Creating a welcoming and engaging work environment is essential for nurturing lasting employee loyalty. But what exactly cultivates this positive atmosphere? Here at thunder::tech, our secret sauce lies in fostering continuous learning and educational prospects within a collaborative setting. We want to ignite our employees' enthusiasm for learning from one another and empower them to proudly share their passions and interests. This aspiration finds its wings through intentionally in-person events that serve as catalysts for this dynamic exchange.
At the beginning of 2023, we set out on a mission: to establish three seasonal learning opportunities at our Cleveland headquarters. In May, August and October, we rallied our teams to commit to two days of in-office collaboration. The purpose? To learn, share and enjoy each other’s company.
The Evolution of Events
Our journey commenced with Spring::Fling – an event designed with the goals of learning from each other and understanding the value of such gatherings to our team. To kickstart this, we orchestrated a two-day tech::fair reminiscent of a science fair, showcasing presentations from employees across various departments.
While the presentations were rich with carefully crafted content, the fluidity of the open-house style was a bit too unconstrained. Some stations buzzed with activity, while others awaited their next turn for admirers. Recognizing the need for more structured engagement, we set our sights on refining our approach for the next gathering.
Enter the Summer Shindig—an evolution of the tech::fair. Here, we revolutionized the format by organizing team members into smaller groups and allotting dedicated time for presentations. This deliberate restructuring not only amplified participation and engagement but also fostered vibrant cross-departmental collaboration and conversation. The structured schedule eliminated aimless wandering, allowing more meaningful interactions and free time post-presentations.
Looking back at what we learned over the year, we closed out the seasonal learning events with Fall::Fest. Building upon the refined elements from the Summer::Shindig and Spring::Fling, we introduced a pivotal practice presenter session.
A week before the event, we gathered the presenters (remotely!) for a rehearsal. This gave them the ability to not only provide feedback and insight to their team members but also a fun, collaborative conversation that helped ease the natural presenter anxiety.
Amidst the wealth of new traditions that emerged throughout the year, one perennial favorite stood tall—the historic thunder::tech pumpkin carving contest. This cherished event, eagerly anticipated by team members annually, remains an integral part of our fall celebration.
Setting Up for Success
The t::team viewed each event as a stepping stone, embracing a mindset geared toward learning from every experience. Each gathering was a classroom, presenting us with valuable lessons that propelled us toward continual improvement and encouraged us to make each event better than the last.
So, what lessons did we learn? Organizing in-person events certainly comes with its fair share of challenges, but with a list of core principles to follow, it’s simple to see success.
Early and Transparent Communication
The first rule of thumb? Share details early and often. If you’re expecting employees to come into the office for something, the sooner it’s on their calendar, the better! Utilize all the communications tools available at your digitally fluent fingertips. To make things easier for employees (and yourself!), make sure this information is accessible in the weeks prior to the event.
Clarity Breeds Engagement
Next, get specific about what people are doing at the office and why they should be excited about it. What’s on the agenda? Who is presenting, and what are the topics? What’s for lunch?! The more prepared the team is for what to expect, the more engaged they will be.
Embrace Organic Interaction
Finally, make the most of the time together. Build out opportunities for team members to engage organically with one another. This means ensuring physical spaces in the office for interaction and conversations and creating an agenda allowing for downtime. If a schedule is too strict, you’ve missed the chance for a genuine connection!
So, why do we really do this? How do we know it works? Things like company culture and engagement can be tricky to measure in numbers. Sure, we can use surveys and their data to understand the details. Feedback is always encouraged to help us make changes. But how do we determine if this is something worth doing? For us, it’s about noticing engagement. We look for people asking their peers questions during presentations, team members eating lunch with people they don’t work with daily or tenured employees sharing entertaining lore with newer staff. As each seasonal event evolved throughout the year, we saw more of these things each time.
What Comes Next?
We’re doing it again! Three more in-person seasonal learning events are on the docket for 2024. These will be planned with more knowledge, drawing from our deepening expertise and a refined understanding of our employees’ evolving needs and aspirations. And as always, our approach leaves ample room for enhancements and innovations.
What is meaningful to your team will continue to change and evolve. If the last few years in the workplace have taught us anything, it’s that! The most imperative part of intentional togetherness is consistently gaining feedback and evaluating your team's insight. Be willing to change things up and listen closely to what provides meaning when you get your team together.
Our remote-friendly agency is always on the lookout for talented, driven, and friendly individuals to join our team. If you’re interested in joining our team, check out our careers page for our open positions!