Back to all tech blogs

Crafting the culture of our organisation

Trust and Connecting Offsite 2023

Intro

This article is one of those things on my personal backlog that got deprioritised for a (very) long time — but I have finally found a few spare minutes to jot down some words! So, without further ado, here we go ….

It has been several months since we wrapped up the first ever Trust and Connecting Offsite event. I am still amazed at what a great experience this was for all of us. I had the privilege of working with María José Peláez to organise this event in which we brought our highly distributed tribe of 90+ tech, product, insights and UX specialists together in Barcelona for the first time.

Now, let’s set some context. Our tribe is a central team in Adevinta, but we are globally distributed across eight countries. Distributed teams were already in our genes pre-pandemic, so remote working is our ‘normal’. However, you start wondering sometimes whether your colleague in that Zoom meeting actually has legs, or if it would be more efficient for some projects to have people together in the same physical room. This event was the first time that many of us would meet each other physically. I strongly believe it is critical to see each other and connect in person in order to create cohesive and high performing teams.

Objectives

As I said, meeting each other physically on a regular basis is a must for distributed teams, strengthening the interactions between team members. Meeting each other at an offsite event is even more fun… but first we wanted to set some objectives in order to make it a meaningful and impactful experience.

As the leadership team, we set the following objectives for these two days:

  • Remind ourselves of Adevinta’s commitment to sustainability and explore ways to make a positive impact. Now I hear you say — bringing X amount of people together from Y different countries doesn’t sound sustainable… This is why we chose Barcelona as the location (most of the people work in our Barcelona hub) and where possible, people travelled by train.
  • Have tribe members connect with each other while contributing to our collective culture and build mutual respect among team members.
  • Gain a better understanding of the current context and priorities of the company, particularly in relation to the need for innovation and adaptability in the face of change.
  • Promote continuous learning and growth among team members through participation in various workshops and training opportunities.

Day 1

Take a hike!

We kicked off the event at 08:00 in the morning as we had an action packed agenda. After a short bus ride to the Serra de Collserola Natural Park, we met the crew from Creatives For The Planet. After a short briefing, we split into two groups of 40+ people each and started our three hour hike through the hills, enjoying the fresh air and scenic views. Also worth sharing: We had no incidents along the way!

Collage

During the hike, the groups collected trash and litter that was found in the hills: In total we collected over 95 kilos of garbage. Which is quite a lot considering this was literally in front of our feet on route through a natural park. There was a twist after the hike: we used this trash to create an amazing piece of art. This activity not only provided a creative opportunity for team-building and outdoor exercise but also reinforced our commitment to corporate social responsibility.

Fooooood!

Needless to say that after such activities we were a hungry bunch of people. Luckily we booked lunch at Green Leka who treated us to some neat, honest food. Think of wild boar, power vegetables and a delicious paella. Day 1 was a success — We ended the day with our bellies full and I noticed that many of our tribe members were mingling with each other, building new relationships across teams.

Group photo

Day 2

Adapt & Innovate workshop

Day 2 was centred around social learning. The day was split into two parts. First, we organised an exercise for the whole group around the theme ‘Adapt and Innovate’. Our tribe builds solutions that bring a competitive advantage, and which are part of a bigger system with its constraints and dependencies. As Adevinta plays a key role in an ever changing environment, it is important that we embrace change. I strongly believe that progress comes from change, not from chance. Therefore we need to innovate — this way we foster growth and continue to delight and retain our users.

We split the room in 8 groups and asked them to build a solution that brings a competitive advantage which is part of a bigger system and solves a concrete problem… while introducing technical limitations and new parameters during the exercise. For this, we used Playmags, which are three dimensional shapes that stick together with magnets. The briefing was deliberately vague in order to stimulate discussion and collaboration within the groups — and to set the stage for creativity when new constraints were introduced. For instance, after 10 minutes there was a change request to not use specific colours any longer: after 15 minutes the 8 teams were merged into 4 teams and after 20 minutes the teams were asked to kill any duplication in their solutions. Sounds familiar right?

