It’s been four months since our very first Adaptive Office Day took place. We have recently gone through the feedback from the participants and now we have a better understanding of what we were doing and, most importantly, why (oh, yes, you heard right, we weren’t sure about whether this was the kind of event we were looking for, if people would like it, etc.) So, if you want to launch a similar event, or are curious about what we do in our Office Days*, keep reading!
*Spoiler alert: it was such a success, we decided to extend it to the other offices and eventually run an Office Day once a year in each Adaptive location.
Below is a short video montage of our day!
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Why did we decide we needed to do something to get everyone together?
Adaptive started as a business run by four friends who liked working together and delivering bespoke solutions in the capital markets industry. They trusted and respected each other, they were experienced, and they enjoyed each other’s company.
When the company was small, it was easy to create and maintain a collaborative, innovative and fun culture, however as the company has grown from the 4 founders in London, to over 230 people across London, New York, Montreal and Barcelona, culture becomes something that needs work to cultivate and maintain. This Office Day was part of that ‘work’, along with a number of other initiatives that have been invested in to maintain the type of culture that makes Adaptive a great place to work.
What did we want to achieve?
We realised pretty quickly that we would not realise many tangible benefits from running this kind of event, and so we needed to ensure that the management team were comfortable investing the money needed, in almost purely intangible benefits that are very hard to measure (e.g. increased morale, retention, improved communications and relations etc.). After speaking with a few other companies who had run similar events, and hearing from them how important and positive they felt these events were to their culture, we were convinced! We set about writing a list of what intangible benefits (and a few tangible) we wanted to achieve, and how we might measure them, which we will discuss later.
What did we do?
For the day itself, we started by welcoming all staff into the balloon filled office (over 200 balloons!) with a personal goodie bag full of treats, and a hearty breakfast. Then we all settled down to hear a few words from our CEO Matt Barrett and New York Office Director Fergus Keenan, to explain what we wanted from the day and expectations of staff, emphasising that the day is about them, and about having fun. The organising team then presented the topic for the day, and sent the handpicked teams off to start work on their projects in their dedicated working space.
Throughout the day we had a games area available to staff, and encouraged them to take breaks from their projects to enjoy the games together. Lunch was served around midday, and snacks and drinks were available all day.
Around 5 pm we brought all the teams back together to present their projects to the Shark Tank / Dragon’s Den style judging panel, who together picked a winning team, and awarded various other prize titles to the other teams.
Prizes were then distributed, and we all set off to the evening event venue, to relax together with some drinks and lovely food.
Is that not a Hack Day / Hackathon?
Well, we did think of just calling it a Hack Day, but we didn’t want a traditional hackathon. We wanted everyone to have the chance to be fully involved in the day and we wanted to do something original. At Adaptive, we have a broad mix of skills, from developers to project managers, business analysts, UX, QA etc., not to mention our fabulous Back Office staff, without whom Adaptive would not be the same. Having a traditional Hack Day based on a purely technical problem would have excluded a lot of staff, and simply wasn’t the vibe we were going for.
This brings us to an interesting organizational aspect:
How did we decide on the project for the teams to work on?
With so many different skills profiles, we needed a concept that would be suitable for all participants, but that would still keep developers engaged who might be expecting something technical.
One suggestion was to use something physical, like a Raspberry Pi Car, as part of the challenge. Building on that, we needed a fun and engaging narrative, so we let our imagination run wild… we chose a concept of launching a colony on Mars.
The team’s task was to come up with a concept or concepts that could be developed from the base car model to help create a livable colony on Mars, with all the home comforts people desire.
How do we know we achieved what we set out to achieve?
As we have mentioned earlier, most of the benefits we believe we can get from running these events are intangible, which makes them hard to measure whether we have realised them or not, but we had to try and answer that question.
We sent out a comprehensive feedback questionnaire and tried to encourage wide participation to get as much feedback as possible so we could make the next day even better for our staff.
The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, with 100% positive responses to questions such as “how much of a positive experience was the office day?” and “did it allow you to get to know your colleagues better?”. We encouraged free text responses to questions around general suggestions people had for improvements, and have been through them all with a fine tooth comb to identify how we can make the next Office Day even better.
All in all, we were really pleased with the feedback and it cemented our view that, whilst we may not be able to quantifiably identify how much of these intangible benefits we gained from the day, we are extremely confident that the day helped contribute towards the culture we aim to cultivate at Adaptive.
What did our senior management team say about the day?
“The first Adaptive office day showed that internally we are able to run a great, team-focused event to try and explicitly build the culture we want. This will help us scale the organisation, and I don’t see us as having a choice. We need to continue to perform these sorts of activities across the organisation to ensure our culture is right.”
Matt Barrett, CEO
“The response and feedback from the New York staff has been overwhelmingly positive. People particularly appreciated the relaxed, fun nature of the event as many had been expecting a "cringey" corporate style day. The ongoing impact of the event is difficult to measure but I was delighted that NY got to pilot this scheme and am looking forward to the next one already.”
Fergus Keenan, NY Director
What conclusion did we come to?
We thought carefully about putting this day together; it was not a decision taken lightly due to the cost and potential disruption the day could have brought. We are so glad we bit the bullet and went ahead, it was everything we wanted it to be and more, and really felt like it embodied the kind of culture we feel we have at Adaptive, and want to carefully preserve.
As for next steps, we have already identified where our next Office Day will be held, and have started putting together the organisation team to make it happen. This is really the start of what we hope to be an embedded, fun and important part of the culture at Adaptive.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" Lao Tsu.