Binti’s October Offsite: A Recap
At Binti, we hold a weekly company-wide gathering for all employees to hear from different department heads, celebrate wins, and also to give our Product and Engineering teams a chance to demo new features internally. These All Hands meetings are an important part of our culture and a way for our distributed team to come together. A few times a year we expand upon this gathering and turn it into the Binti Offsite.
The goal of gathering the team together for two straight days was to build team camaraderie and re-center on Binti’s mission, vision, and values. It gave us the opportunity to celebrate company wins, welcome new team members (plus some recent Binti babies), and get on the same page around strategy and direction.
Advantages of a Virtual versus In-Person Offsite.
Usually the whole Binti team travels to our HQ in Oakland for the bi-annual offsite, but with COVID-19, we didn’t feel it was safe to have over 60 people travel in from across the United States. January 2020 was the last time we held an in-person offsite and our team has doubled since then!
Our last few offsites during the pandemic have been virtual, and condensed time-wise to accommodate for the variety of timezones since we have folks remotely spread across the USA from Eastern Time to Hawaii-Aleutian Time. We time bound the day from 9am-2pm Pacific Time to accommodate and to make it so that folks didn’t need to live in a video call all day.
Time-wise the days looked like this over the 2 days:
9:00 – 10:15 am – Session #1
10:15 – 10:30 am – Break
10:30 – 11:45 am – Session #2
11:45 – 12:45 pm – Lunch
12:45 – 2:00 pm – Session #3
Engaging and including everyone at Binti.
When we say everyone, we mean everyone! We even invite new hires who have not yet started to attend. Having an offsite for your first day can be a wonderful way to really understand Binti ‘s history, story and impact along with the future plans for the company and for each department. It is also a great opportunity to get to know some different faces across teams at Binti! Holding the offsite remotely also allows for more flexibility for our soon-to-start employees to attend.
From an accessibility standpoint, having virtual offsites can be nice for team members who have difficulty reading screens or text that is farther away (you are next to your regular home monitor and can adjust brightness/font size), are harder of hearing (folks can individually adjust their headphones/audio), need closed captioning (Zoom can auto-generate these), have mobility needs (less needing to navigate around an office or conference space), or those who are caregivers (not needing to find other caregivers while you are away for a few days).
How do we show our values in a virtual offsite?
At Binti, our values (listed below) are really important to us. We try to highlight these values throughout our entire virtual offsite.
- Put the Child First – To help us connect with our mission, we often share stories of how we have prioritized doing the right thing for the child or youth or how our work has helped social workers focus on helping the youth versus being bogged down with paperwork. As we created our goals, we ensured that they aligned with this value first.
- Create Love through Empathy – We are continually listening to feedback from the team and incorporating it to make the offsite fun and an effective use of time. We also took steps to make sure our event was accessible for everyone on the team.
- Embrace the Best Idea – Creating our annual goals was not an isolated process. We came up with our departmental goals by having all levels of the organization work together, and listening to everyone’s voices before making final decisions to ensure we were choosing the best idea.
- Break Through Walls – Hosting an engaging virtual offsite can be difficult- the last thing anyone wants is to just be stuck in a Zoom call for 2 days straight without actively participating. Throughout the pandemic, in all of our virtual offsites, we have needed to come up with creative solutions and pacing to make the days engaging and effective uses of time.
- Empower with Information – We empowered everyone with information by proactively sharing our goals and allowing time for the whole team to participate in an executive leadership AMA.
What did we actually do in our Virtual Offsite?
We started things off in a Binti tradition of Wardrobe Wednesday (or Theme Tuesday). It is a monthly optional dress up theme during the first week of the month during our all-hands or at an offsite. October’s theme was “Happy Fall Y’all” so folks came with cozy jackets, sweaters, beanies, and blankets, festive virtual backgrounds of what Fall means to their region in the USA, fall home decor, or mugs full of fall beverages like tea or pumpkin spice lattes.
As we welcomed everyone to the meeting we chatted about how we were choosing to manifest the theme of the month. After a few group photos we settled down and moved to the next session to welcome our new team members who were able to join us ahead of their official start dates. We shared their roles and locations, and their respective managers shared more details about why the team was looking forward to having them soon officially joining! The new folks also got to share what is getting them excited about joining the Binti team. It is always such a delight to see the flood of welcome messages come over the video chat as we welcome new members to the team.
Next up, our CEO Felicia led us through the inspiring story of why she started Binti and the company’s ever-growing impact on helping every child have a fair chance at life. Since Binti’s launch in 2017, we have expanded to serve over 21% of youth experiencing foster care, with presence in 26 states (and counting!). There are still so many ways that Binti can make a positive impact within Child Welfare and beyond. It is always exciting to have the opportunity to listen to our story and know how much potential there is for growing Binti’s impact.
Once everyone was excited about the large opportunities ahead of Binti, it was important to discuss the goals and how to prioritize the work to meet our goals. Leading up to the offsite, each team did a number of planning exercises to make sure we had an opportunity to hear from the whole company. We focused on where we wanted to grow and how to support each other over the next 1, 3, and 5 year time horizons. This process involved the executive team, departmental meetings, and various feedback sessions. In the virtual offsite departmental heads shared the finalized versions of our company and departmental goals over those time horizons to the team and allowed the team to ask any questions.
After sharing the finalized goals, we had our executive leadership team do an AMA (ask me anything). Everyone on the team could unmute and speak or chat in their questions to our leadership, questions ranged from serious questions about goals and company benefits to fun personal questions. It was a great team bonding time and chance to connect with each other and leadership through the questions and answers.
Time for Team-Building!
To wrap up our virtual offsite, we booked a virtual escape room through Beat The Lock, they ran a great activity, having the whole team in together to start, breaking us into smaller teams to try to ‘find our inheritance’ through a series of clues, and then gathering the whole company back together to share the leaderboard at the end. Over the years as we have done team games at Binti, the Binti “Blue” team has somehow usually managed to win. While the “Blue” team didn’t win this time, three of our six teams incorporated “Blue” into their names trying to get some of the Binti Blue luck. After results were shared each team was able to give a final speech on how they did and what made them successful as a team.
The team is looking forward to our next offsite, either in-person or virtual. As always, we will take time to gather feedback from the team on how the event went well and what could be improved for the next time around!
Written by Jaime Gray
In her freetime, Jamie enjoys volunteering to work local elections, baking cookies, and swimming.