Purpose is Key to Creating Great Workplace Cultures Say Speakers at 2nd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference


Patrice Tanaka - featured imageBy Patrice Tanaka, Founder & Chief Joy Officer, Joyful Planet

Purpose is key to creating great workplace cultures was one of the themes that emerged from the 2nd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference on Oct. 18 in San Francisco organized by Human Synergistics, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations improve their effectiveness through culture change, leadership development and team building.

For someone whose consultancy, Joyful Planet, is focused on helping individuals and organizations discover and live their purpose, this was not surprising, just very affirming about how purpose-driven organizations and people can unleash greater success, fulfillment and joy in their lives and in the workplace.

Much of the conference revolved around organizational culture, culture vs. climate, change management and how to shift a culture.  Bill Parsons, Partner & Executive Vice President of Senn Delaney (a unit of executive search firm, Heidrick & Struggles), which positions itself as a “culture-shaping” firm for mid-size and large companies, said that “culture needs to be more purposeful than just a great place to work.” Parsons also shared “Four Key Principles to Shift a Culture”:  1) Purposeful leaders; 2) Personal change; 3) Broad engagement and 4) Focused sustainability.

A "Real Organization Chart" shared by Zappos at the 2nd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference .

A “Real Organization Chart” shared by Zappos at the 2nd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference .

Any transformation in culture, Parsons said, starts with “purposeful leaders.” Other conference speakers also reinforced the need for change to start with top leaders.  “Change starts with the CEO not in the middle,” said Edgar Schein, Culture Expert and Professor Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management, and widely regarded as the most influential authority on organizational culture.  Parsons added, “If culture change is viewed primarily as an HR initiative it’s doomed.”

Josh Bersin, Principal, Bersin by Deloitte, part of Deloitte Consulting LLP, top-lined the findings of  a staggering amount of global research done by his firm, including the “Five Factors Impacting Culture”:

  • Learning & Career: Bersin said, “This is number one for Millennials who are not looking for a career as much as learning ‘experiences’ and that the challenge for organizations is to move from ‘scalable efficiency to scalable learning’ and stay ahead, because the lifecycle of skills in a job is only a year or two, and not fall back economically.”
  • Purpose:  He said, “This is a huge driver of culture today.  Millennials don’t have the same values (as other cohorts) and there is an ethos of purpose in the world,” citing the book, Firms of Endearment, among others as evidence of this phenomenon.
  • Inclusion and Removing Bias:  Bersin said inclusive talent practices drive financial results and cited a two-year Deloitte study of talent management, which correlated 80 different practices and revealed that “an inclusive talent system was the number one correlated element.”  He also spoke about unconscious bias, saying that Deloitte research indicated that “in teams that are gender diverse, people feel safer, and teams that are more racially diverse are more innovative.”
  • Feedback:  Bersin said that “40 to 45 percent of companies do annual engagement surveys” and “if you aren’t adopting these sorts of tools you don’t understand what’s going on.”  He went on to say that “Yelp at work is coming and a world of feedback apps is here.”
  • Leadership:  He advised, “Focus on younger, fresh models of leadership” and “the leaders we respect are servant leaders, collaborative and more purposeful.”

In these five factors impacting culture Bersin also advised, “Focus on young people, drive experiences lower in the organization, give (these) people the opportunity to take leadership roles.”

Ron Storn, VP of People for Lyft, talked about “Culture in Hyper-Growth,” sharing his company’s mission:  “To unite humanity and technology in order to make every day rides welcoming, affordable and memorable.”  Their mission is really a hybrid mission-purpose statement because it is so wonderfully outwardly focused on the impact Lyft hopes to make in the lives of their customers.

Lyft’s people-focused culture and mission has helped to drive the spectacular growth of this ride-sharing and transportation company from 85 employees in six U.S. cities in 2013 to 1,500+ employees in 200+ U.S. cities and three international partners in 2016.

Storn shared “What Top Talent Wants,” distilling it down to three things: “To work with the best people, have a role/impact within the organization, and have a connection to the mission (purpose) of the organization.”  Lyft’s core values – Be yourself, Create fearlessly, Uplift others and Make it happen – are certainly in alignment with what top talent say they want at this people-centric organization.

Lyft is a bright, shining example of the purpose-driven companies that Human Synergistics, organizer of the 2nd Annual Ultimate Culture, has in mind with their mission – “Changing the World – One Organization at a Time.”  Gotta love a company dedicated to doing this work!




About the Author:  Patrice Tanaka is a serial entrepreneur, having co-founded three award-winning, PR & marketing firms and, most recently, Joyful Planet, a Business & Life Strategy Consultancy. “Through Joyful Planet, I am doing what I love and do best, leveraging my creative, problem-solving talent to help individuals and organizations discover and live their purpose and unleash greater success, fulfillment and joy in business and life,” says Patrice. This is the subject of Patrice’s new best-selling book, Beat the Curve, co-authored with world renowned management consultant and coach, Brian Tracy, and other business leaders. Her chapter is entitled, “Live Your Life’s Purpose and Unleash Your Joy.” Connect with Patrice@JoyfulPlanet.com and via LinkedIn/Patrice Tanaka and Twitter/Patrice Tanaka.  




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