Culturevists unite to share ideas on company culture

Every new Starbucks employee is given a ‘coffee passport’ and guided through the importance of viewing each one of its stores through “the siren’s eye” as part of the introduction to the company’s culture.

This information was shared by Vici Cornwall, @kikiloola, Internal Communications Manager for Starbucks EMEA as part of a brand new event for “people interested in organisational culture” called #Culturevist.

What led to 50 people being in the same room at the same time? This tantalising invitation…

“You’re an activist in your own organisation. You care so much about your culture that you’re pretty much willing to lose your job for it. This is an opportunity to meet and bounce ideas around with people like us. You’ll hear a few 5-minute talks of things that other organisations do to create an amazing culture, and we can take the conversation wherever we want to.”

#Culturevist is the brainchild of super smart Matthew Partovi, @matthewpartovi, who works for Yammer, and on Thursday evening I joined the other ‘culturevists’ at their offices in London to discover what it was all about.

There was an excitement in the room before it started, which continued throughout the evening and beyond.


Further info: I’ve just interviewed Matthew for my upcoming FIR presents All Things IC with Rachel Miller podcast – it will be going live at the end of this month and I’ll share the link when it’s up.

There were many familiar faces in the room, with lots of The IC Crowd@TheICCrowd, members in attendance, and it was great to meet lots of new people too. There were people from various functions including HR and Comms and organisations including Barclays, PwC, Grant Thornton, News UK (formerly News International) and many more.

The importance of culture

How important is culture to your organisation? How many times have you walked into a workplace and been able to see the culture and effect it has on employees? How do you define it in your company?

I often use the Deal and Kennedy (1982) definition:


Why? Because I think it is an apt description that people can immediately grasp, and it manifests itself in different ways in different organisations.

That for me is the essence of culture, it is unique to each workplace, and part of the role of internal communication is to uphold it, protect it and highlight initiatives and good work that promote and reinforces culture.

The reverse is also true – to identify what doesn’t fit with the culture. What’s your experience, particularly when it comes to identifying what doesn’t fit?

In the future I think employees will expect and choose organisations who have a strong internal culture and sense of community, that they and their peers can identify with.

I think it will also become an increasingly important way of motivating and managing an organisation. I could write a whole separate article on that topic, but for now, am going to focus on last week’s event.

I agree with Matthew Ballantine’s perspective on his blog: “The audience seemed to split into two camps – those seeking to instill a “great culture” at their place of work, and those who see culture as an important factor in how to deliver change in a business.”

So what did I learn on Thursday night?

The informal nature of the evening meant there was plenty of time to talk with other people in the room, which is always good. I learnt as much from those conversations as the structured talks.

The five minute flash talks worked well, with the snippet I shared in the intro being revealed by Vici during her one.

I am currently working with a client in a building opposite Vici’s in London and we met for coffee the other week (I had heard Starbucks are good at that!). Like most communicators – you know you do this too – I wanted to take a peek around her office to see whether my perceptions of the company matched the reality.

She has kindly agreed to write a guest article for my blog, so look out for more information coming soon about employee communication at Starbucks, I won’t spoil what I saw, as I’ll let her tell you in her own words in the near future.

During her talk at #Culturevist Vici talked about communication and rituals, and how they are used to build trust within an organisation to reinforce its culture. Her enthusiasm for the topic was clear and she also spoke about the importance of breaking down jargon and upholding common language:

Other talks included Tom Fraine, People Team Leader at Innocent. I recommend checking out their website – I particularly like the timeline of the company and you can watch Tom via this video (not from #Culturevist night).

It was great to hear Tom offering an insight into the reality of their culture, particularly given that most people have a positive perception of the company, myself included.

I was struck by some of the stories he shared and his honest thought: “These examples are the best stories about our culture. However, they are 10 years old – the challenge we and many other companies face is ensuring we constantly find ways to have such stories to share.”

Next up was Helena Moore, @HelenaJMoore, from Bromford. It was lovely to meet someone from Bromford in real life having tweeted numerous members of their team and featured three guest posts by Andy Johnson, Jarrod Williams and Alex Bird.

You can watch Helena talking about their culture via this video.

She spoke about what happened when they removed Bromford’s company vision, head office, managers and mission statement and focused on culture as the DNA of their organisation and the role of common language.

You can read full information about what they did via Andy’s guest article on my blog.

Ricardo Sueiras from PricewaterhouseCoopers, (PwC), talked about how ‘reverse mentoring’ has been working within the professional services firm. In a bid to share knowledge and reinforce its culture, the company has been encouraging senior leaders to be mentored by new employees and vice versa.

PwC also transformed a content management system into a wiki so everyone could contribute, which led to “real business wins.”

The final speaker was from Sarri Bater from Agile Organisation, @AgileOrg, talking about holacracy. She did a brilliant job at distilling down the thoughts behind it into a short five minute talk. You can find out more via Agile Org’s website.

If you’re interested in finding out more about holacracy, see this event taking place on 20 May. Or these articles:




Congratulations to Matthew for creating the event. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next with #culturevist. It feels like the start of something…

Further reading: @culturevist on Twitter or the culturevist website.

Post author: Rachel Miller.

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