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.

Turning Insights Into Action: What One Culture Advocate Learned From Culture Summit

Turning Insights Into Action: What One Culture Advocate Learned From Culture Summit

Alicia Case began her advertising career as a copywriter on the client-facing creative side, working on branding, ad concepts and creative for large health and wellness brands including Procter & Gamble Global Oral Care and Pfizer Women’s Health. Over time, it became more and more clear that she wanted to help spread her team’s thriving team culture to the rest of the organization.

Case began to wonder, “How do we establish an ownable, differentiating culture across our the entire organization that makes people want to stay working here and attract outsiders to come here?”

With that question, Case cultivated a cultural overhaul to the entire agency setting the path directed to an employee-facing role that now made her “client” the agency she worked for. After more than a year of developing this robust culture program and showing positive results from annual surveys and increased employee satisfaction, Case proposed a new role and officially shifted her career path. She moved from the creative side to a role focused on a wider set of employee culture variables including internal communications, social media, events, recruiting, reward and recognition opportunities, and more.

Throughout all this change and growth, Case has used her background in creative advertising to think about building culture the same way you would build a good brand, and attending Culture Summit for the past two years has been an important milestone in Case’s development as a culture and employee experience professional. Each year has featured keynotes, speakers, and presentations that helped her shape her understanding of culture and build an intentional employee experience at Publicis Health.

“Our agencies want to emulate many of the characteristics of Facebook, Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, Spotify, etc.,” says Case. “And for me, it’s important to not just understand what they do outside of their organizations but also on the inside.”

“What are they doing to create cultures and employee experiences that get their people to put out the caliber of work that we admire and recognize as best in class?” Case continues. “How are they building an employee experience that’s directly linked to the company ROI? That’s why it’s imperative to attend conferences like Culture Summit because you get to go under the hood of companies you may not otherwise get to hear from.”

Here are some of the most important Culture Summit takeaways she’s collected over the years:

Turning Insights Into Action: What One Culture Advocate Learned From Culture SummitPhoto Credit: Cathryn Lynne Photo

1. Culture is a combination of micro and macro experiences

From the application and interview process to onboarding, training, and working on day-to-day tasks, the employee experience is made up of a number of different large and small employee experiences. When you look at how your organization builds its culture, consider high-level macro, big things you do that affect the entire organization as well as the small micro-level individualized factors. Which brings us to the first point Case would like to emphasize: culture is not some distant concept developed by the higher-ups like a product to be passed down. It’s every single micro and macro interaction a company has with its employees…

  • It’s our competitive advantage for recruitment and retention
  • It’s why we want to work here and also stay working here
  • It’s what can drive engagement, which increases output and makes our clients happier as a result because more engaged people means a higher quality of work, which means happier clients, which means more money back into the business

Micro experiences look at what individual things are happening at a granular level for each employee, like learning and development, career mobility and development, rewards and recognition, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and thought leadership opportunities. Macro experiences include the things that impact every single employee at large, like the company mission, brand values, processes, benefits, physical space, technology and tools, communications, etc. A successful culture will intentionally establish and adjust both macro and micro experiences to the needs of its people. A culture that can be responsive to its people’s needs will thrive.

Key Takeaway: Give more personalized gifts instead of giving everyone the same gift card or spot bonus. If you know a team member loves music or they’re a foodie, why not give them a pair of concert tickets or a dinner at a Michelin Star rated restaurant? Those small details make the person feel like the organization “gets” them. It’s building on a total rewards philosophy and moving away from the thinking the same things work for everyone.

Turning Insights Into Action: What One Culture Advocate Learned From Culture Summit

Case (center) speaking on the “Power of Business Resource Groups” panel at Saatchi & Saatchi. Image Source: Kipp Jarecke-Cheng

 

2. If you want to emulate the pros, learn from them

According to Case, one of the best parts of the Culture Summit was learning from relevant, best-in-class brands like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn. Many legacy companies that have been around for decades or over a century are looking to change their business models to meet today’s business demands, many of which are being driven by these tech titans. These company’s outputs are a reflection of what’s happening inside and the culture and talent that’s there, it offers a great learning opportunity for brands that want to achieve that kind of success on their own. Or a minimum, understand how they’ve created a culture that is writing the playbook on today vs chasing to keep up.

