Culture has been called an organization’s most powerful advantage, but culture change is often sidelined for more pressing matters. Here’s why culture deserves top-tier attention—and how to get started strengthening yours.

“Culture change” can be a loaded term. It’s a seemingly infinite realm, and it can be hard to know which levers to pull to confidently enact change. 

Whether you’re scrolling through LinkedIn or attending the latest conference for inspiration, it’s easy to feel compelled to chase the newest “shiny object” in the culture change space.

Culture + Strategy: A Power Pair

But the “latest and greatest” in culture change may not be what your organization needs.

The place to start is not with what the company next door is doing but rather with your own vision and strategy.

That’s because culture initiatives have greatest impact when they relate to where you’re heading and what it will take to get there.

Company Culture: Silent Winner or Silent Killer?

Unfortunately, many leaders delay culture change because it can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to focus efforts—or the payoff isn’t evident.

But when organizations ignore culture change, the cost of delay can be high.

Hiring and onboarding new employees to replace those who leave, for instance, can cost three to four times a position’s salary—that’s $240,000 to $320,000 to replace a worker whose salary is $80,000.1

Lackluster culture can cause companies to acquire reputations that are hard to shift in the job market.

On the flip side, employee satisfaction, workplace efficiency, and customer satisfaction scores (CSATs) all tend to increase with a healthy culture. Revenue can also increase up to 4x when company culture is robust.2  

When company culture is strong, it’s difficult for competitors to replicate your success. That’s because a healthy culture becomes part of your “secret sauce”— an essential ingredient that makes your organization tick. 

How to Design Your Organization’s Culture

So how do organizations develop a strong culture?

At XPLANE, we guide companies through culture change using a co-creative process that gets your stakeholders involved and invested in change.

Step 1. Define your strategy.

To effectively lead your organization’s culture, you first need to define your strategy.

Without a clear sense of where you’ll play and how you’ll win, it’s difficult to know how culture can support your overarching goals. 

Step 2. Assess gaps and risks.

Once you define your strategy, assess gaps and risks to identify where your culture can reinforce that strategy and play to your advantages.  For example, if your company is looking to enter a new market and you have a high proportion of long-tenure employees used to doing business-as-usual, it may be adventagous to invest in building competencies around agility and innovation.

Step 3. Develop a vision map.

Coupled with your strategic plan and gap analysis, a Culture Vision Map, like the one below, can help you uncover and align on the key drivers of success.  

A Culture Vision Map moves stakeholders towards a shared future via a co-creative approach. It lays out current and future states and explores questions about behavioral and structural changes needed to support the mindsets, actions, and outcomes you desire.

During this step, we engage broadly with stakeholders so their concerns and motivations are accounted for in what is designed.  

A Culture Vision Map goes beyond mission, vision, and values. It creates clear priorities relevant to your current context and highlights the biggest levers you can pull.

Infographic showing XPLANE's Culture

Step 4. Create an activation plan.

If you think of your Culture Vision Map as your North Star, you next need to chart a course to that star. At XPLANE, we call this “map” a change campaign plan, or Culture Activation Plan.

As with any change initiative, culture change demands you understand the different stakeholder groups and the unique ways each will need to be engaged to move collectively into the future you envision.  

A Culture Activation Plan is your guide to (1) planning activities you need to undertake to move forward and (2) reaching diverse audiences and stakeholder groups. Metrics are also built into the plan to measure impact and tell a story throughout your journey.  

You can think of a Culture Activation Plan as a dual-purpose accountability partner that guides you and creates a framework for ongoing reflection about your progress. And because your Culture Activation Plan is dynamic, you can adjust course along the way.

Harness Culture for a Competitive Advantage

While investing in culture can seem daunting, XPLANE’s approach breaks culture work into digestible chunks.

Our method  ensures your culture is aligned with your strategy and addresses your biggest gaps and opportunities.

When you accomplish this, you’ll know what levers to pull to achieve a culture that attracts and retains employees, supports your goals, and enhances the bottom line.

Ways to Move Your Culture Forward

If you’d like to get started with culture change or accelerate what you have in motion, check out these Six Games to Envision the Company Culture You Want and these additional resources and tools.

Are your employees resistant to change?

Start your journey and tackle your company’s culture with an XPLANE-led Culture Mapping Workshop. Contact us to learn more.