Beyond the happy hour: How agencies get creative in team building

July 27, 2015
Aaron Polmeer

By Tanya Dua

Creativity is key, and not just in the work agencies produce for their clients, but also in the work agencies do to motivate employees. Which is why happy hours just don’t cut it any more. From volunteering to classes to trips — one agency even took trapeze lessons — there are much more innovative ways to keep agency employees engaged and driven. We asked agencies what they were up to this summer.

Ogilvy & Mather New York
Ogilvy & Mather has tried to maintain a culture of giving back to the community, and has an annual agency-wide “corporate service day” dedicated to that mission. The agency has assembled a group of worthy organizations that are in need of support and will be lending a helping hand to them on Aug. 12. Last year, over 300 employees participated in volunteering activities across 20 organizations. This year, the events planned range from activities with seniors citizens to volunteering with animal shelters.

The agency world is as competitive as it is creative. To foster that drive, Kettle has instituted the “Kettle Royales” — its own version of a hackathon. The competition pits teams of employees against each other, to develop new products and ideas that solve a problem. Teams are also encouraged to get out of the office for some inspiration. Some of the winning ideas have included the “” browser extension, which lets users hide spoiler content from popular media on social networks based on the shows they watch, and “Tiny Adventures,” an app that takes users on a mysterious adventure to an unknown destination.

“We’ve found that the best ideas never come to you while you’re sitting in front of your computer,” said Lauren Kushner, partner and managing director at Kettle.

Saatchi & Saatchi New York
Trust falls are for amateurs. Saatchi & Saatchi wanted its employees to tumble — quite literally. Which is why, the agency’s strategy and planning team took a trip to the Trapeze School New York in early July for team-building. According to Wanda Pogue, chief strategy officer at Saatchi & Saatchi New York, the lessons learned were aplenty. People not only bonded over a shared experience but gained a heightened level of trust and empathy for one another at the end of all the jumping.

A member of Saatchi & Saatchi New York tries her hand at the trapeze

“As planners, we work on different clients and don’t get to work with each other as often,” said Poge. So this was a great way to get to really know each other and feel more comfortable with each other. Seeing others do something remarkable and make a mark, makes you want to do the same.”

72andSunny converted its yearly anniversary celebration into a day of learning and inspiration with its first annual “72andSunny Day” earlier this summer. On June 12, its offices in New York, Los Angeles and Amsterdam all spent the day immersed in innovation and storytelling, and celebrated their achievements over the past year. The Los Angeles office saw employees team up and play games as well as take two classes each from among calligraphy, DJ​’ing, ​i​mprov comedy, ​pottery, ​falconry, coding and ​hacking, ​dance, ​yoga and mixology.

Employees of 72andSunny Los Angeles play some dodgeball

“72andSunny Day is our de facto anniversary party, but we use it to focus on our present and future not our past,” said Glenn Cole, founder and chief creative officer of 72andSunny. “It’s a designed to be a day of experimentation.”

Grey also believes that community service is one of the best ways to bring employees together. To that end, the agency did a team-building community clean-up day across the street from its offices at Madison Square Park earlier this summer. Teams composed of members of different departments got together to paint benches and outdoor furniture, plant trees and fix up playground equipment in what they consider to be their “front yard.”

A team of Grey employees volunteering at Madison Square Park in New York City

“This proved to be a great nontraditional team bonding experience, where teamwork was needed in order for success,” said Linda Cady, cultural affairs manager at Grey New York. “From small to large, and a variety of levels and generations, this project seemed to really bring people together.”

Every year, 360i hosts its annual summer outing, where agency employees take a day away from the office. The day features team-building activities for employees to come together and get creative with people they don’t normally work with, culminating in a big celebration with food and drink. In the past, it has organized its own version of “The Amazing Race,” boat rides, baseball games, hikes and boozy meals. This year’s event is still being planned and is rumored to be a destination outing.

During the summer, Huge runs a string of events designed to get employees and teams out of the office. This summer’s roster includes everything from an office picnic at the Old Stone House in Park Slope, a trip to a Brooklyn Cyclones game and roller coaster riding at Luna Park in Coney Island to boat cruises, trivia nights, go-karting, chili cook-offs and roller skating at the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Employees at Huge take an art class

“Our events and outings — whether they be company-wide or department or team specific — are a way for employees to get to know their colleagues, learn more about new people, celebrate and have fun outside of the office,” said Kristin Daversa, talent & employee engagement director at Huge. “This builds camaraderie and friendships that carry over into the workplace and strengthens teams and relationships.”

DDB New York
Earlier this month, DDB New York’s running club, the “Mad Runners,” took part in the 11th annual Party With Purpose 5k –  a not-for-profit race that raises money for local children charities such as the Benefit the Hoboken Boys & Girls Club and the Jubilee Center for kids.

Members of DDB New York’s “Mad Runners” club after their 5k race

The runners were greeted with food trucks, drinks and live music at the finishing line. The team burned calories for a good cause and everyone finished. Above all, they all realized an ideal that co-founder Bill Bernbach’s championed, that  of  “blazing new trails.”

Later this summer, 22squared’s Atlanta office will be volunteering with Oakland Cemetery, as a means to boost communication and trust between its employees. The cemetery is a well-known landmark in the city, and teams will plant flowers on the grounds and help with a clean-up drive.

“Working with the Oakland Cemetery gives the agency’s people a great chance to work together toward a common goal — keeping the city they live in looking beautiful,” an agency spokesperson said.

The post Beyond the happy hour: How agencies get creative in team building appeared first on Digiday.

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