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October 6-8, 2024 • San Diego, CA

Tag: culture

Mastering the Art of Constructive Feedback

Giving feedback to our team members can be awkward and uncomfortable.

We’re afraid this feedback will damage our relationship with them. And these feelings are valid–our brains view criticism as a threat to our survival. 

When someone asks to give us feedback, our amygdala fires up and we go into fight or flight mode. Feedback attacks our feelings of stability and comfort. 

But at the same time, we need feedback to grow into our best selves.

Feedback gives people the opportunity to be better team members, partners, and human beings.

When delivered well, feedback can actually strengthen your relationships.

So if we know feedback is tough but essential, how do we give feedback in a healthy way?

Meet Shaun Sperling, a facilitator and coach who helps organizations feel more connected to each other. Shaun sees two big mistakes people make when giving feedback

  1. They don’t prepare what they plan to say and
  2. They blurt out whatever comes up

But when people don’t prepare feedback well, there’s a higher chance that their feedback won’t land well. And this will damage the relationship.

Shaun has a simple yet brilliant framework on how to easily prepare your feedback. Let’s dive into his philosophy around feedback first. Then we’ll share his FAIR framework that will prepare you for your next important conversation.

FAIR Framework

Feedback is not about criticizing. Feedback is about aligning with the other person’s interests.

Before you give feedback, ask yourself:

  • Why are you giving this feedback?
  • What do you care about?
  • What’s in it for them?

Team members want to develop into the best version of themselves. Good managers want to contribute to their team member’s professional goals.

So when a manager gives feedback to their team members, they are helping them grow. And if they grow, their work is better which aligns with the company’s goals.

Everyone wins.

So how do you prepare for conversations like these? The FAIR framework has three parts.

#1 – Facts

Let’s imagine that Manager Sally noticed Employee Tim had sent poorly written emails to important clients X and Y.

These messages had spelling mistakes and an unprofessional tone.

It’s not enough to tell Tim, “Your emails are really bad…”

Which emails?

The ones he sends to the team? The messages that you two exchange together? And how do you define “bad”?

Sally needs to gather all the data that she sees and be crystal clear of what’s wrong. A good way to think of this is, “What can be proven in court?”

Do you have hard evidence that can support your claims?

In this case, Sally can specify that the last 5 emails that Tim has sent to clients X and Y have had Z combined mistakes.

#2 – Impact

Next, Sally needs to ask herself: what’s the impact of the thing she’s giving feedback on?

Potential ways this impacts the company:

  • Clients think that the company’s service/product will also be sloppy and rushed.
  • Clients feel they’re not important enough to be assigned a more senior team member
  • Client doesn’t trust that Tim is the right person for the job and decide not to renew

It could be any number of reasons. Sally must choose a message that’s relevant to her organization.

#3 – Request

Lastly, Sally can brainstorm a couple of options that can help fix this behavior.

Maybe she can proofread their emails to external stakeholders before Tim sends them. Or take some work off of Tim’s plate to give him more time to write these emails. Or enroll them in a grammar class.

She can have these ideas prepared before starting the conversation.

How to Have the Conversation

Now that you’ve prepared for the conversation, there’s a better chance the other person will hear your feedback.

During your next 1:1, open the dialogue to address the issue and get a sense of where the other person is.

Manager Sally: Hey Tim, I want to talk to you about the last three emails you’ve sent to X client. I’ve noticed some grammatical errors, and the emails feel a little messy. Have you noticed that?

Tim might respond that he has noticed this and take full responsibility for these mistakes. Or he might say how he had no idea that was the case.

Either way, start the conversation with a curious question instead of an interrogation. This will make Tim feel less defensive and be more open to engage in dialogue.

Other questions to open the dialogue:

  • “How’s your workload right now?” – This question lets you see if they’re overworked.
  • “How have you been feeling lately?” – This question sees if outside factors may have been affecting their performance recently.
  • “What do you think you’re doing well at your job right now? And where do you think you could use more support?” – This question sees how self-aware they are of strengths and weaknesses. 

Let’s continue the conversation as if Employee Tim was unaware of his behaviors.

Employee Tim: Oh no, I haven’t noticed…

Manager Sally: That’s okay. We’re all moving pretty quickly these days. But I’m curious what are your thoughts on the last couple of emails that you’ve sent to X client?

