The Evolution of Culture at Culture Summit

The Evolution of Culture at Culture Summit

For the past decade, company culture has grown into a bonafide hot topic in the HR and recruitment world. Now in the 4th year of its running, Culture Summit is in a unique position to see how the industry has grown and changed, and even to reflect some of those changes in how the conference is run, who is attending, and who is speaking.

Today, we caught up with Jully Kim, who has attended every Culture Summit since its inception and Senior Manager, Program Management Office at BigCommerce to hear how the conference – and company culture – has evolved over the past 3 years.

The Evolution of Culture at Culture Summit

Image Source: LinkedIn

1. Why did you want to attend a conference around the topic of culture, and what jumped out about Culture Summit that made you choose this one?

As a Sr. Manager of PMO, I manage other project and program managers across multiple offices. The culture of the workplace heavily influences my ability and my team’s ability to execute – if the culture is terrible, I’m limited in my role. If it’s awesome, not only can I do my job, but I can do more and grow my role and my people.

Culture is such an important part of the way I think about work that I just can’t separate the two. Of course, there’s the responsibilities and skills I need to get projects over the finish line, but I can’t do those things to the best of my ability in a vacuum at my desk. The nature of work is that I work with people, and people determine the culture I work in, and the culture decides how well I can execute those responsibilities.

In my sphere of influence, there wasn’t an active conversation around company culture. My colleagues and I knew culture is important – we complain about it, praise it, or envy it from afar – but there wasn’t a structured conversation around what it was.

I chose Culture Summit because it was the only conference around that actually addressed the topic – the only one! I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hoping to find others I could start a conversation with about how this is an important topic. I knew culture was important and I needed to find others who thought it was important so I could equip myself to be a better culture agent at work… and I did!

The Evolution of Culture at Culture Summit

Image Source: BigCommerce

2. What’s changed the most about the conference speakers?

The nature of the first two Culture Summit conferences was very much around executives who were embarking on culture initiatives. At the time, those were probably the only people who could speak out about how important culture was – the executives, CEOs, and authors who were starting or leading a new company and rolling out a culture program. It was really valuable insight from trailblazers like Google, Culture Amp, Facebook, and Airbnb who could validate that this is important and something worth pursuing.

Over time, the caliber of the speakers hasn’t changed, but the nature of their jobs and closeness to lower-level employees has bridged the gap. Particularly last year’s conference, there were great keynotes as well as less well-known companies who were doing awesome things in employee mentoring, engineering recruiting, and diversity and inclusion. There was a lot of varied experience that felt more tangible, and I walked away with action instead of admiring someone else’s culture.

As more and more people become interested and aware of the fact that culture is valuable part of how we think about work, the natural next step is to ask, “Well, what can I do about it?” So when we hear from middle managers and directors at that in-between, tactical layer, we get a better picture of the next step we can take when we get back to work. It’s less about hearing how awesome other companies are and more about learning what we can do in our spheres of influence.

 

3. What’s changed the most about the conference attendees?

Originally I felt like the nature of the people I met were people like me who weren’t sure about culture but wanted to know more – engineering managers, consultants, product marketing, and marketing folks. I hardly met any HR people… and then last year’s conference was almost exclusively HR and recruiting people!

Companies are recognizing that the way we recruit, hire, promote, and live out corporate values is linked to HR and HR is becoming much more influential in determining culture. It’s not about listing the corporate values on your website and hanging posters in the office. It’s about how we experience things like onboarding and offboarding, and how we celebrate or manage performance, and all many of these things come back to HR.

In one way, it’s good that so many HR people are paying attention to this important issue, but I worry that assigning culture as a “task” to a department isn’t a good idea. Once it becomes someone else’s job, it’s not your job anymore. It’s no longer the responsibility of the whole company but rather a program or a thing HR “does.”

The Evolution of Culture at Culture Summit

Image Source: BigCommerce

4. In general, how have you been able to apply what you’ve learned at Culture Summit?

The thing I came away with is that I need to be a culture champion at work. In the past, I’ve felt like my network has talked about culture but felt more or less powerless to do anything about it. But hearing so many experts talk about the importance of workplace culture and give practical tips gave me a lot more courage to talk about areas I felt weren’t working with our culture and celebrate the ones that were. I felt like, “No, we’re not powerless, and we have a voice to embody change and can push for things we think are valuable rather than just admiring the problem together!”

In fact, every year I feel like there’s some issue I’m addressing or something I’m fighting for that feels hard and Culture Summit ends up being right around the corner right when I need it. It connects me with people who encourage me and keep me focused right when I’m feeling deflated – it’s my yearly recharge of being around other people who get it and come back to work with a sense of the particular action I can take right away.

Most importantly, I feel like Culture Summit provides a vision for what’s needed in the workplace. So often we know something needs to be better, but we don’t know what better is until we see other companies and individuals pushing for that vision. It shows me what’s possible and clarifies what I’m actually pushing towards.

Are you ready for your yearly recharge? Don’t miss the Culture Summit in San Francisco this year!

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.
“How We Culture” With Jack Altman, Co-Founder and CEO at Lattice

“How We Culture” With Jack Altman, Co-Founder and CEO at Lattice

Are you gearing up for the no-fluff, all-strategy 2018 Culture Summit? Let us help you get in the mood by introducing you to one of year’s speakers, Jack Altman, Co-Founder and CEO at Lattice.

“How We Culture” With Jack Altman, Co-Founder and CEO at Lattice

Name: Jack Altman

Location: San Francisco, CA

Position: Co-Founder and CEO at Lattice

 

What problem were you looking to solve when you founded Lattice with your co-founder Eric Koslow?

Eric and I were working together in a fast-growing company called Teespring. I was head of business and corporate development and he was the head of engineering. When we got there we had about 200 employees and we grew to 400 over the course of 2 years and we realized we were feeling a lot of the same problems as the company grew. We felt all the pain of getting more humans to work together harmoniously: communication breakdowns, unclear responsibilities, people not knowing what was expected of them, and a lack of transparency throughout the rest of company. We realized, wow, as you grow, people management becomes this difficult thing.

That was the “problem” we wanted to solve. And what inspired me was seeing how quickly and immediately my happiness and my situation got better with a manager – Robert Chatwani, the former Chief Revenue Officer of Teespring and current Chief Marketing Officer at Atlassian. I realized that building companies is hard, but a great manager has so much power over making employees lives better.

When we left Teespring, we were looking to solve this problem of how companies can do management better.More specifically, how to build a goal-setting tool managers can use to set and align goals throughout company. Over time, we developed a product for performance reviews that really clicked with our clients and that’s become our central offering.  

 

What initially attracted you to the HR space?

For me it was the realization that HR isn’t this boring compliance world. It obviously has that, but software has gotten so good at automating payroll and benefits and core HR systems so that now, instead of spending time on those kinds of problems, you get to work on strategic things: people. Are we motivating and growing the right person for the right role? When I reframed for myself that HR isn’t this cost center, boring function but a function whose job is to make people really successful, I became passionate about it.

How has that attraction evolved throughout your career?

I’ve come to believe that, despite how obviously important the role is to companies and the people that work for them, HR teams are still undervalued by their companies. Over the last 2.5 years at Lattice, I’ve gotten to work closely with extremely talented and caring people. I’ve learned that HR is made up of a great group of humans who choose to spend their career on other humans, and they need more championing in the world and general corporate environments.  

