There are pivotal moments and key decisions in almost every career that define who we are and what we stand for. If one is curiously self-aware, it is possible to not only intentionally uncover and define your purpose but also find work that aligns to it and feels like play. Recently, I transitioned to a role that is more fundamentally aligned to who I am and the impact I want to have in the world. It wasn’t easy and took heaps of courage, but thanks to my motivation to create workplace cultures that unlock and celebrate the potential of one human being at a time, it is achievable; starting with readers of HR Dive.
What was my “pivotal moment”?
My early career days working in various investing and organizational development roles at global investment firm BlackRock set the stage for me to better understand how humans can either thrive or survive while working in highly pressured environments. It was during the global financial crisis that I turned to yoga and meditation to help me manage my own stress and workload. Many of my colleagues observed how these holistic practices helped me persevere through each day in a more centered way and soon they were asking if I would share what I was practicing. Ultimately, that organic sharing led to a global company-wide mindfulness program for more than 1,200 people across 31 offices and 17 countries.
Coaching high achievers on Wall Street to remember to breathe and stay present on a regular basis was no small feat, yet the outcome was unprecedented. I received hundreds of emails over the years describing the impact my efforts had on people’s lives. The experience triggered a deep sense of purpose and reminded me of my original professional aspiration to leverage psychology and behavioral science to create work conditions that allow people to thrive.
I went back to Stanford and spent time at the Graduate School of Business as a Sloan Fellow, and earned a Master’s degree in business management with a focus on organizational behavior. This mid-career personal quest led me to my current role as Chief People Officer at Culture Amp.
What sets Culture Amp apart?
Culture Amp is on a mission to create a better world of work for 100 million human beings globally. We know it’s an ambitious goal, but we’re committed to reaching it given that people spend a majority of their lives working -- yet many work environments aren’t healthy, let alone inspiring. In fact, too many work environments are downright toxic. We intend to positively impact millions of lives not only through the 2,100+ organizations who use our software platform daily and the 50,000 person-strong (and growing!) People Geek community we’re building globally, but also by courageously sharing how we build and operate Culture Amp as a ‘Culture First’ business.
Culture is the biggest lever that any organization has to drive performance. Leaders who intentionally design, invest in, and prioritize their organization’s culture tend to experience improved financial performance and customer satisfaction. We call this being ‘Culture First.’ What does being Culture First mean at Culture Amp? It means creating the conditions that allow our employees to feel understood and valued as human beings while also being empowered and supported to do exceptional work in service of our mission and customers. It means embracing and living our four core values to create an environment that puts people and culture at the center of key business decisions, especially the really difficult ones.
At Culture Amp, we value:
Displaying the courage to be vulnerable
Trusting others to make decisions
Learning faster through feedback
Given our human-centered values, we all work to listen, learn, and co-create our unique culture so that we can perform at our best, individually and collectively.
Though culture is our bread and butter, when scaling a successful enterprise SAAS company there is always an opportunity to grow and take more action. Just like our customers, we use the Culture Amp platform internally to efficiently scale our company without sacrificing our culture, one survey and inspiration at a time. However survey data and ideas are only as effective as one’s ability to put them into action - which is why we’re committed to being the action platform that HR leaders and managers can’t lead without.
How to build a Culture First organization one human being at a time.
Define your culture and your commitment to maintaining it: It starts with intentionally defining and designing your organization’s culture (the values, beliefs, and most importantly, behaviors) and knowing what tradeoffs you’re willing to make--or not--to maintain your culture in the pursuit of growth, impact and profitability. At Culture Amp, we use the phrase ‘Culture First’ to signal internally and externally how much focus we place on considering the people & culture implications of our decisions.
Measure your employees’ experience and instigate action at the individual, team, manager, and organizational level. We’re in the “Age of HR” where there are more resources than ever for company leaders to understand the drivers of their employees’ engagement and performance. For a company to not use a measurement tool would be like intentionally flying blind when night vision goggles exist. It just isn’t prudent.
Reiterate your company’s purpose and celebrate each person’s role in driving action and impact. It’s hugely inspiring to be part of a mission larger than yourself, and yet so many people forget to focus on the desired outcomes of their actions. At Culture Amp, given our mission is to impact so many millions of people to positively influence their work lives, we won’t be successful unless every Camper (our name for Culture Amp employees) sees their role as critical to our collective success. Continually reminding ourselves that each person plays a critical role creates a culture of accountability, appreciation, and amplification, rather than a culture of competition or taking one another for granted.
Recognizing your own humanity and create the conditions that honor the humanity of others. This is critical for everyone but especially for leaders. Leadership roles carry additional responsibilities and stress -- our colleagues and customers depend on us, so carving out time for ourselves simply to be human can feel like it comes at the tradeoff of letting someone down. Still, as leaders, we have to create space to take care of our own health (sleep, exercise, rest!), happiness/play, and relationships so we can lead with more compassion when supporting our colleagues who also have - and want to maintain - full lives. Each weekly Culture Amp Executive team meeting starts with a CXO sharing his/her gratitudes, concerns, and aspirations so that we can see and support each other as people as much as teammates.
Build a community that is Culture First. Our Culture First community is comprised of people passionate about improving workplace culture and eager to learn and share ideas. We do our part by regularly sharing fresh perspectives and new ideas via our People Geek newsletter, blogs, webcasts, networking channels (People Geek Answers and Career Hub) and our regional events. In fact it was the desire to accelerate everyone’s learning, not just our own, that inspired the creation of the People Geek movement years ago.
Culture Amp’s flagship community experience is our global conference, Culture First Global, which is held each summer in San Francisco. This year, on July 30th-31st, more than 1,300 people & culture leaders will come together from around the world to work through how to build a better workplace for all. We have lined up diverse, thought-provoking and world-renowned presenters including noted author and Modern Elder Academy founder Chip Conley; world-renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel; activist and “Pod Save the People” host DeRay McKesson; Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin and Associates; and Poet/Artist and Author Cleo Wade. We invite you to join us and learn how together we can progress toward realizing this goal!
Positively impacting the lives of 100 million humans globally won’t be achieved overnight, nor alone. To that end, we’re happy to share what we’re learning and doing at Culture Amp (our successes and our failures) so that others can accelerate the impact at their organizations.
If you’re interested in learning more about what being Culture First might mean to your organization, we look forward to getting in touch.
About Culture Amp
Culture Amp is the leading People & Culture Platform that helps companies take action to improve employee engagement, retention and performance. Culture Amp is a Culture First certified B Corporation used by over 2,100 customers including Airbnb, KIND Snacks, Mercy Health, Salesforce, Slack and McDonald’s. Started in Melbourne with offices in San Francisco, Palo Alto, London, and New York, Culture Amp has raised $76.3M USD from Index Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Sapphire Ventures and Blackbird Ventures. Learn more at cultureamp.com and @CultureAmp.
About the author:
Golbie is a recognized speaker and thought leader in creating culture first companies. She recently joined Culture Amp, the leading Culture & People Platform, to harness the collective intelligence of people data and insights to drive performance, leadership, and employee experience. She is a thought leader and change maker in the pursuit to evolve “traditional HR” to include people science and holistic development. Golbie’s recent TEDx Talk “Success at What Cost?” has been broadly shared in the industry. Prior to joining Culture Amp, Golbie held various roles in investing and organizational development at global investment manager, BlackRock.
Golbie was a Sloan Fellow at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, earning a master’s degree in business management with a focus in organizational behavior. Kamarei also holds a bachelor’s in psychology with honors from Stanford University.