Anytime it is 110 degrees in Oklahoma, it’s a good time to get the hell out. I was lucky enough to attend this year’s Culture Summit in beautiful (and much cooler) San Francisco, California. This cross-industry conference focuses on ways to increase employee engagement and build high-performing teams. It’s sponsored by some of the engagement platforms we use here at InterWorks, so I thought I’d give it a try. Plus, this year was particularly promising since much of the focus was on remote employee engagement – something we always have on our radar.
Above: The much-cooler SF Bay.
The Conference and My Takeaways
Other than “networking” (industry-speak for having a beer with folks who have the same job as you), my favorite part of the conference was the deep-dive workshops. I loved the presentation from David Hassell and Shane Metcalf, founders of 15Five. David noted that we should be asking our employees regularly, “Are you a better version of yourself for having worked here?” This is such an intriguing question – does InterWorks make people better?
In many ways, the opportunities we have, especially for folks just starting their careers, are beyond anything they could find somewhere else. But we are also huge believers in personal responsibility, especially as it applies to things like happiness and self-improvement. My hope is that we simply give people the space to make themselves better. This was a lot of self-reflection and philosophy on the first day of a conference, but it’s definitely something I want to come back to throughout the coming year. Big Takeaway #1: When employees are driven to improve themselves, organizations flourish.
Big Takeaway #1: When employees are driven to improve themselves, organizations flourish.
I was also able to sit in on a workshop on preventing burnout by Laura Hamil, Chief People Officer at Limeade. When you have a whole company of Type-A go-getters (ahem, InterWorks, ahem), this issue can be a huge drain on employee well-being. Laura focused much of this conversation on the importance of one’s manager, as well as the organization, in recognizing and preventing burnout. A big moment for me was the realization that burnout often presents itself as something else: lack of focus, bad attitude, even medical issues. I was so impressed by this workshop that I’m planning to present the material at one of our Team Meet Ups next month. Big Takeaway #2: Our most “on-fire” employees are the ones most at risk for burnout.
Big Takeaway #2: Our most “on-fire” employees are the ones most at risk for burnout.
Above: Not shocking to find an array of pink-haired HR ladies at the Culture Summit.
There was a fantastic panel presentation that focused on building culture across remote teams. This panel ranged from companies with several established remote offices (Twitter) to companies whose entire workforce is individually remote (Buffer). I jotted down a ton of ideas from this presentation (hello, “unified celebrations” and “gratitude Slack channel”). But, when they spoke about onboarding new employees … well, it was very satisfying to note that InterWorks is way ahead of the curve here. We are basically killing the onboarding game. Big Takeaway #3: Making remote employees feel like part of the team starts at onboarding, but after that, we must have intentional and consistent engagement strategies for the entire company.
Big Takeaway #3: Making remote employees feel like part of the team starts at onboarding, but after that, we must have intentional and consistent engagement strategies for the entire company.
One of my favorite presentations came from Cat Lee, Head of Culture at Pinterest. Who doesn’t love Pinterest? It was visually stunning, kitschy-in-a-good-way, and an all-around good time. Cat focused mostly on core values – which Pinterest is pretty famous for. I mean, they actually use the term “knitting” to describe the way they collaborate within their teams … totes adorbs. But it’s one thing to have cute culture buzzwords; it’s another thing to live your values every day. Big Takeaway #4: Core values are the ones actually LIVED across the company, not just written down in a strategic planning session.
Big Takeaway #4: Core values are the ones actually LIVED across the company, not just written down in a strategic planning session.
Above: Queen of Culture, Cat Lee of Pinterest presenting.
My last big takeaway came from Karlyn Borysenko, owner of Zen Workplace. Early in the week, I had made friends with Karlyn (See? Networking works). She’s hysterically funny, whip-smart and had a ton of insight into company culture. Much to the chagrin of our sponsors, her presentation, “Creating Real-Time Employee Engagement Without Spending a Dime” focused on the importance of human connections over expensive technology or engagement platforms. Karlyn’s humor and honesty reminded me of how we try to approach culture here at InterWorks: Take your work very seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Big Takeaway #5: Showing our humanity, being vulnerable and building trust within our teams is the only authentic way to build culture.
Big Takeaway #5: Showing our humanity, being vulnerable and building trust within our teams is the only authentic way to build culture.
Above: Word. (And if it’s not, we got problems.)
Bringing It All Together
Overall, opportunities like the Culture Summit give me a chance to really reflect on ways we can continue to strengthen what makes InterWorks great. Surrounding myself with other “culture warriors” normal humans who just want the best for our organizations was what I needed to kick-start some ideas and keep me focused on the incredible people I get to call my colleagues here at InterWorks. Plus, I got to wear a sweater in July – can’t beat that.