 

If you couldn’t work in the HR space, what would you be doing?

Besides people management, I get a lot of enjoyment out of company building in the general sense: I love the process of creating a new product and talking to customers and building a complicated company.  

 

What are you reading, online or off, that you recommend?

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss

Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company, by Andrew S. Groves

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, PhD.

 

How do you prefer to read/consume information?

I do succumb to the internet and should spend less time there, but I prefer books over nearly everything else. I have a funny style of reading where I go through a ton of books, but don’t read them cover to cover. I don’t make myself feel guilty about not reading the book front to back and every page. Instead, I allow myself to flip through as I want to go to chapters as I want and mark them up, using the table of contents as place to jump around from. In a lot of cases, depending on the book, this allows me to get through books faster, not because I read less but because I don’t get bored. I’m always excited to read.

 

What’s your technology of choice?

I use an iPhone and a 15-inch Macbook Pro. For a while, I enjoyed using a Kindle, but I go in waves between a Kindle and regular books. I don’t use a ton of other technology, but I do love my Airpods.

“How We Culture” With Jack Altman, Co-Founder and CEO at Lattice

What does your workspace look like?

At work, I make a point of not really sitting down in one place too much. I have a desk, but I’m rarely at it. A lot of that is because I’m at meetings or sitting with different teams and spending time with people. Spending time physically next to people and talking to them has been my MO ever since I started managing people – in fact, somebody in the office dubbed my workplace personality animal to be a hummingbird because I’m always floating around. At home, I like to work on my couch with a coffee and a notebook and computer.  

 

How do you define culture? Do you think there is or should be a universal definition?

To me, one of the ways I think about culture as the fundamental way a group of people interact and work with each other. But I don’t believe there’s one understanding of abstract ideas that is true, so I don’t know if there should necessarily be one universal definition. There are multiple lenses we can look at culture through that are reasonable and useful. For example, maybe someone else thinks culture is the degree to which people at a company feel a sense of belonging, while other definitions may be useful tools to encourage a healthy team dynamic.

 

What are some common misconceptions about culture?

One of the big misconceptions is the belief that you can change people. A lot of companies will spend a lot of time putting certain values in place or encouraging employees to act a certain way. But I think in most cases you’re hiring adults who are fully-formed human beings. Ninety percent of who they are was established before they joined your organization, and you won’t be able to have too much of an impact on that.

That’s why it’s important to invest in culture early, because you mostly can’t change people. Getting culture in place early matters so much because when you’re first building a team it’s about the people, not how you tell the people to act. And after that, the most powerful culture editing tool you have is hiring and firing.

“How We Culture” With Jack Altman, Co-Founder and CEO at Lattice

What’s the best culture advice you’ve ever received?

The best thing I heard recently is from an interview we did with Kaitlyn Holloway, VP People at Reddit. She said that when the company wins, that helps build the culture in many ways. I’d never heard this concept expressed this way, and it quickly resonated with me.

At first it seems like it shouldn’t be all about winning, but then I mapped it back to my own experience and saw the truth in it. When things are going well and there’s room for growth and everyone believes the company is great, a lot of good things happen: the bar for talent comes up because you can attract and compensate good people, and that’s empowering for existing employees. It’s the old saying, “Growth cures all problems at a startup,” through the lens of culture.  

 

If you had to pick one culture-enhancing practice or “tactic” most companies could or should implement, what would it be?

In our experience as a relatively small, under 40 person company, offsites have been a surprisingly powerful bonding event for our employees. We’ve done a few at this point, some with teams, some with the whole company, some more substantial than others, but during every offsite people have a great time and get to know each other outside the office in a relaxed environment. When we were a really small team of 6, we went to Nicaragua and stayed at an Airbnb. More recently, we’ve taken a half day in Napa Valley, as well as an international offsite in Mexico.

You can almost see how much faster communication is and how people enjoy doing work together when we give them the space and opportunity to build friendships.

 

What do you do to discourage negative/harmful culture from emerging?

As far as a tactical approach, I try to establish for myself and other managers and leaders that everyone on the team should be talking to each other first. If someone comes to me and complains about someone else, the first thing I do is ask, “Have you talked to them directly yet?” In most cases, I know if they have or haven’t, but it helps to remind people that the way to resolve problems is by trying to work it out together. It also helps me avoid rewarding or enabling company politics.

“How We Culture” With Jack Altman, Co-Founder and CEO at Lattice

If you could impart one universal understanding about company culture to every senior executive in the world, what would it be?

I think the place where senior executives can lose sight of the importance of culture is when it comes in perceived contrast to business goals. If you’re the VP of Sales or Engineering and your job in this quarter or 6-month period is to hit a particular revenue number or ship a new product, it makes sense in the short-term to make cultural sacrifices in the name of those ends without being deliberate and thoughtful about why.

Of course, sometimes there are times as a leader when you do have to make those tradeoffs to reach short goals: you might really need to get this feature released in order to keep the team’s momentum up and to meet that goal you’re willing to make the team burn out more than normal, or allow a rockstar engineer who’s tougher to get along with a little more leeway. Those tradeoffs are made all the time, but you need to be aware of when that balance gets out of whack and make deliberate choices between business goals and culture.

 

It’s the year 2030, what is the workplace culture dialogue talking about?

One of the bigger trends in the past 15 years has been a shift in power from employers to employees, as it’s easier to get a new job, people stay in roles for a shorter amount of time, and mobile technology allow people to move around more easily. This has all lead to companies trying harder to retain great employees. As a result, we’ve seen workplace conversations become much more employee-centric. Thinking forward, I think this trend will blend with the growth of automation and AI in the workforce so that jobs will become increasingly less monotonous and more creative.  

 

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.
Culture Summit - Afeef Hussain

“How We Culture” With Afeef Hussain, Regional Director of Training and Development at LUX* Resorts & Hotels

Are you gearing up for this year’s Culture Summit? Let us help you get in the mood by introducing you to one of this year’s speakers, Afeef Hussain, Regional Director, Training, Development and Quality Assurance with LUX* RESORTS AND HOTELS – MALDIVES.

“How We Culture” With Hussain Afeef, Regional Director of Training and Development at LUX* Resorts & Hotels

Name: Afeef Hussain

Location: LUX* RESORTS AND HOTELS – MALDIVES

Position: Regional Director, Training, Development and Quality Assurance

 

What attracted you to LUX Resorts? Do you think the culture is an intentional company attribute that’s equally attractive to other employees, or something unique to you?

I was working for an International brand known as One&Only for almost six years when I had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with LUX* Resorts and Hotels CEO, Paul Jones. I knew Paul was the type of leader I wanted to follow, and during my first meeting with him I also met Dominik Ruhl who was the General Manager at the time; at that moment I realised and understood these two leaders have something great in them, and if I can work with them, it will make me a better person.

This was confirmed when I toured LUX* South Ari Atoll in 2012 and saw the smiles, friendliness, care, and attention of the employees. The culture I observed was something I did not expect from a resort brand, especially at an early stage. Immediately it clicked in my mind that I can do something better here and make this resort even a better place with these beautiful people.

The culture is indeed what attracted me to LUX* Resorts and Hotels. From its inception, the whole brand LUX* Resorts and Hotels has been built on people, and the value people can give to others, like guests or visitors to their property – it is a culture of looking after people, whether they are paying guests or team members.