Employee Tim: I’ve never thought about it, but I guess they kind of look unprofessional…

Manager Sally: I agree. Sending messages like these can come across like we don’t care about the quality of our work. What do you think we can do differently to change this? How can I support you with this?

Tim should understand the impact of this behavior and get on board to fix it. Sally did a great job ending on a supportive note.

We always want to reaffirm your role with the other person. Stress that you are on their team and you want the very best for their success.

Manager Sally: Hey, I know this is a challenging conversation and I just want you to know that I am in your court. So whatever you need from me, I’m here to support you 100%.

To wrap things up

We give feedback to better align ourselves with the other person. It’s about getting closer to the other person, not further from them.

So don’t think about feedback as criticizing their behavior. It’s seeing an opportunity for them to grow into a better version of themselves. And when you have the right intentions, giving feedback can feel like a gift.

Never give feedback without a plan. Use the FAIR framework to prepare. When you have the conversation, open the dialogue with curious questions. This helps you better understand where they’re at before jumping to conclusions.

Ignite Your Sparkle: An Exclusive Interview with Charley Lapomardo 

Welcome to our latest Speaker Spotlight Blog!  

In this edition, we are thrilled to introduce Charley Lapomardo, affectionately known as “Sparkle.” As an Experience Facilitator, Charley is dedicated to helping professionals excel in their roles by fostering an environment where creativity and authentic expression thrive.  

Join us as we delve into Charley’s journey, their passion for workplace culture, and what you can expect from their highly anticipated session at Culture Summit 2024. 


Q: Could you introduce yourself briefly and share your prominent role within the Culture space? 

A: I am Charley Lapomardo (aka Sparkle), an Experience Facilitator helping professionals be and work their best. I am active in thriving culture-focused communities, including Culture Summit, Culture First San Diego, Covve’s Connection Crew, and Lesbians Who Tech.

Q: What initially sparked your passion for the HR/Culture/People domain, and how has it evolved throughout your career? 

A: I’ve always been a connector, helping people feel safe to express themselves authentically, knowing they belong. As a user researcher at Wayfair, I learned that HR and employee experiences are often neglected in relation to customer experiences. 

 Driven by the desire to make a positive impact on the lives of my coworkers (our captive users), I became an expert student of workplace dynamics, large-scale enterprise systems, and the nature of leadership and power. Frustrated by the indirect influence of the research role, I shifted into an active embedded culture-building role. I created community gathering spaces, memorable group experiences, and process efficiencies to help my team work better.  

Now, through my workshop company, Sparkleworks, I focus solely on collaborative creative problem-solving. 

Q: Can you recount the most valuable piece of work or culture-related advice you’ve received in your journey? 

A: “What makes us special makes us strong.” Sure, that’s from Shrek the Musical and not a mentor, but it’s valuable nonetheless! 

Q: We would like to delve into the session you’ll be presenting at this year’s Culture Summit. What motivated you to choose this particular topic? 

A: Sparkling is my nature, and my purpose is to bear witness to the transformative power of that energy. The Applied Sparkle Workshop: Transforming from Stuck to Energized is among the tools I’ve developed which apply sparkle as a creative catalyst to break down ambiguous problems and generate solutions. I share these insights and resources abundantly, because it is life-giving to see people light up, inspired to take grounded action to build their best life. 

Q: If you had to highlight one compelling reason why attendees shouldn’t miss your session, what would it be? 

A: If you’re sick of soul-sucking meetings and mandatory team-building events, don’t miss this opportunity to unblock your creative energy and get a new perspective on complex problems

Q: Finally, what aspects of the Culture Summit in San Diego 2024 are you personally looking forward to the most? 

A: Creating new memories with existing and new kindred spirit connections in the Culture Summit community. 


Don’t miss Charley Lapomardo’s Applied Sparkle Workshop at Culture Summit 2024.  

This session promises to be a transformative experience, helping you have renewed energy and motivation to ‘Sparkle’ when faced with work challenges! 

Learn more about Charley by visiting their profile on the Culture Summit Website. 

Human-Centric Design in Hybrid Workspaces: An Interview with GoFundMe’s Giana Rodriguez 

As Culture Summit 2024 approaches, we were thrilled to sit down with Giana Rodriguez, Sr. Manager of Workplace & Employee Experience at GoFundMe. Giana brings deep expertise in creating engaging employee experiences that build vibrant workplace cultures. We caught up with her and delved into her approach to managing employee experience in hybrid environments. 


