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Five Key Culture Takeaways from CultureCon 2018

Updated: May 13, 2020

Written by CultureCon Founder & CEO, Zach Blumenfeld

One year from today we will be at CultureCon 2019, so I wanted to take sometime to reflect on our inaugural event. It didn’t really hit me until the end of the conference, how strong of a culture we created during CultureCon 2018. During the networking breaks I witnessed thousands of new relationships forming between people who were strategizing to make work more meaningful, fulfilling, and fun - for everyone. People are excited, but words will never be able to showcase the energy and excitement at CultureCon 2018. That’s why you’ll have to come see for yourself next year! I’ll try and do my best at describing CultureCon 2018 in my 5 key takeaways below:

1. People Want To Take Action

CultureCon 2018 was another great validation that people want to make change. CultureCon 2018 was great validation that people want to make change, but this has been validated for years. What fascinates me most is how passionate people become when they talk about their culture. There is a movement growing that includes all types of industries, positions, and company sizes. There was a mix of F500 companies to early-stage startups with all sizes in between. Tech companies to construction firms. Hundreds of #CultureGeek’s flooded The Concourse to show that the status quo of work is not acceptable anymore. An annual conference is a start, but culture isn’t an annual concept. It’s constantly shifting and changing and entire industries are being disrupted every day. People won’t tolerate anything less than a “great place to work”, meaning that we need to keep this energy and change going. This isn’t just for Millennials or Gen Z - this encompasses ALL humans. To keep the momentum going, we are building the CultureCon Community, which will create a community of folks who are passionate about culture. They can keep that energy going throughout the year, while keeping each other accountable. We launched a pilot, which sold out in less than an hour (yes - we opened up more spots), which shows how committed and hungry we are for culture change. Please join us!

2. Diversity & Inclusion Are More Than Buzzwords - Obviously

They are vital topics and research shows we are more innovative and productive with diversity. We were fortunate enough to have Khalida Ali from Zendesk as one of our breakout speakers to discuss this. One point she made that really stuck with me is that if you are doing D&I right, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but authenticity is key. This was one of the top topics that attendees requested more of in our post-event survey. Our speaker committee worked hard to make sure our speaker lineup was diverse and inclusive of all genders, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds, but we still have a ways to go. We plan to add an individual to our team to focus on our D&I efforts and keep us accountable.

3. Mainstream Mindfulness

Earlier in the spring I read an eye-opening article from Stanford titled: “The Workplace is Killing People and Nobody Cares”. Jennifer Pulvermacher of Mind Groove cares! She says: “In today’s distracted workplace, attention has become a scarce resource. Mindfulness is a practice that helps to train attention, strengthening our ability to stay focused in the present moment.” Jennifer put on an interactive session where attendees received a corporate mindfulness training experience. Mindfulness has been studied for years and helps employees decrease stress, improve focus, and overall well-being. The ROI/business case is pretty clear-cut. Employees have better relationships, they are more engaged, and there is less turnover. It’s no wonder why more and more companies are introducing programs along these lines and showing great interest in this field. In a recent study at Aetna, they found participants were regaining 62 minutes/week of productivity and seeing an ROI, in terms of productivity alone, of more than $3,000 per person per year. Jennifer will be giving an encore presentation, leading our first CultureCon Community Webinar on July 25th.

4. Who Owns Culture Within An Organization?

HR? Management? That is who we usually think of, but looking at CultureCon attendees, that didn’t seem to be the case. Attendees who worked in the HR field actually made up a small percentage of CultureCon. There was a mix of c-suite all the way down to entry level. Nearly all departments were represented. The point being, there isn’t one department or one position that “owns” culture, or is interested in improving it. Both leadership and employees need to own culture. Leadership needs to be transparent and there needs to be trust. Trust leads to relationships and relationships ultimately will help foster that culture. Leadership helps design, shape, and champion culture, but everyone owns it.

5. Madison is a Culture Hub

As I write this, I’m at my favorite spot - James Madison Park looking over Lake Mendota. What’s not to love about Madtown?! What excites me most is that as CultureCon continues to grow, we will bring more and more first-timers to Madison to experience all we have to offer. When I was walking through the halls of CultureCon I heard multiple people say: “Madison was never on my bucket list, but I’m so happy that I was able to visit and I’ll be back.” Multiple attendees came early or stayed into the weekend to experience more of Madison. Next year, our goal is to have an even larger population of out-of-towners join the CultureCon movement and attend the annual conference. This will help showcase all the amazing things happening in town and give folks a new perspective. There are so many great things happening in Madison. We are growing. Organizations like StartingBlock, help make it easier to start and grow a business in Madison, connect entrepreneurs with other entrepreneurs, mentors, accelerators, and funding sources. It is a really exciting time to be living in Madison. Come check it out for yourself next year at the 2nd Annual CultureCon on July 17-18, 2019 right here in Madison, WI. A limited amount of early bird tickets went on sale today - one year out from CultureCon 2019.


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