 

What initially attracted you to the training and development space?

I have had the experience of working closely with operations, understanding the operational needs through various assignments and management internships. I always love teaching, sharing, and making sure I give back to other people whenever I can. This made me want to be involved in the learning and development of people.

I believe there is nothing better than teaching, sharing, and self-learning. When participants leave training or a learning experience and I notice the change in their behavior and attitude as they apply what they have learned, I am humbled. There is nothing better than seeing team members reaching their potential and striving to achieve excellence in their personal and professional goals.

 

How has that skill evolved throughout your career?

Learning and development and quality assurance are my passions, but I love doing many things. In my day-to-day, I spend a lot of times in resort operation, understanding guest perspectives, reviewing standards, observing team members performance, how they serve, communicate and their approach towards a different type of guests. Each of these elements brings me a learning experience, and I use these to develop various skills of mine such as understanding how to work with operational leaders, understanding the perception of operational leaders towards training, development, and quality assurance.

 

“How We Culture” With Hussain Afeef, Regional Director of Training and Development at LUX* Resorts & Hotels

Photo Source

If you couldn’t work in the training and development space, what would you be doing?

Resort and Hotels Operations side. Even at the moment, I am heavily involved in operations, as Quality Assurance is a part of operations. It is the backbone of consistency and quality control. When one works with operations, you have a competitive advantage of learning things daily as you interact with the people element of your paying guests or clients and top line and bottom line revenue.

 

What are you reading, online or off, that you recommend?

I love reading, and I’m always reading two to three books at a time. My daily habit of reading looks like this: in the morning I read a chapter from a biography; in the afternoon during my lunchtime coffee, I read about leadership learning or stories; and in the evening, I ready about a business topic.

Right now I am reading a biography of Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia, as well as The Leader Who Had No Title, a leadership book based on a fable by Robin Sharma. I’m also reading Growth Mindset by Matthew Syed.

Online, I read a lot from Harvard Business Review articles, Forbes, INC.com and Entrepreneur Magazine. My best reading materials are always about leadership, growth mindset, and how we can serve and value each other. I admire authors who write about culture and the importance of looking after people.

 

How do you prefer to read/consume information?

I prefer to read using hardcover books. I don’t like reading things online unless it is a summary or for skim reading. When I read using online versions, I cannot focus. When I am with printed materials or a hard copy, I can keep my phone or tablet away and concentrate on the book/magazine or the printed version. This is a habit one must develop especially with the ever-increasing technology and ways to gather and read information. I love technology, but not for reading purpose.

 

What’s your technology of choice?

In our industry, technology is vital. But I must admit regardless of many types of research around, technology will not be able to replace people regarding service delivery from a human touch point. The world will become paperless and wireless but not peopleless.

Personally, I am keen on engaging with various social platforms and understanding how it works to see where I can add value to our people who use them. We use a lot of software and apps for connecting various external and internal needs, and this is something that is changing daily.

“How We Culture” With Hussain Afeef, Regional Director of Training and Development at LUX* Resorts & Hotels

Photo Source 

What does your workspace look like?

I don’t like to have a big office, or high tech things around at my workplace. I prefer to have a small office space, allowing me to go out of my office, meet people, and connect with our team members as much as I can. In the hospitality business, you can’t serve by sitting in an office. Even our General Manager spends 80% of his daily working hours outside his office. We can only serve our people when we are with them.

Currently, all my staff sits with me in the same office, and we can always see each other and communicate without any barriers. Plus, I always want to sit next to the entrance door of my office so I can be the first one to greet visitors.

 

How do you define culture? Do you think there is or should be a universal definition?

There are several definitions of culture because different people see it differently. For me, culture is how a group of people live, follow, and get along with each other by understanding that to be a part of something bigger they must learn how to value each other. This is where every culture forms and creates a set of value, and these values bring the behaviors that should be respected and followed by everyone who lives and works together in that particular environment.

I firmly believe culture also defines the level of energy that one can get when they visit or have the opportunity to work with a particular group of people. My favorite airline on the planet is Singapore Airlines. I have had 69 trips by this beautiful airline in the past 15 years. Every time I fly on this airline, I experience the warmth and genuine care that I don’t get from many other airlines. It is not because they know me. It is the culture of Singapore Airlines and the culture that has been created since its inception back in 1972. Meanwhile, if I take a regional airline like Srilankan Airlines, the service level depends on the crew set. The energy level differs, and one can see that there is a culture issue when it comes to service delivery and execution.

 

What are some common misconceptions about culture?

There are some who still believe that culture is just a word that is referred to specific values or beliefs followed by a group people based on their religious, nation, country or geographical location. I respect different views, but in today’s world culture has become the keyword in every business decision-making meeting or almost every aspect.

Speaking from what I know, LUX* Resorts and Hotels became one of the most admired hotel brands just because of the service culture we create, offer, and consistently strive to maintain and elevate.

 

What’s the best culture advice you’ve ever received?

Look after each other. Look after and pay attention to the person in front of you, at your back, right and left. Creating and building up the energy of a particular culture takes times. To create a culture, one must implement several initiatives to remind people about the values, beliefs, and, most importantly, leaders must role model the culture values. I believe the rise and fall of every organization depend on the culture they have created, and this starts with the leader.

 

If you had to pick one culture-enhancing practice or “tactic” most companies could or should implement, what would it be?

Companies or organizational culture comes with a set of values. Some companies may have vision and mission. Whatever their values are, they must live and breathe it internally before they can deliver and practice it with their clients. Every organization must strive to create the culture of what they believe in internally, and this should be the foremost important step in creating a culture. It has to start from the moment of hiring and at every step on onboarding and through every step of the employee’s journey within that particular company.

 

“How We Culture” With Hussain Afeef, Regional Director of Training and Development at LUX* Resorts & Hotels

Photo Source

If you could impart one universal understanding about company culture to every senior executive in the world, what would it be?

Everything rises and falls on leadership. I learned this many years ago from my friend, coach and mentor John C. Maxwell. Therefore, the leaders at the top of the organization must always live, breath, and lead by the DNA of the organization, which is the values that underpin the culture. Leaders must carry the culture values wherever they go and in whatever they do. Good leaders create, maintain, and elevate great cultures.

 

It’s the year 2030, what is the workplace culture dialogue talking about?

I anticipate that in 2030 or the next few decades we will talk a lot of about what can we do to create more value for each other within the internal service culture. One may think that AI, robotics, and other innovative technology ideas or ways of doing things may reduce the value of human touch or service by living and breathe human being, but this is a misconception; the more the AI, robotics, and technologies come to life, organisations and companies will be evaluating how they can work towards excellence using people, and this will lead to a question about “value.” I foresee 2030 and decades beyond that organizations and companies will invest more time and money in making their people better. The people of the organization will make their culture a worthwhile place, not the office buildings, location, or their product offerings.

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.

How to Keep Gen X-Ers and Baby Boomers Engaged at Work

We all know that Millennials have surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, so it makes sense that they’re getting a lot of attention in the press, on social media networks, and on the SHRM blog. But as companies compete to find and hire the most talented of this age group, it’s only natural that more senior employees – the Gen Xers and the Baby Boomers – start to wonder if their work matters anymore.