Q1: Can you share what ignited your passion for HR and how it has evolved? 

“I have always had a passion for employee relationships and people strategy. I began developing people programs early in my career in the education and volunteerism space and have always taken an interest in ensuring strong cultures within the organization.” 

Q2: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding workplace culture? 

“The work is about empowering others to succeed, which reflects your success. Once I realized that it was ok that my passion didn’t reside in one field, product, or mission, but was about helping the people doing the work, I felt liberated to follow that passion.” 

Q3: What motivated you to focus on ’employee experience design in a hybrid workplace’ for your session at this year’s summit? 

“Working environments look different from company to company and it can be difficult to find the ‘perfect’ Employee Experience happiness solution. My session is about anchoring Employee Experience work in a foundation that allows for flexibility and creativity while still tracking data and providing space for reflection and forward thinking. It challenges the idea that there is a ‘perfect’ solution, but rather a framework that focuses on meeting people where they are at and addressing their humanity first.” 

Q4: Why should attendees not miss your session at Culture Summit? 

The Workplace & Employee Experience model I will be highlighting can be used for any type of company, employee/volunteer demographic, and with any budget. The session is centered around building programs that are human-centered, easy to communicate value to employees and leadership, scalable, and flexible.” 

Q5: What aspects of the upcoming Culture Summit are you most looking forward to? 

“Connecting and chatting with all of the amazing people who are dedicated to such important work. I always learn new things when I meet people doing the same work and feel a part of something greater.” 


Giana Rodriguez’s insights into employee experience design are invaluable for anyone navigating the complexities of hybrid workplaces. Her session at Culture Summit 2024 will equip you with the strategies needed to foster a supportive and adaptive work environment. Learn more about her session ‘A people-first approach to employee experience design in a hybrid workplace.’ 

Empowering Change: Inclusive Benefits in the Face of Rising Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation

In an era where visibility for LGBTQIA+ individuals is at an all-time high, yet legislative challenges continue to surge, Haley Everheart and Megan James step forward to lead a crucial conversation at the Culture Summit 2024.

As veterans in their respective fields, their upcoming session, “Breaking Barriers: Building Inclusive Benefits in the Wake of Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation,” promises to be a beacon of insight and empowerment for organizations striving to fully support their LGBTQIA+ employees.

Culture Summit caught up with them both to learn more:

 Could you introduce yourselves and share more about your roles within the Culture space?

Megan: “Specializing in employee benefits for over 15 years, I focus on empathetically supporting employees and strategizing benefits as a crucial part of business culture.”

Haley: “With over 15 years in digital storytelling and community building, I now lead marketing at FOLX Health, enhancing LGBTQIA+ care through diverse audience engagement.”

What initially sparked your passion for the HR/Culture/People domain?

Megan: “Benefits were my entry point, evolving from a ‘warm and fuzzy’ addition to a strategic business component that retains talent by supporting various life phases.”

Haley: “My passion stems from early interests in novels and cultural production, further deepened by my communications and ethnography studies and allyship for marginalized communities.”

Can you recount the most valuable piece of work or culture-related advice you’ve received?

Megan: “Decisions made in the best interest of employees are always the ones you’ll stand by without regret.”

What motivated you to choose this particular topic for the Culture Summit?

Megan: “With over 450 anti-LGBTQ+ bills tracked by the ACLU, there’s a pressing need for action beyond employee resource groups to support employees genuinely.”

Haley: “Facing an unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, it’s crucial to discuss creating inclusive organizations amidst increasing visibility and societal backlash.”

If you had to highlight one compelling reason why attendees shouldn’t miss your session, what would it be?

Megan: “Awareness is the spark that initiates change.”

Haley: “Your LGBTQIA+ employees need you more than you realize.”

Conclusion

Now is the time to gain vital insights for creating a supportive and inclusive environment for all employees.

Don’t miss Megan and Haley’s session “Breaking Barriers: Building Inclusive Benefits in the Wake of Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation” on Monday, October 7, from 10:15 am to 11:00 am PT at Culture Summit 2024, San Diego!

7 Ways to Create an Emotionally Fit Culture

We spend an enormous amount of time at work. Like 90,000 hours worth.

