The story of e-point’s Interest Guilds (and how they boosted collaboration and engagement)
At e-point, the projects we work on often require specialists from various teams to collaborate. In this environment, it’s very important to have people who are able and willing to connect with each other.
In fact, we believe that this is one of the main ingredients to our success. After all, if you’re going to make use of all your collective skills and talents, even experts must become team players.
This may seem like plain common sense, but effective integration poses serious challenges. This is especially true at companies (like ours) where teams are housed in various buildings. In our case, these buildings are within walking distance of each other. But even so, this created a challenge. And we took that, not as a problem, but as an encouragement to create our own formula for better collaboration.
The rise of e-point’s Interest Guilds
Once upon a time at e-point
We should begin by explaining that e-point currently employs about 200 people. Since our employees work in several buildings, we had to look for ways to build a true community. And this meant finding some common denominators amongst our employees. Furthermore, we wanted to implement a project that could continuously support our integration. Our goal was to create conditions where, irrelevant of the location of their workspaces, employees from various departments could keep in touch with each other and build good relationships.
We were convinced that the best way to build up our sense of community was with frequent get togethers, so we decided to focus on the outside-of-work interests that our employees had in common. By facilitating interest-based groups, we paved the way for cooperation between employees from different departments.
This concept was in line with individual initiatives that our staff had already undertaken, such as company volleyball matches. Adding a framework to this grass-roots movement helped encourage more people to find mutual areas of interest. It offered a reason to get together after work, which caused colleagues to quickly turn into friends.
The birth of the Interest Guild
That’s how e-point’s Interest Guilds were born. The basic idea rests on two pillars. First, each of the guilds should reflect a real staff interest. In practice, an initiator gathers a minimum of 10 people who want to spend some free time actively pursuing a shared interest together. This group then files an application; once it is approved, the group acquires full Guild rights.
At this point, the second pillar comes into play; this is e-point's support for the Guild. Financial support is a crucial factor, as the company co-finances the activity. On top of that, the Guild can apply to use company tools like Slack and Wiki. And, of course, the Guilds' activities take place on e-point’s premises.
Interest Guilds: an inclusive, unending adventure
Interest Guilds’ themes are as varied as e-point’s employees. Many staff members love sports, so the Sports Guilds enjoy growing popularity, as do other guilds revolving around particular disciplines. Everyone can find something to suit their taste.
One of the first Guilds was the Culture Guild, which is unendingly popular and draws around 70 people. There are board game and escape room guilds too. The Software Craftsmanship Guild, which joins people who have various professional skills, is also highly active.
Currently, we host 16 Guilds, and occasionally new interest areas are proposed. These spaces are conducive to developing our staff’s interests and enabling them to discover new hobbies and enthusiasms with their colleagues.
The Guild of Sketchnoting is a good example of how things catch on. It was created after some of our employees attended a sketchnoting workshop. (If you’re unfamiliar with sketchnoting, it refers to making visual notes (i.e. drawings or “sketched notes” of things you hear or read.) After returning to Warsaw, these employees found out that many people at e-point were interested in developing this skill. Now, the Guild of Sketchnoting has regular meetings.
Guilds begetting guilds
It sometimes happens that members of a given Guild want to develop specific interests within a wide-ranging guild; this leads to the formation of a new group. For example, our Sports Guild gave rise to the Basketball and Racket Guild, the members of which frequently remain active members of the Sports Guild.
Due to the activity of these groups, e-point staff are spending an increasing amount of free time together. As an example, members of the recently-formed Travel Guild feel their after-hours meetings are not enough; they’ve recently decided to spend some weekends together. Similarly, one of the initiatives of the Sports Guild was a holiday contest in which members took pictures of different areas of the world and sent them to a common platform.
‘Something for everyone’ means a stronger team
Interest Guilds have become a very natural and effective tool for encouraging the integration and collaboration of employees in different departments. Their success has been acknowledged by the employees themselves, who have been offered space and support to independently pursue their interests. These freely-created groups have proved very efficient at managing their own activity. And when Guild members return to the office, their engagement spills over into the projects they work on.