Jennifer Sovey is a Lead Learning Experience Designer, a part of Indeed’s Employee Development.

This year, her team was tasked with moving Indeed’s annual Manager Fest online. Here, she shares her experience, and the surprises and challenges that came with this virtual feat. 

In April, Indeed’s Employee Development team hosted Manager Fest @ Home, a virtual conference to support Indeed managers as they navigate challenges while working from home and managing remotely.Selfie with Zoom window in background showing 12+ attendees of the meeting

Usually an in-house conference hosted in locations like Austin, Texas, or Dublin, Ireland, with 100-300 Indeed managers attending in person, this year’s event went worldwide and online for the first time, as Indeed continues to work from home (WFH) during the current global pandemic. 

With the whole company now on WFH, Indeed managers suddenly found themselves not only managing from home during a crisis but also facing brand new challenges that came with it.

Our team realised Indeedians needed learning and development tools and resources more than ever to be able to navigate their new situations, support one another, and prepare the future. Energized by a clear mission to support our Indeedians, our team quickly pivoted and began developing the first ever all-virtual, global, cross-functional Manager Fest. 

Indeedian holds up laptop with Zoom window of meeting attendees using identical backgrounds

“Manager Fest @ Home” was designed with empathy. Our team listened closely to Indeed managers and created a global event that addressed their new and urgent needs with sessions that were all focused on remote management. We also hosted a separate event for the Japan offices three weeks later, which offered sessions in Japanese and English and a senior leader panel in Japanese with live English translation. 

Manager Fest @ Home was immensely successful: 731 managers participated, which makes up 45% of all Indeed global managers, representing 12 countries and every single Indeed function. 

All sessions were filled to capacity, and the overwhelming majority of feedback was appreciative of the supportive and inclusive nature of the program and full of great insights. 

“I learned that we can actually manage to work effectively from home as well, without any dip in productivity,” Leela Komma, a manager based in Hyderabad, said.Crystal McBrady gives presentation during ManagerFest

“However, to reach this stage, we need to hone some of our key skills like focus, patience, time management, planning, empathy, to name a few.”

3 ways we designed Manager Fest @ Home with empathy:

  • Removed roadblocks: In our communications, we acknowledged that kids, pets and significant others would show up in our Zoom screens from time to time, and assured them that this was okay! Kids were also invited to participate in Manager Fest-themed coloring challenges! 
  • Erased boundaries and constraints: Manager Fest sessions were offered on a rolling schedule across all timezones, and managers were invited to sign up for whatever time they chose. We had participants attending sessions at 1am their time, because that is what worked for them!
  • Provided a variety of choices: Manager Fest offered discussion-based live sessions, senior leader panels, mentorship sessions with experienced remote leaders, as well as a library of on-demand content for managers who chose to learn at their own pace and in their own time. 

Selfie of Employee Development team member during ManagerFestOur Biggest Challenge: 

It was surprisingly challenging to talk about a global event that wasn’t constrained by time zones. 

You can’t communicate to the audience that a global session will be held on April 28, because it might be April 28 in Tokyo, but it is still April 27 in New York! 

We had to shift to use generic terms like “Day 1” and “Day 2” and at times had to check in with participants- some might have signed up for a middle of the night session on purpose and some might have misread the timezone. You start to think about time in a whole new way!

Our Biggest Surprise: 

Our team created Zoom virtual backgrounds as a way to add some fun and lightness to this event full of challenging topics and they turned out to be very popular! We offered custom Manager Fest backgrounds and even special “All-star” backgrounds for managers to win during our mini-challenges. 

What we learned 

We learned that each person going through this global pandemic has a set of challenges that is uniquely theirs, and we learned techniques around designing with inclusivity and empathy that we will take with us and apply in the future. 

Screenshot of Zoom window with meeting attendeesBy approaching this project with curiosity and building an understanding of the diverse needs of our managers, we were able to remove roadblocks and bring people together from across the globe to talk about their shared experiences and work toward solutions together. 

“The experience I appreciated most about being involved in Manager Fest @ Home was learning how managers regardless of team or location shared similar experiences and showed great willingness to connect and learn from each other while we work from home,” Yuuki Shumizu, a Manager Fest Facilitator who led sessions in both Japanese and English, said. 

“I felt so proud working for Indeed where we have so many resilient and empathetic managers who help create the culture of belonging” 

Check out our Instagram highlights for more perspectives from Manager Fest @Home.

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