If people are going to work this much in their lifetime, it’s natural to be selective in choosing who they work for. This gave companies an idea: what if we offered people more than just a place to work? What if we covered their meals, took care of their dry cleaning, and even washed their cars for them? 

They assumed amazing perks = happy employees = good quality work. 

But is this actually true? Can we just give employees beer on tap and trust that’ll motivate them to do their best work?

But is this actually true? Dr. Emily Anhalt had to find the answer. She’s a clinical psychologist, and co-founder of COA, a startup that provides employee mental health benefit services. 

Dr. Anhalt did a research study on what makes up an emotionally fit culture. Her findings identified seven key traits.

  1. Healthy Leadership
  2. Agency and Trust
  3. Culture of Play
  4. Community and Belonging
  5. Proactive Mindset
  6. Stability and Integrity
  7. Communication and Transparency

We’ll break down what each one means and share tactical advice on how you each trait to create an emotionally fit culture in your workplace.

Trait #1: Healthy Leadership

Leaders need to be emotionally healthy themselves to have the abilities to lead an emotionally fit culture. 

As the leader, you’re building the ethos of the company. Your emotional baggage and past traumas will seep into the relationships with your team and the business decisions you make without you even realizing it. 

Even if you create healthy policies, change won’t happen if the employees don’t see you live out those values. 

How do you build better leadership health?

The best thing you can do is find a great therapist or work with an executive coach. 

As leaders, we often feel like we’re supposed to do everything on our own. But the truth is, everyone needs support. A therapist can help you understand your patterns, emotions, and relationships. A coach can help you think through difficult leadership decisions. 

Dr. Anhalt can’t think of an investment with a higher return than this.


Trait #2: Agency and Trust

Our main job as leaders is to figure out our team needs to do their job well and then set them up for success. 

Because guess what? People have different needs. 

  • Some people need noise and others need time alone. 
  • Some team members thrive in an office and others do their best work at home. 
  • Some employees are really good at sharing ideas on the spot. Others may need time to process their ideas before presenting them. 

Helping your team know these things about themselves, and fostering a culture where they can get their needs met, is how you get people to perform at their best (and also be the happiest). But this requires a space where people are comfortable to be honest and vulnerable. 

How do you build more agency and trust within your team? 

When Dr. Anhalt onboards a new team member, she invites them to complete an emotional fitness survey. This short questionnaire uncovers how each person works best so their managers (and teammates) can best support them. 

Some questions include:

  • Do you like to be praised in public or private?
  • Do you prefer feedback that’s direct and blunt? Or more gentle and kind?
  • How do you like to be cared for or cheered up during a tough time?
  • Do you prefer to be supported closely? Or would you prefer more space and freedom? 
  • What else do you want us to know about you? 

If someone prefers to be supported closely when they work, Dr. Anhalt will match them with a manager who likes to mentor others closely. If someone prefers a little bit of space before checking in during a tough time, Dr. Anhalt would leave them alone for a few days and circle back later with some flowers. 

By knowing how our team members like to be supported, we match their love language, making them feel seen and understood. At Dr. Anhalt’s company Coa, everyone on the team has filled this out, including the founders. Anyone can access anyone’s answers, and they’re editable over time because it’s natural for people’s needs to change (which is a great thing).


Trait #3: Culture of Play

Play is the ability to foster a safe space of connection and creativity. Playing in the workplace is hugely undervalued because play isn’t just about games. Dr. Anhalt likes to think of the improv definition of play, which is that when someone approaches you with an idea, you don’t just say “yes.” You respond with “Yes, and…” following your own ideas. 

Together, the two of you get somewhere that neither of you could have gotten alone. 

But the thing about play is that it can be tough to do. When we play, our guards come down, and that can be scary for people who work really hard to keep their guards up. The good news is that it gets easier over time, especially if leadership shows this is something that’s important in their culture. 

How do you build play?

One simple idea is to start your meetings with a quick icebreaker game. This connects people, gets them on the same level, and prepares your team to work more collaboratively. 

If you’re interested in a list of icebreaker games, email [email protected]. Dr. Anhalt has curated a bunch of games that are easy and fun to play at work. A lot of them can be done remotely too.