Earlier this year we discussed how to help legacy employees stay engaged when the legacy culture gets an upgrade. Today, we’re going to look at what you can do to make sure those employees know that there’s still a place in your company for their hard-won experience and expertise.

There’s one caveat worth mentioning, though: while generational stereotypes can offer insight into larger trends, there’s no one-size-fits-all label that perfectly captures every team member on your roster. There are only larger trends that can inform your approach to human resources management and give you a starting point for conversations around employee engagement.

To help facilitate those conversations – and identify those larger trends – we got in touch with Austyn Rask, Research Analyst and Consultant with the generational consulting experts at BridgeWorks. Here’s what she as to say about keeping Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers engaged at work:


Why are Gen X and Baby Boomer employees valuable assets in the workplace?

Like every diverse segment of the population within an organization, Gen X and Boomer employees have unique experiences and traits to offer. The disciplined Boomers wield a fiercely competitive yet optimistic spirit, while the independent, resourceful Xers have mastered a special balance between analog and digital.

An organization is at its strongest when multiple generations can work together and complement each others’ strengths, but this isn’t possible if a company focuses on a single generation – cough, Millennials, cough – and ignores the others.


In what ways can employers balance efforts to attract Millennial talent with efforts to avoid alienating Gen X and Boomer talent?

It all begins with generational awareness, which impacts everything from benefits to engagement—from hiring to retention. Having a perspective on who generations are and how they impact the workplace is essential. Leaders must also make it a priority to keep an open line of communication with seasoned employees. Don’t let yourself get too sucked into the Millennial hype, because there will always be a new generation entering the workforce and bringing change and hype with them, as well.

(Something we’re seeing now with Gen Edge!)


What are some of the unique needs and interests of Gen X and Baby Boomer employees in the workforce?

Here’s a brief summary of Boomers’ and Xers’ needs and interests, and more can be found in the infographics below:

Gen X employees…

  • Value honest, transparent leaders and coworkers
  • Are best motivated through flexibility and time to invest in their personal lives (Basically, time at work = time away from the fam)
  • Desire freedom to exercise independence at work amidst the inevitable team meetings and brainstorm sessions
  • May or may not still enjoy The Goonies and Donkey Kong!

BridgeWorks-GenXTraits

Gen X infographic courtesy of BridgeWorks

Baby Boomer employees…

  • Tend to prefer face-to-face communication (a notable source of tension between Baby Boomers and Millennials)
  • Value networking and building a professional community
  • Appreciate it when their contributions are publicly honored (your motivational secret sauce with Baby Boomer employees)
  • Often enjoy being on the cutting edge of technology to “keep up with the Joneses”

Bridgeworks-BabyBoomerTraits

Baby Boomer infographic courtesy of BridgeWorks


What else should HR directors know about keeping these generations of employees engaged?

With four generations working side-by-side in the workforce, seeking generational understanding is key to developing a team that capitalizes on each other’s unique strengths and experiences rather than perpetuating negative stereotypes.

With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day – a trend that will continue for another 11 years – these employees are walking out the door with decades of experience and industry knowledge. Establishing constructive cross-generational relationships and keeping seasoned employees engaged is essential to not losing their wisdom and years of hard work.

Thank you, Austyn! And if the topic of age and generational values in the workplace fascinates you, don’t miss these articles for further reading:

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.
What Could You Learn from Culture Summit? Hear How Three Past Attendees Successfully Navigated Culture Changes

What Could You Learn from Culture Summit? Hear How Three Past Attendees Successfully Navigated Culture Changes

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens at Culture Summit doesn’t stay at Culture Summit – it follows attendees back to work and into board meetings, one-on-ones, and cultural initiatives for the rest of their careers.

Today we want to share three stories of what three Culture Summit attendees took with them from their experience at the conference and how it enhanced their ability to scale culture, explore the possibilities of their role in culture, and participate in the culture community.

You’ll hear from Hailey Adams at Loopio, Tim Kenny at Black Duck Software, and Orson Wells at the Friedkin Group, and we hope you’ll join us in congratulating them on their achievements and wishing them well in their continued efforts to maintain, build, and explore company culture:

What Could You Learn from Culture Summit? Hear How Three Past Attendees Successfully Navigated Culture Changes

Hailey Adams, People Operations Manager at Loopio Inc.

Successfully scaling culture at Loopio Inc.

Hailey Adams, People Operations Manager at Loopio Inc., attributes the education and actionable takeaways from Culture Summit with being a pivotal part of her company’s scaling culture success story:

“I’ve been to a lot of conferences where we talk about issues, but we don’t get real actionable steps on how to overcome them,” says Adams. “This was the first conference that actually gave me key takeaways to bring back to my company and take action.”

In particular, Adams saw results from the culture mapping workshop. By applying the culture mapping process to her company of 25 she was able to grow to over 50, and plans to continue expanding at a rapid rate while maintaining employee engagement and keeping ratings and reviews such as ENPS, and overall employee happiness high.

“When I returned from Culture Summit, I knew our small team would be growing quickly,” says Adams. “Since our culture was already incredibly strong, I realized we needed to do something in order for us to scale, and so we can keep improving. Culture mapping immediately came to my mind.”

Adams continues: “I met with over half the team, individual meetings for an hour each. I used materials from Culture Summit to ask strategic questions, like, ‘What does a great day look like? Why, how, and what impacted it? What does a terrible day look like?’ and dig into the answers. After just a few conversations, I saw patterns and trends that I was able to map and present to our founding team.”

As a result of actively culture mapping as the company expanded, Adams implemented culture initiatives that allowed the new, larger company to unify itself as one team, rather than siloing off into departments or expertise. She also brought new employees in with the expectation they would change and shift the culture – not fit it.

“Culture mapping will be an ongoing activity because our culture will always be changing as we grow,” says Adams. “Different employees bring different opinions, wants, and needs to the organization, and we want to support that.”

What Could You Learn from Culture Summit? Hear How Three Past Attendees Successfully Navigated Culture Changes

Tim Kenny, Vice President of Culture at Black Duck Software

Inspiring possibility for Black Duck Software

Tim Kenny, Vice President of Culture at Black Duck Software, benefited most from the community he found at the Culture Summit.

“Being able to network, talk, and share with people who care about culture as a major driving force in modern business was a delight,” says Kenny. “In fact, some of the one-on-one conversations I had were just as valuable as the presentations and keynotes. We would discuss what we’re working on and struggling with and where culture falls in the list of corporate priorities, and it was fascinating to learn about the similarities and differences from a diversity of industry and business from banking to software.”

Last year’s Culture Summit was particularly well-timed for Kenny because his company was about to be acquired by a much larger company, Synopsys. His company of 400 is now part of a company of 11,000 and they have retained him as head of culture within the larger company.

“When you’re a startup of five or 10 people in a garage, culture is natural and organic,” Kenny says. “But when you grow to 20 and 30 to 100 and 1000, it isn’t like it used to be. The speakers representing larger companies working on culture showed me it was possible to maintain or migrate culture at scale and shared perspectives on how they were fighting the good fight around cultural enablement and diversity – things that otherwise fall between the cracks in large organizations.”

