Day one of the rock concert/frat party/intellectual forum/old-time revival that is Dreamforce is in the books, and by all appearances it will be one to remember. I think.  It being the morning after the first day, I am still in awe and trying to process the whole experience. My HR colleagues who have never been are in shock.

The juggernaut that is Salesforce continues to amaze in that it can consistently deliver up the crowds, content and culture that are on display every year at this annual gathering in San Francisco. And when I say San Francisco, I mean the whole of San Francisco from the airport (and in my case the connecting airport in Phoenix where the most-asked question in the gate area to was “are you headed to Dreamforce”?) to the Embarcadero, to virtually every hotel within a thirty mile radius and even the cruise ship that was brought in to provide overflow housing and meeting space.

Simply stated—for one week this is the epicenter of the business universe where everything good about being great shines through for Salesforce, and the gravity that is the customer experience they create pulls you in.

Walking the (many) Expo Halls around the Moscone Convention complex, sitting in the common areas to people-watch a bit, or taking in any of the music acts on the stages around the event, three words that capture it jump out at me.

  • Culture
  • Engagement
  • Success

The last time I checked, these are three words that pop up a LOT when the HR community comes together.  Let me share some of why they amply describe the experience that is Dreamforce.  And most importantly the people who deliver it.

Culture. When we come together at SHRM, HRTech, or any bar where we gather to talk shop, culture is that topic that runs just under the surface of many conversations. Make no mistake—Salesforce is all about culture. It starts with Marc Benioff in the center and ripples out from there.  It is a positive culture where the mission is shared—to transform how business is done. It is a culture of inclusion where role matters less than willingness to engage. It is a culture of corporate citizenship where 1% of company revenues, employee time, and products are invested in charitable causes. It is a culture that recognizes that work is work but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. And it is a culture that above all else is the Culture of Customer.

That culture is on display all around Dreamforce, all day and every day.

My HR takeaway:  “I am reminded this week that care and feeding of culture should come before all else.”

Engagement.  Industry reports chronicle the fact that far over 2/3 of the workforce these days is not engaged—they feel no attachment to their company or mission. It’s not a long leap in logic, and research supports it, that a workforce that is not engaged translates into poor business outcomes. Walk around Dreamforce and you see “engagement” personified. It is everywhere. Those highly engaged employees (and contractors) are on full display all over the city this week with their iPads full of answers to questions, and suggestions on what you might enjoy most.  They have been equipped and empowered to engage.

My HR takeaway:  Customers sense engagement right away—-give employees the tools to be engaged as brand ambassadors.”

Success. When a technology company can attract well over 150,000 of its faithful to a weeklong event in a city full of $600/night hotel rooms and somehow convince them it is a cultural not-to-be-missed happening that is SUCCESS. It doesn’t take long to figure out that the culture of “customer” is the dominant contributor to the company’s momentum. Simply stated—-from top to bottom, they can’t wait to show you what they’ve been working on for you the past year and what they are planning for the road ahead.  And that makes you feel like you can’t help but be successful with them.

My HR takeaway:  “Customer Success is an outcome of culture and engagement and is the only metric that matters at the end of the day.”

So Day One is in the books.  It was a day to remember just how powerful an engaged employee can be when turned loose in a culture that is focused on Customer Success. For the remainder of the week it is all about sessions on best practices, roaming the Expo floor to get a glimpse of how the Salesforce App Cloud is being applied to myriad business challenges, and see what I can find that my HR friends should know about.

It shouldn’t be hard. This place is a toolbox full of stuff that can make our task as Workforce Developers easier, more fun and at the end of the day a true contributor to our companies’ or clients’ success.

Now—to decide if I’m really up for the Foo Fighters or not.  Decisions, decisions.