Trait #4: Community and Belonging

People will go to extraordinary lengths to protect a community they feel a part of. That’s the feeling you want for your team. 

You want people who feel like they truly belong. A team with high levels of psychological safety has the ideal environment to foster deep and meaningful connections. 

How do we build community and belonging? 

There are many ways to do this like team offsites or just being kind to each other. But Emily believes one of the most important things we can do is make sure that the community feels safe to people who come from many different perspectives. 

This could be through language, making sure your job descriptions aren’t gendered. It could be through imagery, making sure your website represents a diverse group of photos. If you could be through your events, making sure there are vegetarian options at your company outing. 

Doing this on our own is tough because you’ll have plenty of blind spots designing changes from one perspective. It’s important to bring in diverse minds to ensure you hear from different points of view.

Trait #5: Proactive Mindset

Preventing issues is simpler than fixing them. Opting for a healthy lifestyle now, with regular gym sessions and nutritious meals, is wiser than dealing with health problems in your 70s.

Similarly, taking a proactive stance at work to prevent issues is crucial. Instead of waiting for problems to arise and then scrambling to resolve them, it’s better to address potential challenges before they become fires you need to put out. 

What does a proactive mindset look like in practice?

One thing that Dr. Anhalt recommends is to add policies that prevent burnout. Because burning out is something that’s much easier to prevent than it is to fix. 

If you wait until people are already past their limit, it’s too late. They’re exhausted, unable to perform at their best, and might even leave your company in search of an organization that can better support their needs. 

Instead, we want to make sure a person never gets to that place of burnout. Here are some simple ways to do this:

  • Offer a no questions asked mental health day policy
  • Discourage email and Slack on nights and weekends
  • Allow work-from-home days
  • Encourage people to actually take vacation
  • Add “self-care time” into your calendar

Trait #6: Stability and Integrity

When you’re building a company, things are bound to change. The product will change, the team will change, or the entire direction of your startup could change 10 times during your tenure.

That’s expected, but at the same time, stability is important for our mental health. We need consistency in some areas of our life to weather the unexpected storms that are bound to happen. 

For example, having a stable core in your team that people can count on can help you endure  hard times. Or perhaps your product changes direction but your team’s core values don’t change the type of people you’re bringing on. 

How do we create stability in your company?

One powerful way is to create traditions and rituals. Traditions and rituals are actually at the heart of every ongoing culture, and work should be no different. 

They strengthen bonds, create reliability, and increase joy. You don’t have to overthink this one. You can try a bunch of traditions and rituals and just see what sticks. People will lean into the ones that they like and they’ll kind of lean away from the ones that don’t go as well. 

At Coa, they put a “mission” every Monday like “tell us about a time you overcame a tough challenge in your life and what got you through it.” The team posts their answers on Slack throughout the week and on Friday, everyone votes on which answer impacted them the most. 

This practice has helped their team learn so much about each other. Plus this activity lives and breathes their values around transparency and vulnerability. 

Another tradition Emily has seen is called Above and Beyond day. Once a month, someone gives a shout out to a colleague who has been extra kind, set a good example, or accomplished an important milestone. That colleague gets a special prize. Then the person who won gets to shout out the next person for the following month. It’s a way to recognize each other and reward hard work. 

A simple one anyone can do is celebrate anniversary markers. For every year someone has been at the company, they earn some kind of marker to indicate how long you’ve been around. Maybe it’s a patch on your company jacket or a wooden block that you keep on your desks. 

Emily recommends having someone be the “owner” of these rituals to ignite the initial spark and continue the momentum.

Trait #7: Communication and Transparency

Effective communication is everything for team success. Good communication prevents misunderstandings, solves conflict, and ensures we’re all working cohesively toward the same goal. 

A common misconception is that people can’t handle honest and transparent communication. But the reality is, people want the truth, even if it’s tough to hear. 

How do you communicate better in your company?

It’s important to create a structure of ongoing feedback. It’s common for companies to wait until someone does something wrong before giving them feedback. But having a structure for feedback gives people transparency into how they’re doing at all times. 

This could look like a quarterly conversation (recommended) or an annual review (less frequent, but still good). 

Another event that Emily does is Feelings Friday, a space where her team talks about things that have gone really well. Wins, times where they’ve felt supported, and shoutouts for one another. 