What Could You Learn from Culture Summit? Hear How Three Past Attendees Successfully Navigated Culture Changes

Orson Wells, Senior Organizational Development Specialist at The Friedkin Group

Connecting with community for The Friedkin Group

When Orson Wells, Senior Organizational Development Specialist at The Friedkin Group, attended the Culture Summit, he was struck by his fellow attendees’ commitment to culture – it was important to everyone there, no exceptions.

“Coming from a place where everyone you work with is internal to the organization, there’s always a hurdle you have to jump when proving that culture is important and can profoundly impact the company,” says Wells. “At Culture Summit, you didn’t have to prove it. From the speakers to the workshops to the attendees, you were surrounded by other people who thought culture was important and who could see how culture impacts work.”

The community and education of the Culture Summit also reinforced for Wells that he was on the right track and gave him confidence to own the culture side of his company’s subsequent rebranding.

“We recently had a branding change, but instead of just a new logo and colors, we wanted to make a change from the inside out,” Wells says. “One of the big ideas we based this on was from the Culture Summit culture mapping session, the question, ‘What does a successful person look like within the company?’ We built a campaign called, ‘Owning the Brand’ and started having discussions with managers and leaders about what we would have to do to live up to this new vision and mission statement.”

Orson continues: “Starting with this question helped us really focus on authenticity and make a real culture shift. After all, if were telling our customers were more customer friendly and easy to work with, we wanted that to be true! We want a culture where when someone calls up our employees carry the challenge all the way to the solution instead of saying, ‘’This isn’t my problem.’”

“What made this culture change real is structuring it around that question,” says Wells. “We didn’t stop at just what we need to do as a company – we looked at what we need to do differently on an individual and team level to fulfill our new vision.”

Is your organization just starting to embrace a specific culture initiative, or is significant growth on the horizon? Sign up for this year’s Culture Summit today so you can get the knowledge, resources, and connections you need to be successful!

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.
How We Culture with Helen Russell, Chief People Officer at Atlassian

How We Culture with Helen Russell, Chief People Officer at Atlassian

Are you gearing up for this year’s Culture Summit? Let us help you get in the mood by introducing you to this year’s Keynote Speaker, Helen Russell, chief people officer (CPO) of Atlassian.

Helen Russel Atlassian - Culture Summit Keynote

As CPO, Helen has global responsibility for the attraction, engagement, development, and experience of Atlassian’s most important asset – its people. She champions Atlassian’s mission: ‘to unleash the potential of every team,’ playing a critical role in enabling the company ‘to be the ultimate team.’ With a growing employee base, Helen enables Atlassian to scale, while retaining the very elements that have made the company so successful to date.

We plugged in with Helen last week to interview her about what’s on her mind, what’s new inside the Atlassian culture, and more!

Name: Helen Russell

Location: San Francisco Bay

Position: Chief People Officer at Atlassian

 

What attracted you to Atlassian? Do you think the culture is an intentional company attribute that’s the same for other employers, or something unique to you?

Definitely the values and the culture. The culture is set by the tone at the top. Our founders are authentic, straight-shooting Australians. When I came to interview with them, I felt this was a place where I could be myself. It was a heavily relational interview process where they were trying to make sure there was a personal fit first, and after that, they dug in to ensure I had the right HR skills and experience.

There are a lot of companies now with strong cultures and who put a similar emphasis on culture, so I don’t want to say we’ve mastered this, but I think it’s something we hold as extremely important and believe it to be a living, breathing thing. We have a screening process to make sure values-fit is really high.

 

What initially attracted you to the HR space?

I never considered a career in HR! I was growing up in the recruiting world and saw myself on the sales side of recruiting. At the same time, I was very focused on building relationships getting candidates to trust that I had their best interests at heart, finding them the right fit in terms of company.

I was running recruiting from Europe, and I’d shortlisted three HR leader candidates for the Head of HR role for our European business. Our CHRO was over from the US to interview the candidates and when she and I went out for dinner I asked how the interviews went – I felt good about the candidates! My heart sank when she shared that she didn’t want to hire any of them. I asked, “Why? What didn’t work for you?” and she said, “Because I want you to do it!”

What she wanted to leverage was the trust I’d built with the executive team, and that was more important than my having 10 years of HR experience behind me. She was a huge advocate for me, and pushed me outside of my comfort zone, including pulling me to the U.S. and providing me with the opportunity to assume her role when she went out on maternity leave.

 

How has that skill evolved throughout your career?

I would say the secret weapon of any recruiter is the ability to really assess a candidate’s potential and fit for the environment they’re coming into. That has proven to be hugely helpful in a talent development scenario as well.

I’m constantly looking for opportunities for people to come in and take new roles, which has benefited my team. I can just spot something in their ability that they may not even recognize in themselves, and push them to help them grow.

There’s an element of competitiveness about the role of a recruiter too, so I bring that to HR as well. I don’t want to lose! I don’t want to fall behind my peers. And there’s a level of really wanting my team to achieve and wanting the function to feel like it’s winning.

Look, it’s really difficult in this function! We don’t get recognition and awards, like, “Hey! Great job hiring that person!” As HR leaders, it’s incumbent on us to inspire and celebrate the team as a whole.

 

If you couldn’t work in the HR space, what would you be doing?

I would be in some kind of investigative role. I have this talent inherited from my mum where I have the ability to spot things other people don’t notice. I’ve just always got my radar up. So, I’d be doing something for the FBI or CIA that would allow me to leverage that ability.

 

What are you reading, online or off, that you recommend?

Atlassian was quoted in John Wood and Amalia McGibbon’s Purpose, Incorporated: Turning Cause Into Your Competitive Advantage, and I’m reading that. I’m very interested in anything about purpose and fulfillment. We spend so much time at work, and this whole “work-life balance” notion – where we used to believe they are two separate things that you try to make work in harmony – I just don’t believe they’re separate.

I grew up in a generation in which for most of my career I was one person at work, and I was a different person at home. But here, I observe in my team that they’re the same people at work and at home. I’ve been learning from my team that it’s okay to talk about family things I would otherwise only talk to friends about.

It’s as much about bettering myself as it is about learning how we can bring this more overtly to Atlassian and build that notion of belonging. How can people best show up so that they feel they truly belong in this environment?

 

How do you prefer to read/consume information?

It’s a combination. In addition to reading, I like to walk to work and listen to a lot of Audible audiobooks. I’m consuming on the journey in and home from work. It’s usually business content on the way in, and lighter stuff on the way home.

I consume most things online. I have a bookmark called “articles,” and anything interesting I drop in there. Every Friday, I calendar in time just to think and catch up – I schedule it to prevent anything else from cutting in. There’s just something about a Friday where there’s a level of calm that’s different.

 

What’s your technology of choice?

The phone is rarely picked up here – everything is video conference, in terms of communication.

I run my life on Trello. All my content from 1:1, team meetings go into Trello, and we’re even using it to develop career ladders. It’s such a simple tool. We acquired Trello last year, and we are embracing the heck out of this product. We’re also huge consumers of Confluence. It’s a major product for us that has driven a very heavy blogging culture. People will blog about anything and everything here, from living with domestic violence to being kind at work.

When we were a part of the Great Places to Work survey, the interviewers told us that our trust scores were one of the highest they’d ever seen in any company. I think that speaks to the fact that our employees can disclose things at work and feel safe doing so. Especially with the #MeToo movement strong and growing, you want to ensure that if employees sense the slightest whiff of anything, they are going to be heard, and we take it seriously.