“One of the most memorable panels was one about diversity and inclusion, but how Airbnb put the emphasis on belonging versus inclusion was the real differentiator,” says Case. “When you’re a visitor staying in a host’s home on Airbnb, you want to feel like you belong there. It’s totally different from a hotel. Staying in someone’s home you truly need to create a sense of belonging. That the people hosting want you there, they make you feel at home, they make you feel comfortable with the city you’re visiting, you feel like a local vs just a tourist.”

“That’s what Airbnb wants to create and to bring this same notion of belonging into how they view inclusion feels so on brand,” continues Case. “They want people to feel like they are truly at home at Airbnb and are connected and really part of the neighborhood. I loved how that nuance came to life not just in what they are doing externally, but internally as well.”

Key Takeaway: So many companies get lost in thinking about what they want to be versus analyzing what they fundamentally already are. Case noted that the Facebook speakers have made excellent points that when you choose a value, you have to think about what you also give up since a value comes at a cost. If you value one thing, there’s something that you don’t value because it’s not possible to value everything: You can’t say you’re funny but also be serious. You can’t say you’re type-A but also be OK with failure. They aren’t mutually exclusive.  

Turning Insights Into Action: What One Culture Advocate Learned From Culture Summit

Case (far right) attending the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Philadelphia with the LGBTQ business resource group she co-chairs. Photo Credit: Kipp Jarecke-Cheng

 

3. Culture needs to be original – not duplicated and not lip service

Another important speaker takeaway for Case was that you can’t say you believe in diversity and inclusion and not have your staff speak truth on its own or not have programs and initiatives that actually help move the needle. The speakers really modeled what they preached and didn’t just make it words. Speakers don’t just tell you they believe in something, they show you how the brand puts those values into practice.

One way Case’s company is following through on this takeaway is to adopt a philosophy to only use real photos from real events – not stock photos or pure type that anyone could use – for the work that their communications department creates. They know it’s important to show their people volunteering their time painting local high schools, dancing in drag pageants, speaking on panels, or leading a workshop to reinforce who we are and what we stand for.

Amir Diwane performing as Addy Rall in the Publicis Égalité Employee Charity Drag Pageant that Case organizes each year for PRIDE. Photo Credit: Kipp Jarecke-Cheng

Here are a few examples of year-round or ongoing culture initiatives at Publicis:

  • To improve presentation skills, one of the agencies selected employees for an offsite “Art of Improv” training. Employees were invited to an offsite event space with stimulating art and colors for a sensory experience in which they worked with an improv company to learn how to think on their feet and be able to change directions quickly if something happens in a presentation.

Agency members participate in an interaction workshop to learn improv techniques that they can apply to their presentation skills. Photo Credit: Alicia Case

  • When a team came back from SXSW, they put on a pop-up experience for those in the office who couldn’t attend. To mimic almost frenetic energy of SXSW, attendees needed to make decisions about which sessions to attend happening simultaneously. Additionally, large-scale keynotes were being held in large cafe space while other speakers were presenting in the other conference rooms. At the close of the learning session, there was had a big party with food trucks and a live band to create the same experience as if everyone had been able to head down to Austin, TX.

Agency attendees sit in the cafe and listen to the live band during the SXSW-inspired pop up. Photo Credit: Alicia Case

  • For Women’s History Month, employees were asked to nominate a woman in the organization who they thought rocked through Publicis Health’s #WMNLDRSRCK campaign. Nominated women from across the organization were featured on social channels, creating a positive social media footprint with just a bit of coordination and branding work.

Case featured in the WMNLDRSRCK campaign. Photo Credit: Kipp Jarecke-Cheng

Key Takeaway: If you’re doing it right, your company culture will not look like any other company’s culture. Your values, events, and initiatives will be unique and customized to the people who work there. Anything less runs the risk of feeling like lip service to employees who are hungry for a unique company culture that represents who they really are and what they really do.  

How could Culture Summit inspire you to influence your company culture and be an agent for change? Find out by attending 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.

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

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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

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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

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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.

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.