It’s also an opportunity to share moments where they felt unsupported and share things that didn’t go well. Or sometimes they share personal news like, “I had a tough week because I’m going through some personal stuff. Sorry if I’ve been a bit distant lately.” 

These meetings are a chance to catch small problems and prevent them from getting bigger. It also serves a way to genuinely hear what’s going on in each other’s lives.

To sum it all up

We invest a significant portion of our lives in the workplace. While enticing perks may contribute to employee happiness, what matters most is fostering a thriving and emotionally fit culture. 

Dr. Anhalt’s research further identifies seven key traits that make up an emotionally fit culture. 

  1. Healthy Leadership
  2. Agency and Trust
  3. Culture of Play
  4. Community and Belonging
  5. Proactive Mindset
  6. Stability and Integrity
  7. Communication and Transparency

By embracing these traits, you can proactively cultivate an environment that radiates psychological safety, which promotes better trust, collaboration, and the well-being of your teams.

Second Chance Culture: An Interview with Michelle Cirocco 

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Michelle Cirocco, Chief Impact Officer at Televerde and Keynote Speaker at Culture Summit 2023. She shared the importance of fostering a culture of second chances and her own transformative journey. 

Her unique perspective not only encourages businesses to rethink their hiring practices but also reinforces society’s need to change its perception of individuals with criminal backgrounds.  

Her words serve as an inspiration for others to become advocates for change within their organizations, promoting the transformative power of second chances. 

Learn more in our interview below. 

What initially sparked your interest in fostering a culture of second chances within the workplace?  

My personal journey sparked my interest in fostering a culture of second chances within the workplace. I served a 7-year sentence at the Arizona women’s prison when I got my first exposure to Corporate America through Televerde. This opportunity for a second chance was not just a lifeline but a complete transformation. It saved my life and opened my eyes to the untapped potential within the incarcerated community. However, the stigma associated with this community was a barrier that kept many of us in the shadows. I saw talented, capable, and qualified women who had built significant knowledge and experience while working for Televerde during their incarceration being sidelined in the hiring process after their release. They were cast aside because of a past mistake, and their applications were discarded when they checked the box indicating a felony conviction. This was a heartbreaking reality that I was desperate to change. I wanted to challenge this narrative and bring to light the capabilities and potential of these individuals who, like me, were seeking a chance to prove themselves. I wanted to show that a person’s past does not define their future and that the stigma of incarceration should not be a life sentence in itself. 

Despite the awareness of the benefits, why do you think companies still exclude qualified talent from their hiring practices? 

Despite the clear benefits, many companies still exclude qualified talent from their hiring practices due to a combination of risk management and unconscious bias. The stereotypes associated with individuals with criminal backgrounds often overshadow their potential. These conscious or unconscious biases paint a picture of dishonesty, unreliability, and potential harm to the company’s reputation. This is a narrative we need to challenge and change. The reality is that people with criminal backgrounds are just as capable, hardworking, loyal, trustworthy, and dedicated as anyone else. They deserve the opportunity to prove themselves and contribute to society. By excluding them, we are not only denying them a chance at redemption, but we are also limiting the diversity and potential within our companies. 

From your experience, what are the business benefits of investing in “second chance” employees? How does it positively impact companies? 

Investing in second-chance employees brings significant business benefits. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Getting Talent Back to Work initiative and research released by SHRM, the SHRM Foundation, and the Charles Koch Institute, hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds can increase loyalty, lower turnover rates, and create a larger talent pool. These individuals often display high commitment and dedication, grateful for the opportunity to prove themselves. Furthermore, consumers increasingly demand total inclusion, making it not only a moral imperative to invest in this community but a business one. These individuals are not just employees but a testament to the power of redemption and the potential for transformation. They bring unique skills and resilience that can contribute to a company’s innovation and adaptability. 

Why must HR and culture professionals actively work towards building a culture that allows second-chance employees to thrive? 

It is crucial for HR and culture professionals to actively work towards building a culture that allows second-chance employees to thrive. This is not just about doing the right thing morally; it’s about smart business. True inclusion means not excluding anyone, including individuals with criminal backgrounds. By fostering a culture of second chances, we are not only giving these individuals an opportunity to rebuild their lives but also enriching our companies with a workforce that embodies resilience, determination, and diverse life experiences. We are challenging the status quo and pushing the boundaries of true inclusion. It’s about recognizing the potential in every individual and creating an environment where they can thrive and contribute to the company’s success. 

