On Thursday 6th April, Engage held the first ever En-conference -  a chance to get our team together, to review what we do, how we do it and what the future looks like for us and our clients.

En-conference is something that we’ve been planning and talking about a lot over the past few weeks at Engage, and as it turned out to be such a successful and valuable event, we thought we’d share the experience and the results with the rest of the world.

What is En-conference?

En-conference is an internal event for the Engage team, which we held at The MAC Belfast. It was a (very clever) play on the term Unconference which fellow members of the digital community may be familiar with. For those unfamiliar, it’s a kind of open space event where ideas and issues can be discussed informally and organically.

 

Why we did it

Not only does 2017 mark Engage’s fifth birthday, but it’s already shaping up to be our busiest and best year yet. We’ve acquired some game changing clients over the past few months and we’ve seen our team increase to 30+. This growth shows no sign of stopping as we hope to double our workforce over next two years.

Want to join our team?

Of course, we’re extremely excited about the future of Engage, but the growth has meant that we’ve had to go through some pretty significant changes in terms of team structure and processes.

So, En-conference was an opportunity to review how we currently do things and how we can improve our output to get even better results for our clients while making work more fun and beneficial for ourselves as things continue to get bigger and better.

What happened?

En-conference was loosely structured in order to give everyone the confidence to speak up and come forward with issues and ideas.

The day kicked off with a presentation from our MD, Steven Cassin, who highlighted the company’s journey and achievements to date, and also presented the vision for Engage’s immediate and longterm future.

Discussion groups

At various points during the day, the team split up into discussion groups. Group leaders pitched their topics and the team chose which one they’d like to attend. The topics were broad and included subjects such as; how our different departments can work better together, how we can improve our agile work ethos and how we can use new technology to upgrade our offering as an agency.

After 30 minutes of discussion, members of the group summarised the conversation and picked out key points which we could implement immediately.

Demos

After a quick lunch, various members of the team gave short talks about projects they’ve worked on. Our email marketing specialist, Matt, gave a case study on how he’d used IBM and Episerver marketing to internally promote En-conference. Our front-end developers showed us some of their new systems, our head of product strategy, Janaka, wowed us with ground breaking innovations from our technology partners and our UX team talked us through their prototyping process.

Company culture

After discussing our ideas for how we can work better and generate greater results, we turned our attention to company culture. We split into two groups and everyone was asked to contribute their thoughts on how we can make Engage an even more enjoyable place to work in the midst of ongoing transformation. We’ll let you know if our petition for a two day week and an office puppy get approved…

Celebrating success

When all the serious stuff was out of the way, we rounded up the event with an awards ceremony to celebrate Engage’s true heroes.

Prior to the event, we’d used IBM email marketing cloud to ask everyone in the team to nominate their hero within the company and to also detail how they themselves had acted as a hero in their role.

We had some very important awards, such as the Usain Bolt Sports Personality of the Year which went to Adrian McCallion and the George Michael Memorial Award for Best Taste in Music which was given to the world's biggest Rihanna fan, Mark Stevenson.

Various other members of our team were called out and rewarded for their effort and achievement, receiving runners up prizes. However, it was project manager Katie Stanley who took home the prestigious Newcomer of the Year gong and project manager Deirdre Martin who scooped the overall Hero of the Year prize.  

And then, of course, we toasted to the day with a few (or more) sensible drinks in the bar.

The outcome

Whilst team building was an essential part of En-conference, the focus was ultimately on generating ideas that could change and improve how we operate. Once the key points from discussion groups were identified, we put them all on a board and asked everyone to vote for the idea that would be of most benefit.

From this we were able to highlight valuable actions and takeaways that could be implemented into life at Engage. We now feel like we have a realistic roadmap which will help steer us all in the right direction.

Why are we sharing this with you?

En-conference was always supposed to be an internal event, so we didn’t think about sharing or promoting it.

But in the days that followed En-conference, there’s been a real change within Engage. We all love our jobs, but En-conference has emboldened us. There’s a greater sense of pride in our roles and our achievements, and a much clearer understanding of where we want to be and how we’re going to get there.

We know that a lot of other digital professionals read our blog and follow us on social media so we wanted to share our experience of this kind of event, as we’ve seen the value first hand and truly believe that it can have benefits for other similar organisations. So if you’ve ever considered doing something like this, we’d strongly recommend holding an unconference of your own.

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