When companies want fast growth, hiring and retaining rock stars becomes essential. Diversity, inclusion, belonging and employee experience aren't just buzzwords-- it's crucial framework for your company's culture. Culture is a critical part of company growth.

I've studied businesses that have made the Inc. 500 list as the fastest-growing private companies in America. In more than 300 interviews with these founders and CEOs, 94 percent of those interviewed said leaders must put employees first-- instead of customers -- to grow fast.

To inspire creating a culture of belonging and happiness, there are a few conferences that help transform the way people think about work, although "conferences" isn't really the best word for the types of events you need to attend.

Rather, most of the gatherings you should go to focus on the experience of sharing with like-minded leaders. Their organizers want to go beyond the traditional auditorium setting. They believe that the old-school panel of four experts and a moderator is a dying format for transferring insight.

At these events, you'll see more expert facilitation and group discussions of ideas. You'll experience a new culture; these events are engineered to shift you from the powerful pull of your status-quo thinking. There are keynote speakers, but often, their ideas of engagement are quite different than what you're accustomed to.

I have worked with event organizers for similar events to ensure the audience is engaged with the content to the highest levels. I often speak at events like these to share my research on fast-growing companies views of leadership and culture. The Inc. 500 leaders I work with are focused on their people as much as any other part of their business strategy. 

Here are a few conferences I recommend:

1. Imagine Your Workplace

Every workforce needs a healthy environment to perform and grow. Toronto's Imagine Your Workplace is a gathering of leaders who want productive, inspired workplaces.

It offers a blend of research and insights on implementing an environment that feeds an organization's soul. What makes this event different is its attention to the art and science of the future of work.

2. Culture Summit

In San Francisco, founders, thought leaders and culture champions come together to share strategies and best practices on transforming company culture from the bottom up. Culture Summit looks at how employees play a role in defining culture; unique experiences help this event go beyond data -- or a reliance on perks -- to keep employees.

This event is different from others because it focuses on transformation from within an organization's ranks to complement executive buy-in.

3. Culture First

At another San Francisco event, Culture First, you'll learn from other leaders how to create an environment where employees are able to be their truest selves. This is the second annual event where employee experience trends are explored, along with every other facet of leadership needed to put culture first.

What sets this event apart is its focus on hands-on learning on topics like diversity and inclusion, performance and employee experience trends.

4. Responsive Conference

Join the era of a flat hierarchy in business instead of the traditional pyramid structure. Leaders learn what it takes to build great humans at the Responsive Conference in Las Vegas, which focuses on how people learn, amplifying the process of learning.

What makes this event different is how it's designed to be an interactive learning environment. The goal of the event is not just to talk about human development, but to also create a learning experience where we can embody these ideas.


Discover how to assemble world-class teams and manage employees in a way that pushes everyone to the top of their game. The OPTIMA conference in Boston shows leaders how to align people strategy with business strategy. This is the first event of its kind that focuses on talent optimization.

The differentiator of this event is how to use people data to predict which candidates will be the strongest fit for your company. The primary focus will be on hiring strategies and ways to effectively develop your people.

6. The Culture Conference

Transforming your culture is an inside-out job. The Culture Conference event in San Francisco pulls together some of the largest companies known for creating intentional employee experiences, such as Southwest, Slack and Salesforce. This is an experience where you practice the culture you want to take back to your companies and teams.

One big difference: This is an invite-only conference. The organizers know the experience is only as good as the people in the room, so you have to apply to attend.

Hiring and retaining rock stars is crucial to your company's long-term growth. These events can help you build a culture that will draw talent in -- and keep it there.