Could you highlight what makes your session at Culture Summit 2023, “How a Culture of Second Chances,” a not-to-be-missed session for Culture champions? 

Our session at Culture Summit 2023 How a Culture of Second Chances Will Help Businesses Thrive in the Future of Work is a must-attend for culture champions because it challenges the status quo and pushes the boundaries of true inclusion. It’s an enlightening exploration of the untapped potential within the incarcerated community and a call to action for companies to embrace a culture of second chances. This session will not only change the way you view hiring practices, but it will also inspire you to become an advocate for change within your organization. You will leave with a renewed perspective on the power of redemption and the potential for transformation. It’s not just about giving someone a second chance; it’s about changing lives and enriching our companies. 

In Conversation with Samra Zafar: Creating the Workplace of Belonging 

Welcome to an exclusive interview with Samra Zafar, a prominent figure in the HR/Culture/People space, who will be delivering a captivating keynote session at this year’s Culture Summit. Samra’s talk, titled “The Workplace of Belonging: Where Inclusion and Wellness Meet,” on Wednesday, September 27, from 9:30 am to 10:30 am PT. 

In this interview, we had the opportunity to catch up with Samra and gain insights into her inspiring journey into the Culture space. We also delved deeper into the importance of fostering inclusion and wellness in the workplace. 

Q: What initially attracted you to the Culture space? 

A: As an ambitious woman and a person of color, I faced numerous moments of exclusion and microaggressions both in my corporate career and personal life. These experiences resonated with countless individuals who reached out to me after learning about my work. This inspired me to delve into the intersectionality of human experiences, the science of inclusion and belonging, and how we can apply these learnings to foster equity and break barriers for everyone to thrive 

Q: How has your attraction to this space evolved throughout your career? 

A: Over the course of my career, I transitioned from banking to psychiatry, combining the neuroscience of human behavior with the business world and authentic leadership. Our innate need to belong as our authentic selves drives us as human beings. This necessitates developing inner resilience, fostering workplace cultures that embrace authenticity, and implementing intersectionality and DEI in diverse workplaces. To unlock the power of diversity, we must first build psychological safety that welcomes and values the contributions of diverse individuals. 

Q: What drew you to develop expertise in fostering mental health within workplaces? 

A: My passion for fostering mental health within workplaces stems from a trifecta of lived experience, scientific expertise, and business acumen. Having faced trauma and adversity in my own life, I became fascinated with understanding the science of how our brains function and unlocking the power of inner resilience. Applying this knowledge to the workplace allows us to foster inclusive mental health and authentic leadership. By combining inclusion and mental wellbeing, we can create a sense of true belonging and empower individuals to reach their fullest potential. 

Q: Could you share your thoughts on the business benefits of fostering a psychologically safe workplace? 

A: The need to be part of a community is ingrained in the core of our brains—it’s not just a “nice to have,” but a fundamental requirement. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places social needs, including attachment, belonging, and recognition, just above physiological and safety needs. When these social needs are met, we can reach the pinnacle of the hierarchy—self-actualization, innovation, and creativity. By establishing a psychologically safe workplace where authenticity is welcomed and included, we take a vital step toward cultivating a culture of innovation, creativity, and business success. 

Q: What is the biggest challenge for HR and Culture professionals post-pandemic? 

A: In the post-pandemic era, one of the most significant challenges we face is loneliness. Extensive research demonstrates the negative impact of loneliness and disconnection on our mental health. While technology enhances efficiency, it also diminishes opportunities for organic human connection—sharing stories, personal interactions, and common experiences. Studies indicate that in-person meetings create more meaningful connections compared to virtual interactions. (See LinkedIn article June 2023) . Balancing technological efficiency with building inclusive, human, and authentic workplace cultures poses one of today’s greatest challenges and opportunities. 

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

A: I believe we are moving towards more open dialogue and inspired action about things we traditionally left outside of the office door. In 2030, my hope is that we will be talking openly about mental health, understand the role of intersectionality, and end the stigma around these difficult but necessary conversations. 

Q: Why is your session a MUST-ATTEND event at this year’s Culture Summit? 

