2014-04-01

Co.Labs

How To Turn Your Corporate Party Into A Productivity Boon

Meetup’s head of talent and culture on how work parties can help solve problems and spur innovation.



Meetup knows a thing or two about social gatherings. The company has facilitated countless get-togethers from organizers of all stripes. As most people know, work parties can be either fun or dreadful. But they are almost by definition unproductive.

The folks at Meetup don't think it has to be that way.

To Erin Dertouzos, Meetup’s head of talent and culture, it’s about lowering barriers and flattening hierarchies to create a fun environment in which great ideas can happen. As any company approaches the 100-employee mark—Meetup has about 115 and counting—not everyone knows each other as well as they once did, says Dertouzos.

“There needs to be an additional layer, sometimes built in [for that]. And we’ve really invested a lot in our culture and our values and making sure our values are coming across.”

Those values include a scrappy, DIY mentality—referred to internally by the Meetup team as DIO, or Do It Ourselves—and presenting plenty of opportunities for employees from unrelated teams to interact and potentially come up with solutions and new ideas. And it’s all done by virtue of the company’s raison d'etre—meeting up.

The Meetup team will hold meetups both regular and impromptu. Along with the requisite holiday party (a tongue-in-cheek awards gala) an employee-catered annual picnic, all DIO’d, they’ll gather to remodel the office, to start sports teams, or just to learn a board game or have a few drinks. Anyone can organize a meetup, and anyone can join in.

“It lowers the barrier for people to talk and share ideas for people to collaborate,” says Dertouzos. “Part of the reason I took on technical recruiting at one point, is because I was at a DIO’d meetup talking to our CTO at the time and said ‘I’m pretty sure I can do the tech recruiting we need.’ And he said ‘go for it.’ That wouldn’t have necessarily happened at the office, but over drinks I was a little bit more comfortable being like… ‘I think I could be good at this’ and was given the bandwidth to take it on.”

To Dertouzos, it’s about making it easier for creative people to bump up against one another and foster what she calls "stickiness"—the propensity of a company to attract brilliant talent that thinks highly of their coworkers. It fosters an environment in which employees care about one another and are motivated to help each other solve problems.

“There’s a self-awareness that comes with it," she says. "If we didn’t have that, if we didn’t have social gatherings the way we have them it would create barriers that don’t need to exist.”

While such a philosophy could be applicable toward team building at any company, it certainly helps that the Meetup office culture is almost inextricably tied to the service they offer. “Meetup at its core is about finding others like you,” says Dertouzos. “I really think that, at the end of the day, it’s about getting out from behind the screen and actually doing something that makes a difference...it’s about finding your people. And Meetup has definitely found [its] people.”

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]




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