Feb 22, 2021

A Virtual Kickoff that Builds Energy and Connection

Lindsey Schiller

Head of Growth

Kinney Group, an Indianapolis-based cloud solutions integrator, hosts a company-wide kickoff event each year. It is the only time the entire company gets together, and a pivotal moment to align and build a sense of team.

For their 2021 virtual kickoff, the facilitators didn’t let the pivot to virtual hold their event back. Rather than doing the bare minimum for their virtual kickoff, Kinney Group leaned into being virtual, using it as an opportunity for employees to host fun creative sessions at home, like bread-making and bee-keeping. They also interspersed a wider range of content, giving employees the option to choose which breakout sessions to attend.

“This event means a lot to us, so we worked hard to recreate the energy of being together in person. I loved that Filo allowed us to do that.”
- Amy Oviedo, Vice President, People Operations

Kinney Group’s virtual kickoff event spanned three days, which included educational breakouts, social gatherings, main stage content, and a virtual hackathon. Within Filo, they organized the event into 7 spaces for:

Team Kickoffs 

Individual teams, such as Marketing and Services, were given their own rooms in Filo to host planning sessions for the year ahead.

Kinney Group's virtual kickoff included a Main Stage, as well as specific spaces for teams, social gatherings and a product hackathon.

Choose Your Own Breakout

Much of the programming was based on educating employees. Breakout sessions aligned employees on the company’s 2021 goals; updated them on new technology and service; and allowed time for deeper learning on aspects of the business. Rather than expose everyone to the same pitch, organizers gave attendees the option of which breakouts to attend, using a “pick 3 out of 5” format. An engineer could get feedback on trends from the support team, or a salesperson could get a deeper dive into a technical service offering.

Transitions between these quick, 20-min sessions were seamless. Employees could easily hop to the next meeting room within Filo. Though there were multiple concurrent meetings, everyone still felt like part of the same event.

“I loved that everything was self directed. It was refreshing for people to navigate on their own.”
- Amy Oviedo, Vice President of People Operations

Small Group Collaboration via Product Hackathon

Product innovation is a key differentiator for Kinney Group. The team used the kickoff as an opportunity to crowdsource potential innovations in a hackathon, which also gave employees a time to work together in new, collaborative groups.

Eight teams were tasked with ideating product enhancements to drive Splunk adoption for Kinney Group’s subscription customers. The teams were formed in advance and met in dedicated rooms to brainstorm and develop a minimal viable product over the course of four days. The final concepts were presented in a main stage presentation and voted on by a judging panel.

“Collaboration is difficult these days, to say the least. Real collaboration is more than just talking heads on a video screen, and frankly, it’s been elusive. Filo gave us a space for conversational ideation, information sharing, and truly working together that was beyond what we’d be able to achieve with a simple video meeting link. Bringing our diverse teams together was critical, and Filo was central to the great success we had.”
- Wes Comer, Director, Marketing
Teams met in individual meeting rooms as part of a Product Hackathon in the virtual kickoff event.

Social Gatherings

The team used short social events to break up the days and intersperse fun moments. Wednesday, for example, started with the option to do a fitness challenge or learn about bee-keeping from a colleague with a cool hobby. There was a 20 min break to watch (or participate in) bread-making with another colleague, and the day capped off with team get-togethers like the Family Service Project, “Connecting with Veterans,” and a night filled with trash-talking trivia teams.

All of these session ideas were crowdsourced from employees, again making the event truly collaborative and interactive. Though the team did have a final, culminating “happy hour,” the rest of the social engagements were structured around a topic, which facilitated  conversation and connection in a refreshing way. 

“Since colleagues are essential not only to Kinney Group’s operations, but also our culture, we knew it would be important to amplify our colleagues’ voices and engage in some fun social programming," said Amelia Yeager, one of the planners.

"Everyone looked forward to the colleague-led sessions and the social events at the end of each day; those elements really drove meaningful connections within the company.” 
- Amelia Yeager, Content Marketing Specialist 
Kinney Group's sales and marketing teams (pre-Covid). The facilitators wanted to bring some of this fun energy to their virtual kickoff event.