Workshop

After 30 minutes we asked the 4 teams to wrap up their solutions, apppoint a hero presenter and deliver a 4-minute pitch for their solution to the problem. They were also asked to share their learnings and takeaways. We saw some astonishing constructions, both funny (a company owned theme park with which we can raise money for the next offsite) to more serious (a bridge that prevents traffic jams by adapting the roads to changing traffic flow).

Apart from having fun, the groups enjoyed the workshop. Especially the collaboration and solving new problems on the fly with people that they don’t interact with on a regular basis. As we know, adapting to sudden changes in a high performing team can be challenging: nonetheless, we should always be prepared and flexible to modify our game plan.

Social Learning

The second part of the day was aimed at growing our talent — by learning new skills from each other. We asked tribe members before the event to sign up to a maximum of two workshops so we would avoid too many people being in the same room. This way, we could create a better experience for both the facilitators and the participants.

Collage

Twelve of our people prepared a workshop, presentation or training session for their colleagues on topics such as: ‘Storytelling with data’, ‘Learning the GO language’, ‘Delivering powerful presentations’, ‘Compassionate communication’ and ‘Building an innovative mindset’. We even had an amazing Tiramisu workshop — which had the most delicious result of the day. We wrapped the offsite by reflecting on what we accomplished — The facilitators of the sessions were given a big thank you and some small presents.

Maria and I decided not to organise a dinner with the full group, as we wanted individuals to organise themselves. And maybe, after two intense days together, you also want to have some time for yourself. As the full UX team was in Barcelona, I used the opportunity to bring the UX team to Paco Meralgo, one of my happy places in town. We looked back on the event, shared our experiences and concluded that it was a success.

But… was it really?

Measuring Success

If you can’t measure it — you can’t improve it !

In order to understand whether we met our objectives or not, and to capture additional feedback, we sent out a survey to all participants a week after the event. 43% of the attendees responded. This survey collected data on the various event goals & metrics, as well as qualitative feedback of participants.

survey

Secondly, we monitored three pre-selected focus areas in our team performance tool Officevibe for 30 days. I will not go in detail on the Office vibe score — but I can tell you that we noticed a small increase of 0.2 on tribe level on all three metrics. (Have I told you already that I am a big fan of data-driven people management — a topic about which I am already writing another article?)

Learnings and Takeaways

Looking at both the quantitative and qualitative feedback, we are happy to say this offsite event was a success. But, we can always do better! That is why Maria and I ran a review of the event. Our takeaways were:

  1. Quite a few people shared with us afterwards that they would have appreciated a dinner or party. This is something to take into consideration for the next event.
  2. We had some blind spots in terms of organisation, as there were just the two of us doing all the logistics and planning. For our next tribe event we will involve others to help with the organisation.
  3. Our tribe members were especially enthusiastic in regards to the Learning Sessions. We want to continue facilitating these social learning sessions on a smaller, ad hoc basis.
  4. Have a less action packed agenda — not everyone appreciates getting up early two days in a row 🙂

The wrap up!

And with these learnings and takeaways, it’s time to wrap up. Moral of the story: Invest in your people. Invest in their relationships with each other. Invest in having fun. As you invest in your people, you invest in their potential, their motivation and their loyalty to your organisation. When your team members feel valued and connected, they are more likely to make great things happen.

So, as you plan your next offsite, remember that the greatest return on investment comes not from high-end luxury features or that fancy setting somewhere exotic, but from nurturing the bonds among your team members. The rewards will extend far beyond the event, building a strong foundation for high performing teams and shaping your organisation’s culture.

Related techblogs

Discover all techblogs

The 300 Bytes That Saved Millions: Optimising Logging at Scale

Read more about The 300 Bytes That Saved Millions: Optimising Logging at Scale
The 300 Bytes That Saved Millions: Optimising Logging at Scale

Artemis: Fostering Autonomy in Monitoring Data Quality

Read more about Artemis: Fostering Autonomy in Monitoring Data Quality
A home-grown tool is revolutionising the monitoring and interpretation of key product metrics at Adevinta Benelux

Oops, I forgot to –publish! How can I connect to the container then?

Read more about Oops, I forgot to –publish! How can I connect to the container then?
Oops, I forgot to --publish! How can I connect to the container then?