Take a Page from Cerkl’s Employee Events
Over the past couple of years, our People Team has been creating exciting, inclusive events for both our in-office and remote employees. They’re sharing their event foundations, daily practices, and some of their greatest events hits with Cerklers.
Where to Start
Before your team begins to put events on the calendar, some essential foundational work should be done. Take a step back and consider your org’s mission, vision, and values.
Every company has pillars that drive every decision and are one of the main reasons your employees joined.
What Matters Most to Your Employees?
At Cerkl, we know that working with us is only a part of our employees’ lives. It’s just a piece of the personal pie.
Our People Team mapped out what parts of their lives we can help fill with our programming, events, and benefits.
- Health and Wellness – Health and life insurance options cover part of this. We encourage our employees to take the time they need to be healthy. If you’re feeling under the weather, get offline.
- Personal Development – We want our employees to feel fulfilled outside of work. Whether that’s our YP’s taking a Grocery Shopping 101 course, supporting outside volunteer opportunities, or more.
- Financial Health – From financial seminars to our raise structure, we ensure our employees are financially secure.
- Mental Health – Some of our team members were having difficulty transitioning to a remote environment, so we purchased them a Headspace subscription.
- Professional Development – Each employee is allotted a professional development budget for classes they want to take, conferences they wish to attend, or even get a certification to beef up their LinkedIn.
- Home Office – Everyone has an ideal setup to optimize their productivity. Whether it’s dual monitors, a new keyboard, or a set of soundproof headphones to keep the workflow going, we provide Cerklers with the equipment they need.
- Passions – We saved our favorite for last, as supporting employees’ passions is a must for our Culture Team.
What are Your Employees’ Passions Outside of Work?
Do any of your teammates have creative passions in their personal lives? You can help nurture these passions in the workplace and include them in your strategic planning.
Cerklers love competing. The energy we have when competing alongside each other goes unmatched. Our Principal Product Designer’s streaming queue is stacked with Survivor and the pilot of any game show. Even Guy’s Grocery Games.
So our People Team asked the question, “What if we gave our game head a budget to support him to put on a competition for the company?”
That’s how the first Cerkl Olympics was born. The Cerkl Olympics was our first all-day employee event where our calendars were blocked off, and we competed with and alongside one another.
Since then, we’ve had an in-person, entirely virtual, and hybrid “Olympic” event where employees across the country get to team up with Cerklers outside of their department to bring home the gold.
You can see for yourself how our latest hybrid event, the Broadcast Bowl, brought together our team for a couple of memorable moments.
These events have become an integral part of the Cerkl employee experience, especially those whose passions we supported.
“I don’t know where else in the world I could have a job as a designer and also be ‘The Commish’ and do all these team building games. And live out my other passion outside of work and my career, but bring it into my career.
I think that’s what’s really kept me around for the six years that I’ve been here. The fact that they care about the whole person and not just who the employee is, but who you are in and outside of work. That’s really what comes first all the time.”– Sam Huber, Principal Product Designer AKA “The Commissioner”
Another less expensive example we have is that our Podcast Producer has a fantastic voice acting talent as a voice actor. So, our People Team actively seeks opportunities for her to contribute her vocals to a project. Whether it’s a bit in a goofy Impractical Jokers game or launching a new internal comms initiative, she gets to strut her stuff and grow her reel.
“In terms of voice-over opportunities that I’ve done for the People Team, the one that sticks out to me the most are the Impractical Jokers-style clips for the Broadcast Bowl. Unlike other things I’ve been doing, either audio edits or voicing a sample for the company, I got to produce these from scratch and let my other voice-over friends get silly with me. This gave me a moment to go through the creative process for a late 2 am submission again like when I did during college finals.”– Gina Moravec, Podcast Producer with the “buttery voice.”
Allow Employees to Drive Your Culture
What better way to ensure that your programming and events are something employees can get psyched about than letting them participate in that conversation? There are a few active and passive ways that you can get them involved.
- Form a culture committee – This is an optional club that any employee can participate in. Your internal communications team can lead a monthly meeting to give your employees the floor. Whether it’s an event or volunteer idea that they’d like to put forward or feedback on a recent campaign or meet-up, it’s best to hear directly from some of your most engaged employees.
- Give managers budgets to spend on their team members – As your frontline to employees, your managers connect with their team in a way corporate can’t. Sure, HR might have their birthday or work anniversary on file, but you don’t know that Jen in Accounting has had a really tough time sleeping as of late. Or that Harold in Marketing had been taking the WFH switch pretty hard. Give your managers the funding and opportunity to sprinkle joy into their lives. Maybe they get Jen a sleep spray or weighted eye mask or Harold a Headspace subscription for the year. These little things mean the world to an employee on the receiving end.
- Have a constant, accessible way your team can contribute ideas – Whether it’s a form you set up on your intranet or a quarterly send in your newsletter, make your department more accessible and accepting of your ideas. We live in an age where digital content and what others experience inspire our ideas. A TikTok of people running around trying not to lose the candy cane on their finger seems silly, but it could also be an inexpensive competition at your next holiday party.
Now that we’ve covered the foundational aspects of corporate event planning let’s get nitty-gritty with the different event mediums.
