CultureCon 2019 – Conference Day. Event Review and Main Takeaways

Eloisa Tovee 26th September 2019

People are the driving force behind any company. Promoting the right values and culture is critical for any team wishing to succeed. This is why CultureCon was a conference that I believe was badly needed within the industry.

CultureCon’s aim was to bring together a community of managers and leaders who are empowered to promote and create culture within their organisation. The conference was promoted as a way for leaders to get together in a safe space to share their successes (and failures!) in resolving people problems

The conference took place at St Ethelburga’s Centre in London. The venue was an old church. Sun shining through stained glass windows and church bells going off on the hour added to the event!

The conference also provided a great selection of tea and coffee as well as a lunch which catered to all dietary requirements. Touches such as these really helped add to the inclusive feel that the conference was trying to promote.

There were a very diverse range of talks on the Conference Day. Speakers discussed topics such as mental health, psychological safety, goal setting, promoting a collaborative culture within teams and diversity.

I’m going to share my main takeaways from the conference:

Wellbeing Initiatives Need to Be Consistent

Gem Hill presented her learnings from a mental health initiative launched in her place of work. This was particularly relevant to me as I have recently undergone Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Training and we are in the process of kicking off our mental health initiative at ECS.

Gem stated that there is a need to be consistent when kicking off any mental health initiative in the workplace. Sometimes people find mental health difficult to discuss, but the more events you run, the more word spreads within the company about how useful these sessions are.

It is also important that there is support for anyone wishing to launch a mental health initiative. Everyone has a day job and holidays to take, so it is important that the initiative doesn’t rely on a single person. This also feeds into the idea that once someone begins to share their experiences with mental health, people will begin to look to them for advice, which can be challenging for that individual. This is why training such as MHFA are so important as they provide the tools people can use to have these discussions.

Psychological Safety is Critical to Innovation

Gitte Klitgaard’s talk on psychological safety was really important. Companies often question why their people aren’t innovating. A large part of creating a culture of innovation is allowing people to feel safe in suggesting and trying new ideas, without the fear of punishment if these ideas fail.

Gitte made the point that we are all human and mistakes are inevitable. Quite often professional environments can de-humanise the people who work for them. It is the responsibility of everyone to nurture a culture of psychological safety. It isn’t easy, but the whole team and organisation will benefit.

Promoting Diversity is not Enough. We Need to be Inclusive Too.

Ezechi Britton and Jason Halstead discussed the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace. Teams are often asked to think outside the box when it comes to creating solutions to technical problems, but if we all have the same background and experiences, then we’re always thinking outside the same box. By having a diverse workplace you have different backgrounds and cultures feeding into innovation.

Ezechi and Jason made the point that talent is shared equally, but opportunity is not. If we are not recruiting diverse team members then it is up to use to diversify our networks.

But creating a culture of diversity is not enough.

Once we create a diverse team we need to make people feel welcomed. One example of how teams can often exclude others is when social events always revolve around alcohol. This immediately excludes non-drinkers and makes them feel like outsiders.

This is something ECS Digital began to take notice of over the past year. Drinking cultures are nothing new, but as our team grows, cultures, religion and personal preferences have encouraged our own social team to create a social calendar that embraces a variety of activities. We’ve also made it an open platform so team members can introduce their own ideas – most often not booze related. Whilst the number of espresso martinis may have taken a hit, we’ve seen an increase in attendance at our socials and brought our teams closer together as a result.

Career Impact Models – A New Way of Setting Goals?

Dan Ashby and Alasdair Clark were up next, discussing how traditional annual review processes in workplaces are often failing us. The audience were asked how many of us felt our annual review processes were valuable and not many hands were raised!

Dan and Alasdair shared their Career Impact Model (displayed below). The model consists of four areas – knowledge value, business value, avoiding waste and giving back. The layers from the centre describe the reach that your action had; ranging from team to industry.

The model promotes the idea that in order for people to have an impact they need to have an opportunity, the skills and knowledge to perform an action. You can then measure the impact that the individual has had by using evidence.

This was a thought-provoking talk and provided me with a new way of thinking about goal setting. The point was also raised that goals don’t always need to be set proactively as you can have an impact when you can reactively map too.

How to Nurture Our Teams

Simon Prior gave a great talk on nurturing and growing your team’s talent. He started off his talking by stating that we need to empathise with team members and treat them as individuals in order to allow them to do their best work.

The idea of the is not one we should be aiming for, but instead we should be aiming for a 10x team. As leaders we need to learn to adapt and grow ourselves in order to support our team members.

Simon stated that neurodiversity within teams is something which should be celebrated. The message was similar to Ezechi and Jason’s idea that thinking outside of the box, or thinking in a different way, should be celebrated rather than discouraged. Simon’s opinion is that sometimes we are too busy looking for the ‘perfect’ person, rather than someone who can be a culture add to our team.

Something that stuck with me through Simon’s talk was the need to give positive feedback. We are always quick to jump on more negative or constructive feedback, but we need to praise and say ‘well done’ more often!

Concluding Thoughts

CultureCon is an event that every manager and leader should make an effort to attend. It was extremely welcoming and truly felt like a safe space to discuss new ideas and share personal experiences during the breaks.

This was the first year it has been run and I really hope it won’t be the last! Congratulations to the organisers for running a great event.

We’ll be back!

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