7 tips for creating engaging employee events
As the Global Engagement Lead for Workplace Experiences at Elastic®, Corey Williams wants to bring people together.
“I work in experiences,” she says. “We’re the glue. We create opportunities for people to get together virtually or in person or with their team or in the office.”
Creating events that employees actually want to engage in can be difficult, especially as a distributed by design company with Elasticians in more than 40 countries around the world. But, Corey’s goal is to give people choices and let them decide what works best for them.
Elasticamp, Elastic’s flagship summer event emerged as a result of the pandemic in 2020. The in-person option was taken out of the event, so Corey pivoted to a fully remote offering.
“Vendors were serving the virtual event landscape,” Corey says. “We were on the forefront of that and wanted to come up with something fun that people could do in their home with their families.”
The first Elasticamp had a summer camp theme with activities to match.
We had a plant propagation workshop, live cocktail-mixing classes, and an Elastic jam band where Elasticians synced their instruments and played a set via Zoom, Corey says.
This idea of employee experience emerged as a result of COVID, Corey says. “People realized that the way of work and how they connected was an indicator of success.”
Now Elasticamp is an annual event and has shifted to include virtual, in-person, office, and non-office options around the world.
This year’s theme is Space, Time Odyssey, which complements our Source Code nicely.
Elasticans have a variety of participation options including a build your own robot kit, galaxy watercolor classes, , a limited edition SpaceShop to get Elastic Swag, in-person happy hours at space-themed venues, and more.
“We’ve seen really good feedback,” Corey says. “We’re meeting people where they are.”
With four years of Elasticamp under her belt, plus countless other ERG-related or seasonal events, Corey shares her advice for planning an event employees actually want to go to:
Choose a theme that is easily understood, fun, and lighthearted.
Elasticamp’s first iteration was based on summer camp, last year was a company picnic, this year’s on space, and next year’s will be the E-lympics, based around the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“Elastic is over 40 countries,” Corey says. “We want to choose something that everyone is paying attention to.”
Offer something unique.
When considering what type of programming to offer within the event, it’s important to find something that people couldn’t get themselves by going on YouTube or Googling it, Corey says.
“For example, this year’s Elasticamp has a session where an astronomer will speak and then do an AMA,” she says.
Survey employees to find out what they want.
Arguably most important is to plan things that employees actually want to do. You have to think of all demographics, things that people can do with kids, with their partners, alone, etc., Corey says.
Corey’s team ran a survey to collect preferences, asking Elasticians if they preferred to attend alone, or who they would bring if they invited others, what types of options they would enjoy, such as competitions or events, and more.
Preferences also vary by culture, so Corey and team cater to those when considering offerings in various countries. Our North Star with any engagement program is locally consistent, globally relevant.
Provide options for attendance.
“Our most successful events and most participated in events are completely asynchronous,” Corey says.
Elasticamp does offer options, though. There are in-person events in the cities where we have offices, but there are also in-person options in areas where multiple Elasticians live. Then there are virtual events, and options to do things at home on your own time.
Leverage leadership to boost attendance.
Last year, we worked with communications so our CEO, Ashutosh Kulkarni, announced Elasticamp, Corey says.
Then, her team followed up in the Slack channels of local areas where in-person events were going to be hosted and had the teams in those areas spread the word.
“We tried to create an experience that helps you feel like you’re connecting to something larger than just yourself, even if it isn’t necessarily in person ,” Corey says.
Encourage people to share.
Elasticamp has its own Slack channel so people can share their event photos, the robots they’ve built, and more.
This brings people together, despite the distributed nature of the company.
Ask for feedback.
To make future events even better, Corey asks for feedback once the event is finished.
It’s tough to measure, she says, but we look at turnout, participation, and seeing what people sign up for.
One question I added this year was ‘did you meet someone new?’,” she says.
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