At Charlie, we use ‘Exploration Days’ as time set aside for the team to ideate, build and deliver self-directed projects — it’s our approach to Google’s famous 20% time.
We have Exploration Days four times a year. We believe that this is a good cadence to give people the opportunity to meaningfully explore projects and collaborative opportunities which fall outside of their day to day work.
Exploration Days boost our team’s engagement
Exploration Days are an opportunity for people to get creative.
They give the team ownership and flexibility over what they learn and how they develop, which is a big factor in maintaining our team’s engagement. From building a new careers page to launching a new feature for our platform — Exploration Days give everyone at Charlie the space to run experiments and explore new ideas.
They're also a great way for the team to showcase Charlie's High Performance Behaviours. We Get Uncomfortable stretching our skillset, we Bring Energy developing new projects and we Drive For Results by sharing our work with the team.
We recently polled the team about them and we found out that 100% of Charlie like that we offer Exploration Days, whether they use them or not!
And they help us attract the best talent, too
While this wasn’t our main goal when introducing the policy, we also now know that offering people the time to innovate outside of their role has a huge impact on our ability to attract diverse talent. Our Exploration Days are in the top three reasons why candidates are attracted to working at Charlie, alongside flexible working and the possibility to work abroad for a period of time each year:
How we plan and run Exploration Days at Charlie
These types of policies always need to be supported by efficient processes to make sure people know what to do and how to make the most of them.
With that goal in mind, we created a really comprehensive page in Notion which provides the team with the information they need around Exploration Day, as well as sign-up sheets to encourage collaboration.
We then sign-post the team to this material a few times in the month leading up to each Exploration Day.
How teams or individuals structure their own Exploration Days is completely up to them. We’re a hybrid team, so a lot of collaboration on this day is done remotely over Google Hangouts, but we also have our office space for any teams that want to get together to do this in person.
We make sure we share the great work that has come out of Exploration Day in a newsletter to the company after each one. This can also help inspire ideas and opportunities for future ones to come.
Exploration Days are very light-touch when it comes to organisation from the People Ops team, as the projects are self-directed within the company. Our job in Ops is to communicate clearly and frequently to make sure the wider team knows what Exploration Days are, when they happen, and how to get involved.
Some examples of innovations born out of Charlie’s Exploration Days
Our Exploration Days see a range of experiments. Some are quick and simple; some are customer-facing releases; some allow us to work better internally; and some are purely about learning new skills!
Here are a couple of examples from some of our team members, to give you an idea of what came out of our most recent Exploration Days:
- Our Shout-Outs feature: Alix, Harry and Emily came together to create the first version of our new ‘Shout-Outs’ feature which allows our customers to use the Charlie portal to give kudos to their teammates. This cross-functional team have decided to keep working on our Shout-Outs feature and we’re excited to see what direction they take it in!
- Our Careers page: Fin spent her first couple of Exploration Days redesigning our Careers Page on our website with Adam & Jack. Our old page was pretty bland and didn’t outwardly reflect what an amazing place Charlie is to work. This collaboration saw Fin creating the content, Jack perfecting the copy, and Adam bringing it all to life with some beautiful designs.
These are just a couple of examples of what the Charlie team has achieved on Exploration Aays. We’ve learnt a lot from the different projects over the years and we’re proud of every single experiment — the ones that have succeeded and the ones that haven’t.
We highly recommend giving your team the opportunity to create, innovate and collaborate at work without the fear of failure.
Explorations Days, ShipIt Days, 20% time - whatever you choose to call them - are an amazing chance to boost your team’s sense of engagement while delivering fantastic innovations and creative solutions for your company.
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