When I was asked to help lead workshops around the world as part of my role at Culture Amp, I was initially hesitant. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was a unique opportunity to blend a personal passion for teaching with my professional commitment to Culture Amp. Some might call this combination of personal and professional life bringing your whole self to work, others might say it’s simply lucky.
At Culture Amp, we see it as part of being Culture First and celebrating our employees’ personal quest.
Our workshops are a way for us to share the unique philosophy that collective Campers (what we lovingly call those who work at Culture Amp) have come up with when it comes to designing, collecting and acting on employee feedback. Now, I not only help companies achieve better cultures through my day-to-day role, but I get to lead workshops that share our research and learnings with the broader people geek community.
My journey from scientist to practitioner
I had always known I wanted to be a psychologist, and as an undergraduate I dove headfirst into the field. Eventually, my studies brought me to a larger community where I found my professional passion focused on occupational health psychology. While on my journey to complete a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, I took a position as a Research Psychologist. I was part of an interdisciplinary team of experts educating high risk industries on how to create safer and healthier workplaces. It was the learnings in this role that led me to another moment of realization. As a practitioner, my ability to help companies become exceptional employers would be more impactful than what I could achieve in the classroom setting.
A few years later, a colleague and dear friend, Dr. David Ostberg, introduced me to the great people at Culture Amp. When I learned about Culture Amp’s mission to make better people geeks, I wanted in. Now, I’ve been at Culture Amp for over a year and David and I (along with other esteemed Insights Strategists) have been running workshops in all different regions for the past few months. We share the stage, with David speaking about manager effectiveness in the morning and me speaking in the afternoon about how to approach taking action on employee feedback - a concept near and dear to my heart.
We do things differently at Culture Amp
It’s one thing to combine my passion for teaching with my professional knowledge in I/O Psychology, it’s another to be able to wrap that up in another big interest of mine - motorcycles. I’ve always had a love (maybe a need) for adventure, having tried my hand at many varied activities (e.g., flying planes, skydiving, scuba diving). Seven years ago I took up motorcycling and haven’t looked back.
"We do things differently at Culture Amp." (Click to Tweet!)
David, a fellow motorcycle rider, had the brilliant idea of incorporating our shared love of fresh air and open road with our Pacific Northwest workshop series. A few weeks before we set off he suggested, “We like to do things differently at Culture Amp. Why don’t we ride to Vancouver and Seattle from San Francisco, instead of flying there?” Obviously, I laughed. But I quickly appreciated that David was serious and that we could make this happen. So three weeks later, I find myself writing this less than 24 hours after returning from our 10 day Moto Roadshow that took us across the border, riding over 2,100 miles (~3,400 kms), having connected with more than 100 impressive people geeks from four workshops. While the workshops and ride were a huge success, they were not without some bumps that are inevitable on any adventure.
Acting on feedback is not so different from fixing a motorcycle
I decided to rent a bike, rather than ride my Suzuki DR650 (not fast enough) or my Triumph Bonneville (not reliable enough in its current state). After riding 450 miles our first day, I knew there was something wrong with the front steering on my rental. After troubleshooting the obvious (e.g., tire pressure, wind screen setup), we spent the evening doing what any tech-enabled person these days might do - we crowdsourced solutions via the internet.
Sure enough, we discovered that the steering head bearings for the particular motorcycle I rented are often just “finger tight” and need a bit of wrenching to get properly locked in. With ideas in hand, the next morning we stopped at a great service shop, explained what we had learned, had them confirm the proper solution, and readily address the issue. We were on our way, again.
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People ride for many different personal reasons. For me, riding is as much an adventure as it is a practice of meditation. It provides the mental space to think openly and unconstrained and the time to associate connections about life and events. Once back on the road, I couldn’t help reflecting on the irony of solving the bike’s mechanical problem as it relates to what I talk about in the workshop.
Rather than simply throw my hands up and defer to “experts” to diagnose the issue and come up with a solution, we relied on a network of people living similar experiences. I regularly talk to companies about the limitations of turning to consultants or “best practices” for solutions when faced with critical employee feedback. This is because that approach often overlooks their company’s unique DNA - their values and organizational culture. Instead, we recommend ways to crowdsource ideas from employees by involving them in the ideation process and asking them to help generate the very solutions to feedback provided. We’re applying this same crowdsourcing idea in our Culture Amp platform as well, with the creation of our Inspiration Engine.
While I’m reticent to make the full leap that my using the internet to find a solution for my motorcycle is directly analogous for how to best approach taking action on employee feedback, these are the kinds of divergent connections and ideas that go through my mind when I’m on the open road. In the case of efficient motorcycle maintenance being not unlike effectively acting on employee feedback, I’ll argue that turning to others who are living the reality you are seeking to improve can be the best course of truth and positive development.
Jen Cullen has a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and prior to joining Culture Amp as the Director of Enterprise Insights, was the Chief Scientist at Evolv, Inc. (acquired by Cornerstone OnDemand) where she oversaw selection science and talent management products and initiatives. She often works with large organizations, key decision makers, and lots of data to implement, analyze, and understand the impact of organizational initiatives and strategic workforce decisions on employees.
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