 

What does your workspace look like?

It’s an evolving question. Our workspace is very open plan, and we have lots of collaboration spaces. As a part of my role, I also look after facilities and the workplace experience side of the house. I’ve just made an offer to someone to run that team, and the reason I got really excited about this hire is that he’s coming from the retail space.

Retail spaces are all about the customer and of course about making money, so he thinks about space in a very different way than if he was coming from the corporate world. There are a lot of great workspaces in Silicon Valley, where you say, “Wow, this feels awesome!” so I am excited about his coming in and looking at our spaces through a different lens in support of creating workspaces that will help unleash the potential of our teams.

We also want to ask the question, “And how does that look and feel for remote workers?” When you don’t have the luxury of all being in the same location – especially with the acquisition of our Trello team, where more than half our Trellists are remote – we are asking, “How do we make someone sitting in Idaho feel just as much a part of a team?”

 

How do you define culture? Do you think there is or should be a universal definition?

I define culture as the norms and behaviors expected of a person in a particular environment. Different people interpret it differently. Some people see values and culture as synonymous, but they aren’t. Culture is how you typically behave and how, when others come in and observe how that behavior manifests itself, they copy it to fit in.

 

What’s the best culture advice you’ve ever received?

My mentors would say, “culture is as culture does,” meaning that how you choose to show up every day is what’s defining the culture and setting the tone.

If I think back to my Siebel days when I had two little babies… I started to come home in the evenings, put my little ones to bed, and work in the evenings. I was often finishing email and returning calls around 10PM. But then I noticed that the majority of my team had also started to get online at 9 and 10 at night. I was inadvertently modeling that I expected that behavior. I had to sit team members down and explain that just because this was working for me at this time, it’s not what I expected from them. As leaders, we cannot underestimate the signals we send.

 

If you had to pick one culture-enhancing practice or “tactic” most companies could or should implement, what would it be?

I have to go with something we just started to do in the spirit of bringing your true self to work: at the beginning of each executive meeting, everyone has the mic for two minutes, and we each have a minute to say what’s top of mind from a personal perspective and a minute on what’s top of mind from a business perspective.

Since we started this practice, it is unbelievable what I’ve discovered about my peers. You just have no clue what’s going on in your colleague’s lives until that moment when they disclose things. It evokes a completely different level of empathy and connection. Having those moments to just situate what’s going on with colleagues enables us all to be more trusting, and to interact from a more humane and empathetic point of view.

 

If you could impart one universal understanding about company culture to every senior executive in the world, what would it be?

Every single thing you do and say contributes in some small way to your company’s culture and tone. I’m sure that knowing that would make executives check themselves ahead of responding in a certain way, being distracted looking at their phones, or other little things that feel so insignificant but have an incredible effect on the people around them.

Want to hear more from Helen? Start with her 2017 interview on 805Connect, “Building High Impact Teams,” and don’t miss her 2018 Keynote at The Culture Summit.

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.
Advanced Lessons on Driving Big Change at Large Organizations - Culture Summit

Advanced Lessons on Driving Big Change at Large Organizations

Whether subbing out a CEO, troubleshooting a culture of bias, or reorganizing to pursue a new market opportunity, every organization will face a point in its development when it needs to change. And while we all know the basics of implementing any new initiative (get buy-in, craft a plan, follow through), there are nuances to driving big change within an organization that only those who have “been there, done that” can point out.

Today, Tatyana Mamut, General Manager and Director of Product Management, Design, & Engineering at Amazon Web Services, and Ellen Leanse, author, Stanford instructor, and former Apple executive, are going to walk us through five advanced (and sometimes counterintuitive) lessons on the best way to approach large organizational change to make it stick:

 

1. Ambiguity is what makes change hard

It’s natural to assume that the bigger a change is, the harder it will be to implement, and the smaller the change is, the easier it is to implement, but that’s not true. In fact, some very large, significant changes, like a CEO succession, can be fairly straightforward because there’s so much information around the topic. Organizational change is hard or easy not based on the size of the change, but on the ambiguity of the change process.

“Companies will often send out a press release about what a big change it is to replace a CEO, but most of the time it’s not a difficult change because it comes with a very well known playbook – we know what needs to be done and how to accomplish it,” says Mamut. “What makes a change hard is when there’s no playbook for it and it’s ambiguous, uncharted territory. You don’t know if you have a full commitment from other leaders to head down the same path, and the machinery and mechanisms aren’t there to support the change.”

 

2. Small changes can actually be more difficult to implement

Even with a clear playbook for change, small changes can often be more difficult to implement than large ones because we assume we can accomplish them under the radar, without looking at the big picture. But we can’t.

“If you try to change one or two small things at a time, the immune system of an organization will respond and show up to attack the changes,” says Mamut. “Small changes fail because people don’t take the time to design the larger holistic playbook and the context into which those changes will fit. If there’s a big goal you want to achieve, you may have to change everything all at once in an orchestrated and coordinated move rather than making small changes over a period of time.”

 

3. The most powerful change is changing how people spend their time

Whatever particular change you’re planning for your organization, try to focus on what impact it will have on how people spend their time at work. Not only will that give your team a definite example of how the change will affect their work but it will make it clear that the change is a holistic one, meant to impact everything about the way they do their job.

“The number one thing that makes a difference in creating sustainable culture change in companies is when they have certain agreements or encouragements about how time is spent,” says Leanse. “The most powerful change is getting your team out of their time rut of easy work and meaningless checklist items in favor of real, deep thinking. Companies that can change that can change everything.”

 

4. You can’t “Do it right and be done”

Implementing a big change within an organization requires a lot of planning, and that planning can be painstaking work. But no matter how much effort you put into the coordination and strategy behind the plan, the rollout of change is the beginning of the work, not the end. Going through the process with an open mind and a sense of persistence will yield insights, integration, and value.

“When change isn’t easy right away, people tend to want to say, ‘I did it right, and it didn’t work, so I give up,’ and the business world tries to reinforce that kind of thinking,” says Leanse. “But when you’re implementing a really big change, you’ll never get to a point when you can say, ‘My work here is done!’ Real, lasting change is built on asking hard questions and embracing and reacting to input, even when it disagrees with yours.”

 

5. Successful change is always top down

The first step in making any culture change within an organization is to get buy-in from the leadership team, but it’s even more important when it comes to driving big change in a large organization. The board of directors down must understand and commit to the plans for change (and why there’s a need for it) in order to give the change the support it needs to be truly transformative.

“Middle managers are always looking for stories of how a small team did something big in a bottom-up way, but it’s very rare,” says Mamut. “I’ve worked with CEOs on large transformation initiatives – including the transformations at Life Technologies and Procter & Gamble – and it’s always led by the top and coordinated with the support of the board of directors.”

How can you initiate this kind of support? Focus on getting an advocate on the board of directors: “Find at least one person on board who understands the change and can guide the conversation for the entire board around it, asking questions like, ‘Will we need to change our metrics of success, including our financial metrics?’” and ‘How are we going to assess the success of the C-suite for the next 2-3 years for the investment?’” says Mamut. “This person needs to not just be on board with the plan – no pun intended – but actually drive the strategy around it.”

If you’re on the verge of driving big change within your organization, we hope these tips will help get you in the right mindset to be successful. And of course if you have any experience to share, please let us know in the comments!

