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Culture First – “1 year on from the event that changed me”.

A year ago today, I sat in my room at Virgin Hotels San Francisco, eagerly awaiting the start of Culture First 2019 – the second such offering from the amazing people at Culture Amp. I had flown from Perth, Western Australia and was experiencing a mixture of excitement, nerves and anticipation.

Now, I won’t spend the time that I have the privilege of you reading delving into the Culture First Experience, though you can read about it here. I want to spend the time telling you about what was going on for me then and what has happened since.

Setting the scene

In 2017, I sat with my sister and we traded ideas of our future. I said to her “by the end of next year, I am going to start my own business, its going to be called The People & Co. Collective.” She said “I know you will actually do it.”

In November 2018 I started my first paid client work whilst I navigated a transition away from my employer because of my “why?”, my son Spencer, now 6 and in pre-primary. I fantasised about being able to drop him off, pick him up, make mum friends, be parent helper and go to every daggy but adorable concert he was in.

When I started working at LMW (now Acumentis), Spencer was 8 months old. I started in the WA HR Manager role working 15 hours a week. 15 hours grew quickly and within 6 months I was National HR Manager and almost working Full Time. All I wanted was to help people and the role allowed me that, but eventually I didn't feel I could match the needs of what our people required with the travel and intensity required.

I yearned to stay engaged in my career and be an amazing and inspiring mum. I kept toying with this idea and then along came Simon Stibbs. We met for coffee November 2017 and with a lot of coaching and care, by November 2018 I had the courage to seek my first client. My first engagement was a major project at a cattle farm south of Perth and I will always treasure this experience. The job took nearly 6 weeks as a side hustle to my day job and it was extremely difficult. Long days, late nights, but the achievement! I had caught the business bug.

So, back to 2019, I was shortlisting to leave and replace my role at LMW to start my consultancy FT and on a fateful day in February got the call – “we’ve had a data incident”. After many, many hours of soul searching, pros and cons lists and personal reflection, I decided to stay. I had the blessing of management to leave and I thought, no, I need to see this through, however still press on with my plan to launch my consultancy. In April 2019 I had just started my HR Consultancy FT after 4 years as National HR Manager for LMW. I am thankful to have worked then and still today, with Acumentis (formerly LMW) as a client.

The Conference

There is something about facing adversity that makes you throw caution to the wind. I was in month 4 of being out on my own, with less than a handful of clients, when I made the decision to attend Culture First. It was a huge investment for me to make in myself and my consultancy so early on, but one that has “had a return” in so many ways since, as hopefully this blog journey will take you on.

LMW was (and still is as Acumentis) using Culture Amp as its platform for surveying employees in relation to Employee Engagement topics. I rang People Geek and Senior Customer Success Coach, the fabulous Stephanie Brien (she/her) about a month out from the conference starting and said, “I am coming”. I knew I had to completely throw myself into something different in order to to drive impactful change.

For 3 days I intently listened and immersed myself in everything that Culture First had to offer. I scribbled pages and pages of notes and over the past year have been delving further into some of those notes to remind myself why I wrote them and what I wanted to learn about in more detail.

The following is a short selection of some of the amazing speakers and facilitators from Culture First, who still today I am gleaning the most up to date and inspirational culture transformation information. I hope you might be able to engage with one or more of these visionaries as they strive to make the world of ‘people at work’, a better place:

Part of Josh’s presentation was to educate us on the Josh Bersin Academy, which I am now a student of, partaking in courses such as The Remote Work Bootcamp, People Analytics, HR in the Age of AI and The Agile Learning Organisation. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to enhance their HR and People skills practically, with the latest, best practice research to back the coursework, whilst engaging with other students from around the globe.

The LMW to Acumentis Journey

One of the people I met at Culture First was Mike Woodrow who at the time was CEO for Orange Digital. “It all started with a burrito”, Mike will tell you, however, I think it was actually a bao bun…anyway, the food was great but it’s not what you want to know about. We met at Claude Silver’s presentation on “Bringing HUMANITY back into the workplace”. This lovely man out of nowhere offers me a chair. When I heard his Aussie accent I immediately felt at home and after the session he suggested we grab lunch where we did the usual “what do you do and why are you here?" questioning. He said, that he was CEO for a digital agency specialising in culture and brand. I said, I am working with a business who has just been through a major upheaval and we are seeking to embark on a culture and rebrand Journey. The rest as they say, is history.

Since returning from Culture First, a lot has happened for me and for Acumentis. We worked with Mike and the team at Orange Digital on a Culture and Rebrand Project from September to December 2019. The result was the transition from LMW to the Launch of Acumentis and aligning all of the employees of 3 previously combined companies into one fresh business, brand and purpose.

One of the objectives of the culture and rebrand project was to develop a purposeful set of values that could be implemented in the business. Watch this space…the internal launch is coming late August, with the external launch not long after. We are eagerly awaiting to deliver such an important and meaningful piece of work and see it really come to life, I look forward to sharing this with you soon.

Finally, and most recently, Acumentis, via Culture Amp, opened their inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Survey, the objective of which is to create a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, a Diversity Committee and continue to champion initiatives that make a difference to each and every person that works with Acumentis.

As you can gather, my Culture First journey has led to so many positive and impactful outcomes for myself and the businesses I work with, in particular Acumentis. I will be forever grateful for the experience I was able to have.

Key Takeaways

Some of my key takeaways from Culture First 2019 that I still incorporate into my work, talk of frequently or am aspiring to instill are:

· As a CEO “you are always on stage and the mic is always on”.

· “You are what you pay attention to” – a rhetoric dedicated to our obsession with the little screens we hold in our palms so much more than we need to.

· My absolute personal favourite from Didier Elzinga “What matters is how many people believe in you, not how many people don’t”.

· We are moving from a world of possessions to experiences.

· When we have a why we can deal with any how.

· Create boundaries that protect the relationship with yourself.

· Employee Experience is about moments that matter.

· Culture in a business is NOT a HR problem – it is the sum of every individual’s contribution.

· “I thrive when the workplace culture sucks”…….said no one ever.

· Culture is the fuel to drive strategy.

· Ask your team if they would reapply for the job they are doing today. If the answer is no, listen to why and look at the options to improve on this for them.

· Growing is getting bigger, scaling is getting better.

· When you kill ideas in your organisation they go somewhere else.

· We should be hiring for Culture ADD not Culture FIT.

· Operating with: muscle was the past, brains is the present and heart is the future.

· Be the leader we wish we had.

In ending, may your Culture First journey, wherever you are on it, be an inspired one. There are so many people who genuinely care first and foremost, about other people and want everyone at work to be having a Culture First experience in their working lives.

Want to read the original event blogs? Find them here:

Want to chat more about how we might be a part of your People & Culture Transformation? We would LOVE to support you.

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