A: Mental health and DEI are often seen as separate topics. In my session, I will unveil the extensive overlap between the two—they go hand in hand. The intersection between mental health and DEI is where true belonging lies. By attending my session, you will gain profound insights into fostering a psychologically safe workplace, unlocking the potential for diversity and innovation within your organization. 

 During my keynote session, I will share eye-opening stories, enlightening scientific insights, and valuable business leadership lessons. Get ready to be inspired to take action today and join me at the Culture Summit 2023. I look forward to seeing you there! 

View further information on Samra Zafar’s Culture Summit Keynote: The Workplace of Belonging: Where Inclusion and Wellness Meet  here. 

Combating Loneliness in a Remote-First Workplace: Insights from Anthym’s CEO Brian Mohr

This week, the Culture Summit team had the opportunity to interview Brian Mohr, the CEO of Anthym, a trailblazer in the HR/Culture/People space.

He will share insights on  ‘Building Real Connections in a Remote-First Workplace’ at Culture Summit 2023. We discussed why combating loneliness is a vital concern for today’s HR and Culture professionals.

The Changing Shape of Workplace Relationships

In the modern workplace, Mohr notes, remote-first environments have become increasingly prevalent, posing challenges for building authentic connections among team members. There are financial implications, too, with disconnected and lonely employees costing US companies $400 bn annually. Further info.

Mohr emphasizes the significance of relationships as the foundation for all accomplishments, and he firmly believes that not only the work itself but also the people we work with significantly impact our professional and personal lives.

Indeed, combating loneliness is now a societal issue in the US. He highlights how the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has identified addressing the isolation and loneliness epidemic as a key 2023 priority for his department. Learn more  

Mohr’s company, Anthym is combating loneliness through action. For example, they are hosting FriendFest on August 1st, 2023, the United Nations International Day of Friendship, to unite people and combat isolation.

Cultivating Real Connections in a Virtual World

So how do we drive real connection when working apart? Mohr suggests implementing a routine that enables team members to get to know each other on a personal and human level. This practice fosters trust, connection, belonging, safety, and inclusion within the team. You can learn more about his approach to building connected teams in his 2023 podcast ‘The Secret Sauce for Building Connected Teams’.

Learn more about Building Team Connections at Culture Summit 2023

If you want a fresh perspective on cultivating meaningful relationships within virtual teams and gain actionable insights to enhance your workplace, attend Brian Mohr’s session at this year’s Culture Summit!


Session Information

Title: Building Real Connections in a Remote-First Workplace

Date: Tuesday, September 26, 1:00 pm-1:45 pm PT

This session will help you to learn the latest techniques to build connections in a remote workplace!

Register for Culture Summit 2023

Elevating Organizational Success: The Power of Total Employee Experience

If you’re interested in increasing productivity, reducing absenteeism, and improving customer experience in your organization, then Total Employee Experience might be the answer for you! Total Employee Experience refers to how workers perceive their journey throughout the employee life cycle at an organization. By putting employees at the center of an organization’s strategy, a positive employee experience can be created, which can lead to a range of benefits including increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and improved quality of work.

Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Total Employee Experience is about creating a positive employee experience by putting employees at the center of the organization’s strategy.
  • Highly engaged employees are more productive, less likely to be absent, and more likely to make positive emotional connections with customers.
  • There are a variety of ways to expand and enhance the Total Employee Experience for your staff, such as connecting with employees’ lives outside of work, ensuring autonomy, and promoting growth.

Source Medallia.com 2020.

To learn more about Total Employee Experience and how to improve it for your organization, check out Harvard Business Review’s article on the latest approaches to enhancing employee experience.

 And if you’re looking for practical insights and the latest techniques to boost Total Employee Experience, attend Danny Guillory’s Fireside Chat on “People Culture Purpose – Total Employee Experience” at Culture Summit 2023 on September 25th, 2023.

Danny is a renowned expert in the field of people, DEI, and recruitment, with over 30 years of experience. View Bio. He will be discussing how to implement radical transparency across all aspects of the total employee experience and sharing his views on the Future of Work.

Register to attend here!

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

Your employees are busy, but nothing is getting done.

Your team is working hard, but projects fall behind.

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

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

…. Does any of that sound familiar?

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

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

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

What Is Mindfulness?

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

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

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

What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace?

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

Focus

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

Attention

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

Behavior

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

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

How to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Culture

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

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

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

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