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.
Mindfulness in the Workplace: The What, Why and How of Building a Mindful Culture

Mindfulness in the Workplace: The What, Why and How of Building a Mindful Culture

Your employees are busy, but nothing is getting done.

Your team is working hard, but projects fall behind.

Everyone’s inboxes are abuzz with activity, but decisions don’t get made.

Individual members of your team are talented and hardworking, but as a whole, the team is not as productive as it could be.

…. Does any of that sound familiar?

We live in a distracted age. Phones buzz, watches tweet, and even the commute to work has dissolved into an endless array of options: radio? Streaming? Podcast? Sirius XM? There is a constant influx of information battling for your employee’s attention, a constant risk of distraction not just pulling them away from the work at hand but draining their mental energy and leaving them unable to perform at the level they’re capable of.

So, as a leader within your organization looking to protect your team’s ability to consistently do good work, what can you do?

The answer many high-performing companies are turning to is mindfulness.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness in the workplace is not just an excuse to splurge on branded yoga mats for the office (after all, not everyone’s flexible enough for One-Handed Tree Pose!). Rather than a specific physical practice like yoga or meditation, mindfulness is an approach to work and time that respects the mind’s ability (and need) to concentrate on one task at a time and an approach to work that leaves room to reflect on the implications of our actions and decisions.

The technical definition of mindfulness is an awareness of yourself and your surroundings in the present moment. In practice, mindfulness in the workplace is …

  • Thinking through an email before you send it so that you provide all the details the recipient needs the first time
  • Focusing on the customer’s needs and making sure you’ve met those needs before ending an interaction
  • Releasing a product that represents the best of your team’s abilities, not the result of frenzied multitasking
  • Making decisions that reflect your company’s values instead of decisions that solve the short-term problem as quickly as possible
  • Being intentional about how you communicate and how you spend your time

What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace?

There’s a reason that industry-leading companies like McKinsey & Company, Procter & Gamble, and Apple implement mindfulness programs for their employees: it’s been proven to deliver significant and long-lasting benefits in three areas that are critical to maintaining high levels of creativity and productivity: focus, attention, and behavior.

Focus

The ability to focus is really an ability to avoid distraction. By practicing mindfulness techniques, employees increase gray matter in the brain, thus increasing density in the areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory. As a result, they can maintain higher levels of attentiveness and concentration and spend more time on a given thought, project, or task, than usual.

Attention

Mindfulness stabilizes attention in the present and helps employees pay attention to visual and audio information longer. In particular, mindfulness has been shown to improve the “three qualities of attention”: control, stability, and efficiency. As a result, instead of allowing our minds to wander for approximately half of our waking hours, we gain back control over that time, and we can put it to good use.

Behavior

Mindfulness techniques have been shown to enhance the function of parts of the brain and result in superior performance in self-regulation, learning from past experiences, and decision-making. In one report, 80% of senior executives at General Mills who took a company-sponsored mindfulness course reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions and 89% said they became better listeners.

Mindfulness has also been shown to have a positive impact on resilience, collaboration, and complex leadership ability. Click here to read more.

How to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Culture

If you’re reading the Culture Summit blog and getting your plans in place to attend this year’s Culture Summit, we don’t need to tell you that you can’t just throw mindfulness into a mission statement and assume it’s a part of your culture. Like any other culture attribute, mindfulness is something that your organization needs to embrace on a deep level so that your processes and policies grow out of it.

If you want to build a more mindful company culture, plan ways you can exemplify and incorporate mindfulness into leadership decisions, company-wide processes and policies, and reinforcement opportunities. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Encourage employees to take mindfulness breaks throughout the day, whether structured (meditation, yoga, etc.) or unstructured (looking out the window, closing your eyes, etc.). Be sure to ask managers and members of the leadership team to model these breaks and share insightful thoughts or surprising benefits with the rest of the team.
  • Invite employees to turn off notifications for email and texts and instead check computers and communication tools at appointed times. (But make sure such a schedule is appropriate for your industry and your team’s job requirements – this would not be appropriate in a newsroom or marketing agency in which quick responses and approvals are critical).
  • Provide as much context as possible for leadership decisions and process and policy changes. “Because we said so,” and “Because it’s always been done this way” are not mindful policies.
  • Explain what impact the leadership team hopes each decision will have on the future to show that decisions are made in a thoughtful and deliberate way.
  • Incorporate brainstorming and thinking time into the creation of policies by setting a time limit for implementation, such as, “New policies will be approved five days after a draft of the policy has been agreed upon.” (The trade-off, of course, is that this will slow down decision-making, so it may conflict with other values such as being agile).
  • Ask managers to provide positive feedback and awards to employees who display qualities of mindfulness in their everyday work, such as setting aside time for brainstorming or provide well thought-out context to decisions.

Do you see a need for mindfulness within your workplace, or have you put in the effort to incorporate mindfulness into your company culture? Tell us in the comments!

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.
What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture to 1000 Employees

What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture to 1000 Employees

Welcome to part three of the scaling company culture series! Don’t miss part one, “What Your Company Culture Needs at 10, 100 and 1,000 Employees,” or part two, “We Just Added Our 100th Employee… Here’s What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture.”

Whether your company is already growing at breakneck speed or you’re sure you’re on the verge of something big, one of the first things you need to start reading up on is scaling company culture.

After all, there’s a reason your company is doing well: it’s got a certain something that’s making your team and your customers flourish, and you want to make sure you don’t break whatever’s working when you multiply tenfold.

So, why not ask people who have already done it?

This is by no means a comprehensive how-to for scaling culture to 1000 and more, but we think these are three lessons worth learning from HR leaders and executives who have been there, done that:

Lesson #1: Former BlackRock Exec Says Put Your Ear to the Ground

Charting a course for company culture past 1000 employees often starts with a map of where the leadership team wants to go. There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting your values straight (in fact, that’s #1 on our list of how to scale culture), but the planning process shouldn’t be exclusively high-level leadership oriented; it should also take into account what attracted your employees to the organization in the first place.

“I start by talking to all levels of employees about what makes the company unique from their perspective and their ideas about possible improvements for the future. Then I take time to compare and reconcile the differences and opportunities amongst levels and departments,” says David Dalka, keynote speaker and Managing Director of Fearless Revival, who led numerous critical project teams that redefined industry business models at BlackRock during its 80 to 800 employee growth phase. “That feedback analyzed empirically, allows everyone to figure out which items you should attempt to scale.”

“One of the cultural values that surfaced during the early days of BlackRock was our team’s ability to incrementally innovate to create a dramatically different process from what everyone else was doing,” continues Dalka. “We were challenged to destroy the jobs we had to build new ones that contained higher and higher value work that created better outcomes for all stakeholders. You can only do that in a company that empowers its employees and sees an abundance of opportunity, not scarcity.”

Lesson #2: Lyft Says Nurture Cross-Departmental Partnerships In the Recruiting Process

Ready to be impressed? Since 2014, the San Francisco-based transportation company Lyft has scaled from 80 to 2,000 employees. The company hired 1,230 new employees in 2016 and is set to exceed that number in 2017…. all while maintaining an excellent 4.0 overall employer rating on Glassdoor.