Virtual Events Best Practices
There are only a few things more uncomfortable than the silent lull at a virtual lunch or happy hour. Everyone’s casting their eyes away from the camera, desperately waiting for someone to speak.
We’ve outgrown this as a workforce that’s transitioned to more remote environments, right? There are other ways to connect than drinking a hard seltzer from your fridge while you answer icebreakers.
For example, check out a clip from one of our many virtual Space Games challenges – Family Feud.
Cerkl’s Top Hits
Here are a few highlights from our fully-virtual events thrown by Cerkl’s People Team but led and crafted by The Commish.
During lockdown, the People Team had to restructure our monthly team-building events to go entirely virtual. This was a hard ask for a company whose #1 selling point was the in-office culture and relations. At the time, we had a few remote team members, but being apart was taking a toll for that long. We needed to rally together for something Cerklers love most – competition.
That’s when Space Games was born.
Quickly, teams of 4-5 were assigned for the entirety of COVID. Little did we know it’d be a 5-month event.
Our mission: to gain as many of the coveted moon rocks as possible. The teams were given 3 minutes to connect in breakout rooms and name themselves before they were revealed.
Sure, the winners would get a $25 Amazon or UberEats gift card at the end of each month, but being crowned the supreme, ultimate winners were what mattered most.
To share the fun, here’s a template from one of our most popular games, Family Feud, for you and your coworkers to play during your next casual event.
Holiday Space Games
This event was a themed half-day of virtual events that had been ramping up in our #holiday-games Slack channel for the month. The People Team knew how important it was to bring on the holiday cheer in the incredibly dark winter of 2020.
Before the event, the People Team choreographed personalized gifts sent to each employee for a bit of magic.
Then, it was time for the games. This year, a fan favorite was a timed scavenger hunt where employees sprinted into a frenzy to find wacky items across their homes once the timer started. This led to one of the biggest nail biters as each individual had to highlight what they’ve found to add up the points. The catch? Only one item could apply for each team. So 10 Tide Pods that Emma and Joe found in their prospective homes would only be 1 point total.
Here’s our list if you’d like to play it with your team. I love the “DVD of a TV Show’s Fourth Season.”
Hybrid Events Best Practices
It’s super awkward to have muted team members struggling to make out what’s happening on a grainy screen of a room that they aren’t in.
We pulled in our audio superstar to give us the details of her ideal hybrid function set-up.
For events with a clear host, you’d mic them up in an ideal world. Even if the laptop is inches away, the attached mic allows more movement and cuts down on the background noise.
Our Podcast Producer’s picks:
- Blue Yeti mic – Yes, it’s a pretty standard mic and has different settings depending on the type of call.
- Conference mic – If there’s a lot of movement and participants, these types of mics help capture one voice at a time for a better experience for your at-home audience.
Pro tip: The “the more expensive it is, the better” adage applies here. Don’t go for mics under $99, and those are only a smidge better than your laptop mic.
Cerkl’s Top Hits
Rachel’s 5th Anniversary Party
Our Director of Product, Rachel Folz, was about to reach her 5-years at Cerkl, which is a big to-do around here. A couple of weeks before the event, a committee was hand-selected by the People Team made up of work friends and team members to throw a personalized event.
They brainstormed and came up with a theme based on an old nickname for Rachel “Rizzo” Folz – a 50’s Grease theme. Complete with a song and dance with cheeky Cerkl-specific lyrics.
But the question had to be asked – how do we get remote employees more involved if they pop into the event filled with greasers and poodle skirts?
Create a gift that everyone can contribute to.
As a great music lover, making a collaborative playlist for employees to contribute to was a no-brainer. Each employee sent a song that reminded them of our hilarious Product leader. Topped off with some fantastic 80s inspired cover art.
In-Person Events Best Practices
When in doubt, rip off your favorite game show. There’s a reason why people enjoy watching Survivor challenges or laugh at Impractical Jokers, cause it’s easy to understand but also puts you out of your comfort zone.
Sam Huber, The Commissioner, loves making complex game shows or competitions accessible. That way, there’s a fair mix of athletic competition and knowledge-based games.
Cerkl’s Top Hits
This was our first big competition, and it will always have a special place in Cerkl history.
The Olympic committee reached out to our employees, asking them, “What event would you like us to play?”
Submissions ranged from Mario Kart to a speed typing competition to throwing acorns in planters around the office park. These contributions helped make this event uniquely Cerkl while ensuring that there was one competition everyone would be psyched about.
At the opening ceremonies, nations were divided into two teams: Fire and Ice.
In the end, three nations stood on the winners’ podium, and everyone wondered how one person could win three gold medals and still not take the gold. It was me, and I’m haunted by it.
Employee Events Wrap Up
Events are a fun thing for your employees to look forward to, but it’s the little things that make a difference in their productivity and happiness.
- Make sure you’re giving them a platform to contribute their ideas and vote on activities.
- Allow employees to join a Culture Committee and actively participate.
- Entrust your managers with a fund for the things HR can’t catch that mean the world to your employees.
If there’s something you think we missed, please drop your advice and best practices in the comments below!