’s compliance culture. During the planning phase, HR teams can take stock of what types of compliance training are needed, implement processes to determine who requires additional training, and set regular cadences for sharing updates to compliance standards.
Including this information in a culture plan along with timelines and KPIs will improve consistency and ensure that you’re checking the right boxes (especially if you work in an industry where compliance is crucial).
3. It helps you retain your talent
The resignation trend that followed pandemic-induced stay-at-home orders shows no signs of stopping. Some of the reasons employees are handing in their notice – such as a desire to pursue a new career path – aren’t necessarily related to company culture. Other reasons, however, are prime examples of how your work environment can make or break employees’ decisions to stay with your company.
When employees share feedback around where they see room for improvement, they are making their desires around company culture and the employee experience known. They may express interest in a flexible work environment or expect the company to take a stand on social issues. They may be willing to depart if those expectations are not met.
HR teams looking to address turnover and improve retention can benefit significantly from culture planning. Identifying the cultural improvements employees are looking for and building a plan to address them helps your employees feel valued and heard. In this way, culture planning can inspire talent to stick around, especially when the culture plan is shared throughout the company.
Four steps for successful culture planning
Culture planning can seem like a daunting responsibility, especially when something that feels as intangible as culture plays such a significant role in retaining talent, recruiting successful new hires, and meeting other objectives across departments.
To help you get started, here’s a simple process you can follow to take the guesswork out of culture planning.
1. Collect feedback
If your HR team doesn’t have up-to-date results from an engagement survey, strongly consider adding a survey to the top of your plan. You don’t even have to write the questions yourself – tools like Culture Amp’s employee engagement tool make it easy to seamlessly launch surveys with science-backed questions that collect critical insights across the employee experience.
To be maximally effective, be sure to take all of the necessary steps:
Communicate pre-survey. Besides logistics, employees need to know why taking the survey is important to feel compelled to provide feedback. Consider a company-wide announcement that touches on who is eligible to provide feedback, the feedback window, who has access to the results, etc.
Launch the survey. On the day of the survey, remember to communicate through all the major channels. Then, launch the survey and send your invitations.
Communicate post-survey. Once the survey closes, thank employees for their participation, and let people know what’s coming next - when can they see results, and when will action planning start?
Take action on the results of the survey. Once your team has finished digging into the survey results, communicate the results of the survey to the broader organization, including how you plan to take action on areas of concern. Then, follow through and update the wider organization regularly. This is critical because If employees feel like their feedback isn’t leading to any real change, they may decide not to participate in your following survey, which leaves you with fewer data points to work with.
By following these steps, you can collect key data that helps you build a culture plan that will better motivate employees, retain talent, and encourage everyone to understand their role in creating a better workplace.
2. Set goals and prioritize objectives
Once you have data around where culture needs to improve, you can set goals and determine their priority. Use the scores you received to establish short-term and long-term goals, and decide which ones you’ll start within the year.
As part of your culture plan, delve into what success looks like for the goals you plan to accomplish. If surveys have shown you that junior and mid-level teammates at your company don’t feel heard by senior managers, then building a company culture of listening would be a great long-term goal. Some steps along that journey could include educational opportunities for managers or a designated time during company-wide meetings where anyone can share ideas for the company’s growth.
3. Divide and conquer
Culture planning may start with HR, but strong company culture is everyone’s responsibility. Once you know your goals and what it will require to successfully reach them, it’s time to determine who will own responsibility for each part of the plan.
Within your team, you can determine who is best suited to manage and report on the progress toward each goal. Sharing in the responsibilities emphasizes that culture planning is a team effort requiring the skills and insights of multiple people.
Outside of HR, you can enlist the help of your company’s leadership team and managers at all levels with tasks to support the culture plan.
4. Adjust your expectations
Although culture planning may be a yearly (or even more frequent) activity, it’s also a long game. If your company has multiple complex objectives to address in your culture plan, it may take years before you can check some of them off the list. Company culture doesn’t change overnight; it varies gradually based on the everyday actions of dedicated teams.
As you try new strategies to reach specific goals throughout the year, you may need to update your plan based on what does and doesn’t work. New needs may reveal themselves, so continue exploring what the employees at your organization need to succeed.
Build a culture plan that puts employees first
Culture planning is an integral part of being a Culture First company. It prioritizes the needs of employees, places emphasis on ethics and compliance, and increases the likelihood of retaining talent in a workforce where employees have more options than ever.
When creating a culture plan, start by listening to employees across the organization, learning about their needs, and using that information to develop and prioritize your objectives.
Remember that enacting your plan is a team effort, one that will require collaboration from leadership, managers, and the employees you’re looking to support. Keep your plan flexible, and adapt it as needed to remain Culture First even as your team, your company, and the entire work landscape continues to evolve.