Culture Summit 2018 Recap: Culture Isn’t an HR Priority, It’s an Everyone Priority

Culture Summit 2018 Recap: Culture Isn’t an HR Priority, It’s an Everyone Priority

The 4th annual Culture Summit took place July 10-12, 2018, bringing more than 500 culture champions together to talk about how we can bring more humanity into the workplace, ask questions from experts who have been-there-done-that, and connect 1:1 to build communities where that have an even bigger impact.

We can’t share the delicious food through the blog, but we can give you a look at key ideas and takeaways from attendee’s favorite keynotes each day:

Culture Summit Day One

“Unleashing the Power in Every Team” with Atlassian’s Helen Russell

Helen Russell, Chief People Officer at Atlassian, kicked off the conference with a powerful keynote about the role recruiting and hiring plays in building culture – in building a culture that leads to business success, in particular. As a part of the Atlassian team, Russell has studied and worked with hundreds of different kinds of teams over the years and shared a few points about what companies can do to acknowledge big transition points – which for Atlassian was going public and scaling to 2000 – while staying true to core values at the team level.

HelenRussell-Atlassian-CultureSummit

“Building Culture Across Remote Teams” with Julian Lute, Sarah Elizabeth Graham, Katie Womersley, and Shane Metcalf

In the afternoon panel discussion, “Building Culture Across Remote Teams,” Julian Lute from Great Place to Work facilitated a discussion with Twitter’s Sarah Elizabeth Graham, Buffer’s Katie Womersley, and 15Five’s Shane Metcalf. Panelists shared real-life examples of how they encourage a sense of belonging among new remote employees (Buffer), how they communicate and monitor expectations (15Five), and how they work to create balance between remote teams and on-side or headquartered teams (Twitter).

RemoteCulture-TwitterPinterest15Five-CultureSummit

“Leadership in 2018: How Managers Can Lead Inclusively in Times of Volatility” with Awaken’s Michelle Kim

Michelle Kim, Co-Founder and CEO of Awaken, tackled the challenging topic of how managers and executives can lead inclusively in politically volatile times, sharing real-life examples of how leaders can create spaces for awkward conversations that actually build culture rather than suppress it. Kim focused on the important role managers play in building culture – after all, 70% of variance in employee engagement scores is due to managers and 93% of employees say trust in their direct boss is essential to staying satisfied at work and doing their best work – and what companies can do to prepare managers to model inclusive behaviors and encourage belonging within your company culture.

MichelleKim-Awaken-CultureSummit

Day One also featured practical keynotes from the following speakers:

  • Rajesh Subramaniam with FedEx spoke to how company culture can bring unity from diversity
  • Christina Kosmowski with Slack showed us how to design an employee experience using customer experience best practices
  • Carrie Staller with The Go Game explained the importance of psychological safety at work and how prioritizing playfulness and structured team games can create space for a healthy culture to grow
  • Robin Zander kicking off an experimental new Culture Summit session, “The Fishbowl,” in which attendees volunteered to step up on the stage and share their hard-won advice from the field

Culture Summit Day Two

“Culture in Everything You Do” with Pinterest’s Cat Lee

Day Two kicked off with a compelling keynote from Cat Lee, Head of Culture at Pinterest, who spoke to the importance of weaving culture into absolutely everything your company does – from the very first interview to company-wide traditions to the last day of work. Lee shared several steps leadership teams can take to help employees take ownership over core values and build the habit of using those values to make every decision. In particular, Lee focused on the importance of using culture as a guide for who joins the company, how they contribute while they’re there, and the understanding of culture they’ll take with them to new opportunities when they leave.
CatLee-Pinterest-CultureSummit

“The Importance of Rituals & How it Reinforces Company Culture” with Warby Parker’s Susan Lee

Later in the morning, Susan Lee, the VP of People at Warby Parker, explored how even the smallest, simplest traditions can be powerful opportunities to build culture if they’re based on core values. Lee also walked us through how Warby Parker builds rituals that build culture, but emphasized that it’s not the ritual that’s precious – it’s the intention behind the ritual and the cultural impact of the ritual. While some rituals stick with you while your company grows, others will come and go as your company expresses its values in new situations.
SusanLee-WarbyParker-CultureSummit

“Creating Real-Time Employee Engagement Without Spending a Dime” with Zen Workplace’s Karlyn Borysenko

Karlyn Borysenko, Owner and Principal at Zen Workplace, took to the stage to close out the Culture Summit by sharing practical tips for improving employee engagement without the pressure to bring in time-consuming engagement events or expensive consultants. After detailing the benefits of highly engaged employees – such as increased productivity and retention and decreased turnover – she walked attendees through the basics of how the brain works and simple psychological shifts that leaders and managers can make to help employees have a more engaging day-to-day experience, grow healthy relationships, and feel psychologically safe at work.
KarlynBorysenko-ZenWorkplace-CultureSummit

Day Two also brought us the following actionable keynotes:

  • Jack Altman facilitated a discussion with Reddit’s Katelin Holloway, Monsanto’s Melanie Moore, and Atrium’s Justin Kan on the ways in which they’ve seen investments in company culture deliver a measurable ROI
  • Aaron Kahlow shared how we can encourage mindfulness, or moment to moment awareness without judgement, in the workplace and how it benefits company culture
  • Carrie Staller and Kelly Rogala with The Go Game hosted a networking game that brought attendees together in small groups to share individual experiences and challenges
  • Twilio’s LaFawn Davis and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Maurice Wilkins hosted a Fireside Chat to explore diversity fatigue and how companies can remove barriers to opportunities and access in the workplace today
  • Josh Lavra from IDEO shared case studies for six culture behaviors that allow teams to thrive creatively

 

If you weren’t able to join us this year, we hope to see you next year! And if you were, we’d love to hear about your favorite Culture Summit moment in the comments below.

Want to keep reading? Check out these powerful attendee recaps:

How to Integrate Your Company Mission Into Your Culture by Cristina Ashbaugh

At Culture Summit, anyone can be a change agent: key takeaways from a culture conference by Sam Trieu

Dagger Goes West: Learnings From Culture Summit 2018 by Rachelle Knowles

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.

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.

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.