5 ways to embed your company values into your company onsite
Planning your next onsite? Read Whereby's tips in this blog on how to embed your values in your next onsite.
Remote work offers great benefits: freedom to work from anywhere and flexibility to work in ways that suit everyone. Still, some things are just more effective face-to-face. One example is the company on-site. It is a major opportunity to realign the team and share new experiences together.
At Whereby, we just wrapped an incredible 3-day on-site in a town outside of Barcelona. From our product, to our people policies, we are flexible, we are autonomous, and we are creative. We made it a priority to embed these fundamental values and ways of working into our onsite experience - and it paid off!
Here’s how we approached bringing our team from 17+ countries together for our first company-wide event since the pandemic and how you can, too.
1. Know the purpose of your event
At Whereby, we’re big fans of using guiding principles to make strategic decisions. In planning our company on-site, we started sketching our goals for the event by thinking about our company values and our own pyramid of clarity.
Inspired by Asana's model, we've developed a pyramid of clarity to align the high-level purpose of our work and the results we expect. The pyramid shows how our longer-term aspirations are built on top of shorter-term goals.
In building the agenda and event design, our Exec team used this pyramid to guide their thinking. The pyramid was helpful in breaking down how the sessions would work for the team: in the current state of the market, for our company strategy in this next growth stage, and to help individual team members make decisions that support the big picture.
Defining the event purpose also included collecting feedback from our team, which helped us design a more inclusive event. Every attendee ranked which topics they care about the most and took “People pulse” surveys on relationships and collaboration to share how they feel about their team bonding.
All this input led us to our on-site mission: “The goal of the on-site is to ensure alignment, bonding and fun! This time together will focus on connection, creativity, and clarity. There will be opportunities to learn more about your colleagues, understand more about where we’re going as a company, and do some work together on planning, building, and hacking.”
What does a successful event look like? What are the main things we want to accomplish in person?
Have you asked your team what they hope to gain from the experience on-site?
What tools do you have that can help guide your event design and planning? (Company values or mission statements are usually a good place to start!)
2. Let every step be part of the experience
Having a defined mission for the event, we decided to let the team book their own flights and manage their own itineraries. Rather than trying to coordinate flight times for dozens of people from many countries, we had everyone use Travelperk to book flights with Pleo, the company credit card. That way, everyone had freedom to arrive and depart Barcelona on their own accord. It also gave our People team the operational ability to see overall travel plans without the responsibility of managing individual schedules.
With trust as one of our core values, and a self-directed culture at the center of all our organization design, we knew everyone would feel comfortable managing their own travel and asking for help if needed.
We extended this self-directed principle to the experience on-site, welcoming each teammate with a nametag where they could indicate their comfort level for greetings: “Handshakes OK” or “Hugs Welcome”! We brought along consultant Sara Chandran from Fresh & Fearless to kick things off with Diversity Bingo. It was the perfect icebreaker for our team, most of whom had worked together remotely but never met in person. We also covered some key points in her work and shared DEI initiatives from other tech companies that could inspire us for the on-site events we had planned.
How are booking, registration, and pre-event communications part of the on-site experience?
What opportunities are there to minimize the administrative load on the events team?
Does each on-site touchpoint, from pre-arrival to departure, reflect your values and mission?
3. Take care of your people with the right venue
Another one of our values kept coming up as we created the company on-site agenda: Human First. Recognizing that our employees typically work from anywhere, independently, we tried to make the experience as comfortable as possible for them. We also know that, although traveling for work can be fun and exciting, it can also be draining and be a disruption to workflow and family obligations.
With this in mind, we set everyone up with their own living quarters, covered COVID-19 tests, and structured our schedule to be as flexible as possible. We aimed to find a balance between mandatory sessions and free time. We also found a venue that was a perfect match to our values: there were private areas and communal gathering spaces, comfortable seating, snacks and drinks were self-serve, and creativity was apparent everywhere, from decor to layout.
Will the space and accommodations be comfortable for people?
Do people have enough time to relax and recharge in ways that are right for them?
Can people participate remotely if they can’t join in-person?
4. Offer choice in the on-site agenda
One of the best ways you can take care of your team is to provide them with options so that they can customize the experience to meet their needs. This reflects our values of trust and our aim to support a self-directed work culture. Creating the agenda is one area where we applied this value, booking time for company sessions and leaving time for organic team bonding.
On the second day, we held an Unconference: employee-generated and -led group sessions on a range of topics. We had a mini test run on the day prior, with assigned topics and speakers to give everyone a feel for the event format. We left the topics up for discussion, including work and personal topics, and had groups dispersed around the campus grounds. This allowed people to roam and participate in the sessions they were most interested in.
How many options do individuals have throughout the event?
Are all planned activities mandatory?
Are activities all in the same format (i.e. all large group presentations)?
5. Give people the chance to shine IRL
In addition to sharing updates and aligning the team from a strategic point of view, we wanted to take advantage of having so many innovative and creative people in one space. For that reason, we added a Hackathon and ETHOS Awards to the schedule.
The Hackathon focused on making our product more accessible and company more inclusive. The challenge: “At Whereby we are committed to our values of Ethically Ambitious, Selfishly Diverse, and Human First. This means we know we must invest in ensuring we are Inclusive, Equitable and Accessible in everything we do in the company and on our product. We’d love your ideas on how we can further supercharge this in this ✂️ Make-it! “
Seeing everyone’s brainstorming processes in real-time, collaborating with new teammates, and hearing new ideas was inspiring. The winning product idea was a feature to measure talk time distribution across participants in a meeting. This feature could provide valuable insights on team dynamics, sales pitching and prospects, and more. The winning organizational idea was for community volunteer days, where team members get 4 paid volunteer days per year to give back to their local communities. People could book the days in Bob, our HR software, and be rewarded for participation individually and as groups.
The ETHOS Awards gave team members the chance to nominate colleagues who embody company values and go above and beyond in their own way. On our final evening we hosted the ETHOS awards, displaying top winners on the big screen and awarding them each a prize! It was a great way to recognize team members and close out the event. It also gave us the perfect post-event follow up: we gathered quotes from the nomination forms and sent them so every individual can understand how much their colleagues value them.
Is there time for team bonding and informal ‘hanging out’?
Are there activities or opportunities where people can stretch their imaginations and demonstrate their skills in new ways?
How can you maximize the time together and make people feel appreciated?
As a People Ops team, planning an on-site requires an inclusive perspective to build an experience for everyone to enjoy. Spending full days together means you can create a flexible agenda that ticks all the major boxes: moments for spontaneous bonding, sessions for company strategy and alignment, and time for creativity and productivity, like a hackathon.