“So much Culture it hurts” - Culture First 2019 - Day 2 Blog.



The title of this blog is slightly unfair, there is so much Culture at this event and its absolutely amazing. The reason it hurts – is the dreaded combination of jetlag kicking in and a little bacterial “culture” has seen me come down with dreaded lurgy! But let’s move on to great things, so here I talk about Day 2 of 3.


I hit the delicious breakfast and coffee station and then readied myself for a great day.


JD Peterson kicked the day off with so much energy and enthusiasm – and the electricity could be felt in the large room, connecting us all. JD is the Chief Growth Officer for Culture Amp, but I think his title should be changed to more adequately reflect him, to CGCO aka Chief Growth and Comedy Officer. He shared a story about his mum and it was quite touching.


Next up, Didier Elzinga – CEO and Co-Founder, who spoke with us on his journey as CEO of Culture Amp. I think everyone was hanging on to every word as I witnessed his complete capture of the audience. Didier’s wife Greta was also in attendance and it was beautiful hearing of him talk about how inspiring she is to him, you can tell they definitely operate as a strong team.


One of the key speakers I wanted to attend for was Josh Bersin, the Founder of Bersin and Associates. He spoke quicker than I could write – he had a lot to say and it was all gold! The discussion was “From feedback to action: What’s next in employee engagement”. So many key takeaways which I have summarised at the end.


Remember yesterday, when the evacuation meant we missed our sessions? Well I was thankful to have the session that meant the most to me be rescheduled and I wasn’t disappointed. We were fortunate to hear from the experiences of Whitney Swesey (Datto), Dana Lin (Adevinta), Ealga ni Aodha (Twilio), Josh Berman and Melissa Paris (Culture Amp). In giving some feedback to the event organisers it would be super amazing next year for Ealga ni Aodha from Twilio to have her own session. Everyone had so much value to add but she was an absolute standout.


Leaving the session was quite a sight as about 7 food trucks were lined up to feed us all. Absolutely every detail has been thought about for this conference. Well done to the event team – headed up by Nina Cioni. You have done such a brilliant job.


Then, my aforementioned jetlag and lurgy kicked in, so I made a decision to give myself some self care (as “Shopkins” aka Steve Hopkins had prescribed a day earlier) and put myself in an Uber to go back to my hotel. 2 hours later and much more refreshed after a power nap I headed back for the afternoon sessions. I was devastated to miss the after-lunch sessions especially after hearing there were standing ovations and the like.


I returned to an overflowing session held by Kate Snowise from Thrive.How on “Resilience and wellbeing: Stress management for individuals and organisations”. Initially was standing room only – but someone walked out (his loss my gain) and I got a seat – it was meant to be. Kate took us on a journey that I think we all could relate to - and like Ealga above – she needs a bigger stage for next year!


Walking into the last session we were handed an adult beverage and I knew this was going to be different. And it was! I had my main A-HA moment hearing from the engaging Cleo Wade who took us through “Heart Talks: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life”. Her words flowed like music, literal poetry in a modern setting. I have to put the A-HA moment here all on it’s own:

“Remember not to care about the things you don’t even care about”. (See! Told you)

Lastly we were delighted with a theme song by Amber Rubarth – “Nobody Works Alone”. I hope the Culture Amp team recorded it and can link it somewhere – it was pretty special and a great way to end the day. I left after hearing Cleo’s talk and Amber’s song so inspired to use my creativity to inspire great cultural change in the businesses I work in.


Key takeaways and comments from the day:


* Didier talked about Compound Privilege and the fact that “we are the problem, but we can also help to unwind it”.


* 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 the day from Didier “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.


* #1 thing for people to leave their job or look for a new job is the inability to learn and grow and develop soft skills.


* People spend a day a week on emails that do not relate to their job.


* Employee Experience is about moments that matter.


* Performance Management is broken (However I am thinking the Zugata/Culture Amp relationship is going to flip this perspective!)


* When managers listen, people are 8x more engaged.


* In an M&A situation, you can’t always give definites, but you can give a roadmap as to where it might be going.


* Start with goals, not a survey. The survey will come from the goals.


* Be proactive with your strategy, don’t wait till there is a change.


* We are stressing about stress.


* You don’t lose energy as easily if you tweak your mindset.


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


* Create boundaries that protect the relationship with yourself.


Day 3, the final day tomorrow, I am sad its ending but so so thankful to have had the opportunity to attend. I better let my husband and son know to save the dates for next year, as I will definitely be back, making it a family trip 😊. I look forward to bringing you my final perspectives tomorrow.

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