There isn’t necessarily one secret to maintaining culture, retention, and candidate quality and satisfaction while growing so quickly. But among many great ideas like moving from “culture fit” to “values fit” to speed up the hiring process and building authentic community connections, we want to highlight the team’s focus on nurturing cross-departmental partnerships throughout the recruitment process.

Scaling Culture During Hypergrowth: The Lyft Story

Image captured from “Nailing Culture During Hypergrowth: The Lyft Story,” presented by Lever and Teammable. Click here to view the entire webinar.

“When some companies think about underrepresentation, they often set broad, company-wide diversity goals,” says Tariq Meyers, Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Lyft. “But what ends up happening if you don’t take a departmental approach is that you’re not really able to figure out what perspectives are missing by level, team, and organization. So, when I’m working with department heads, I often invite the talent acquisition leadership, recruiters, sourcers, and coordinators to join me with my team, department heads and business partners along with hiring managers in the interview loop to get in a room and ask, ‘What perspectives are missing in your room?’”

Lesson #3: Former Exxon Mobil Exec Says Don’t Forget the Follow Through

When Millie Bradley, retired Exxon Mobil exec, was scaling 200 different company cultures with 100,000 employees, the key was the follow through. Bradley was surprised to find that the culture and implementation of culture needed to be renewed over time. So right at the top of her list with clear global policies, management buy-in, and extensive training comes stewardship and monitoring.

When Millie Bradley, retired ExxonMobil exec, was scaling the company culture across 200 countries and 100,000 employees, she realized that long-term success takes follow through. Bradley realized that the implementation of culture needed to be continuously reinforced to be sustainable. So right at the top of her list of advice — along with clear global policies, management participation, and extensive training — comes stewardship and monitoring.

“Operating management is ultimately responsible for a culture of integrity and ethics, so ownership of all violations of policy, annual stewardship to senior management of organizational culture, and face-to-face participation in the training of employees is critical to sustainability,” writes Bradley. “Making stewardship of ethics a management stewardship item, along with operating excellence and financial performance, sends a clear message to the organization about the importance of culture and values.”

Are you in the process of scaling company culture past 1000? Let us know in the comments what you would add to this list!

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.
We Just Added Our 100th Employee… Here’s What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture

What We’ve Learned About Scaling Culture to 100 Employees

In the first article in this series, “What Your Company Culture Needs at 10, 100 and 1,000 Employees,” we took a practical look at the components that need to be in place as your company grows and reaches those milestones.

But what does it take to actually make the move from 10 to 100 employees? What challenges do organizations typically face, and how does scaling culture overcome them?

Today, we’re going to hear what our Culture Warrior community has to say about scaling culture. If you’re setting out to scale a company culture to 100 employees or your current culture isn’t scaling well, here’s what our experts think you should do:

Lesson #1: Identify what’s going wrong with your culture

People add complexity, so it’s natural that your processes and structures will grow as your roster does. But when those processes and structures have a negative impact on your company culture – when they take away from the natural give and take of your community as it works through challenges – it’s time to bring the focus back to company culture.

Here are several examples of the challenges our Culture Warrior’s organizations were facing that made it clear that scaling company culture was the solution:

  • Poor morale and high turnover
  • Lack of company direction and very green leadership team
  • Lack of accountability to goals
  • Not enough infrastructure to support growth (or to support remote growth)
  • Loss of intimacy because growing required the addition of more structured systems
  • Fear of losing control on the part of the older leaders and clinging on to old ways as part of the “old guard”
  • Fast growth and increased diversity leading team members to feel that they did not know each other well
  • Cliques forming and competing for influence

If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, there’s a strong chance that what’s ailing your organization is culture-related and can be improved with intentional effort.

Lesson #2: Focus on one thing at a time

High-performing (and fast-growing) companies like Zappos, Google, and Apple know the truth about company culture: you can’t do more than one or two big things at a time. That’s why we weren’t surprised by our expert’s second lesson for scaling culture: you need to focus on one thing at a time and grow buy-in among your team members by moving from one small victory to another.

“Introducing one new idea at a time allowed everyone to experience the benefits,” writes Dada Nabhaniilananda, Head Instructor at The Monk Dude, LLC. “The group adopted some new ideas so completely that now they think it was their idea!”

Focusing on one or two big changes also has the benefit of limiting the amount of confusion your employees experience, leading to better implementation. Or, as another contributor mentioned, “Once you have a structure to follow for meetings or a roadmap that you’ve communicated effectively, people just ‘get it’ better.”

Lesson #3: Scale company culture with the three Cs

Our contributing Culture Champs were very clear that the key to achieving successful culture change at scale lies in three important words: clarity, commitment, and communication:

Clarity

Successfully scaling company culture requires that you know what you’re changing and why before you bring it to your leadership or employees. If you don’t have complete clarity around where you’re going and why, your efforts won’t get you very far.

One human resources professional shared the steps he took to make sure there was clarity around the culture:

We created a company playbook so everyone knows who we are, how we work, how we will succeed as a company, our core values, etc.

 

We also aligned all core values and job-specific key goals to a new performance management process and created a company interdepartmental operations manual so everyone knows the rules to follow for certain internal procedures.

 

This improved clarity and communication across the organization lead to shorter weekly stand-ups for the entire company that were more effective and fun.

It will also help you gain consensus around what’s changing and what’s not. For example, Justyna Krzych, current Change Manager at Zalando who scaled in her previous role as Head of People & Culture at Mindvalley writes that, “we revisited our values to ensure we’re inclusive of all perspectives and realized that our values remain the same.”

Through this communication exercise, she discovered something very helpful: “There were new points to incorporate, but fundamentally, in all our diversity, we were still unified by the values that were there since the beginning. We’re diverse, but fundamentals unite us.”

Commitment

It’s also critical to gain the support of the higher-ups. Without an official pledge from senior leadership, your efforts won’t have the gravitas they need.

“Get commitment from C-level players to support the change,” writes Ron Branch, HR Director at Kellogg. “A lack of buy-in from management and employees can lead to negative surprises.”

Nabhaniilananda adds to the importance of commitment: “Spend time, especially with the leaders, explaining the benefits to them of scaling the culture and inviting their input and listening to them,” she writes. “Don’t be too hasty to move forward without getting buy-in from anyone who might feel threatened by growth.”

Communication

The final piece of the puzzle in successfully scaling culture is to make communication a priority. Even with a clear mission and committed support from leadership, your employees can’t move forward with your plans if they don’t know what they’re supposed to do.

“Listen with an open mind and don’t assume that “everyone knows,’” writes Krzych. “Once you engage in the conversation, you can really understand and incorporate different perspectives to make your company more than just a workplace.”

Part of that communication process for Nabhaniilananda was introducing a specific process for encouraging communication between veteran employees and new employees:

“Some long-term employees seemed to be threatened by the idea of our organization growing and engaged in unconscious sabotage to try to prevent that growth,” she writes. “We introduced a system of mentorship so that the older, more experienced leaders coached the rising younger leaders, got to know and trust them, and felt that their knowledge and experience was appreciated.”

We’re so impressed with the extensive knowledge our contributors brought to this discussion on scaling culture. So, we have to ask:

What can you add on these thoughts on scaling culture?

Sarah is a HR and HR marketing and technology writer who analyzes and condenses cutting-edge research and data to help leaders and HR professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and business performance. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.

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