How does one create a workplace where “people want to join, stay, and grow?”

The Washington Technology Industry Association’s FullConTech conference hosted at Microsoft yesterday cultivated conversations about the gender pay gap, inclusivity, and assessing company culture. Technology and human resource leaders addressed attendees with nuggets of advice and lessons learned before the groups broke off into problem-solving sessions.

Keynote speaker Julio Portalatin, the president and chief executive officer of the global consulting firm Mercer, is passionate about creating a better work environment, especially because he has three young granddaughters that will one day join the work force.

FullConTech conference“’Have we done better for them?’” he often poses to himself. “Have we made the world a better place for them to have increased opportunity? Every time, I say: No. We haven’t done enough.”

Mercer has conducted research globally with millions of employees and documented a list of universal best practices. Portalatin shared a handful of its findings at the conference. Though they may seem obvious, he said, 90 percent of companies aren’t executing them well.

  1. Identify the Issue: “Many companies get involved in taking action before they really know what the problem is. And one of the problems is, you have to get into the data and let the data talk to you.”
  2. Engaged Leadership: “You have to have a passionate set of decision makers in your company who have adopted (the problem) as an imperative. If you don’t, stop now. Stop now, because all of your passion will have very little impact if the tone is not set at the top.
  3. Define Success: Understand what success looks like here. Don’t define it as, ‘Let’s just do the effort and not get the results.’ Define what success looks like. Measure it against that result and be transparent about that measurement, and then move the pendulum forward.

The other FullConTech speakers gave information-filled “flash talks” about what they’re doing to move the needle forward and some of the best practices they’ve discovered throughout their careers.

425 Business boiled down some of the high points.

Monica Bailey, Chief People Officer at GoDaddy

On Dissecting Company Culture and Rebuilding It:

“We started with values. Second, we wove in our values to our performance review process. So, it’s not only what you do, but equally important, how you got it done relative to our values. For us, being able to include each other, take risks, experiment, and grow our capabilities (is important), especially for those scrappy, awesome people who have a lot of growing to do, and we gave them a chance to do so. So, instead of our values being on a big, glossy poster you’d see on a wall, we made sure that we pay you to live those values, because that might just work.”

Len Jordan, Managing Director at Madrona Venture Group

On What He Looks for in Company Culture:

“Transparency is probably the most endearing quality that we look for. When we first meet an entrepreneur, I’m most impressed by the entrepreneurs that, in my first meeting, don’t just tell me everything great about the company and their mission and what they plan to accomplish, but their willingness to expose vulnerability — what might go wrong; what things aren’t figured out. And the reason that’s important on a cultural level, is because it’s probably the way they run their company. It’s probably the way they treat their employees. If you give people the chance to express weakness and what’s not going well, you afford them the chance to take risks, and that’s what we’re in the business of doing.”

Sue McNab, Director of the Seattle Department of Human Resources

On Changing a Toxic Culture:

“Forget about the models above the door — figure out what your culture is. So, how I did that was I spent some time in new employee orientations. They had no idea who I was, which was great because they told me everything. I found out that there’s problems with the retiring system, and the guys that clean out the homeless system don’t have enough white gloves to help them and that the police were harassing them. So, I found out all sorts of stuff. That’s one of the ways that you as a (leader) can find out what’s happening. Spend some time with your receptionist. Spend time with the people that work in the cafeteria, and you’ll find out what your culture really is and how you might be able to change it.”

Amy Lynch, Regional Vice President of Comcast

On Building a More Inclusive Culture:

“There are some things that we’re doing here at Comcast, right here in Washington or even in this third of the country, as it relates to building a culture of inclusion. When you look at a culture of inclusion — and I’ll say equity — it’s not just about doing one thing, is what we found. It’s clearly a journey for us as a company, and our employees are on this journey together. … We get together regularly to talk about systems and processes that we’ve created that get in the way, which, perhaps, are preventing us from creating a place of belonging or creating a place where diversity is welcomed and talked about even.”

Ringo Nishioka, Vice President of Human Resources at MoxiWorks and author of the HR Nasty blog.

On an Employee’s Thoughts and Perceptions vs. a Manager’s:

“Employees sometimes know how their goals relate to the company. Sometimes. I think companies make a great effort to communicate goals and to communicate SMART goals. We’ve all heard of the measurable and achievable (SMART goals), but I don’t know if we’re talking about the individual steps until the goal is achieved. We, as leaders in this room, understand how success isn’t just going to help the company, but how it’s going to help me (in my career). I think that’s a big difference that can engage a lot of individual contributors.”