Case Study: Large Retailer

Background: Large Anonymized Retail Company (LARC)

How does a company add staff quickly while retaining its proud and storied culture? This is the question Large Anonymized Retail Company (LARC) had when it started its engagement with the CEA. LARC was about to start a big new initiative, and to do so, it needed to pull people from across its organization into a new strategic business unit, as well as hire as many as forty new heads to fill gaps.

LARC knew it needed a team building, training, and communication exercise to break down social barriers and jump-start this group's ability to work as a team.

The Stakeholders

While LARC was in agreement that the event was necessary, different people had different goals.

  • Adam, VP, Distribution: Having just hired dozens of new faces, there were a lot of unknowns in Adam's world. Adam wanted to know how his new people communicated under pressure so that he could help the managers that report to him lead their teams more effectively.
  • Mary, Director of Learning and Development: Mary was excited about the organization moving forward, but noted that many of the new associates were unfamiliar with corporate communication. Mary asked the CEA to use its coaching program to nudge them toward using cleaner language. Mary was also interested in learning how this event contrasted to traditional team building activities.
  • Jaime, Engineering Team Lead: Jaime was responsible for the initial outreach to the CEA. She had seen how her team members were looking for an excuse to socialize in the era of COVID and thought an esports event would be an awesome way to bring people together. As well as helping to plan the event, Jaime was eager to play!


LARC and CEA met several times before the event to discuss what the final product should look like. Mary requested that CEA try to put numbers around how well this event functioned as a teambuilding exercise. Adam connected the CEA with LARC's internal technical team to link the broadcast to Workplace, LARC's communication and streaming platform of choice. Jaime worked with the CEA to identify A-list talent for the event, that gamers would recognize by name and voice. CEA developed a custom graphics package featuring LARC's logo, posters for internal-event recruitment, and an interview with the VP of Product.  

An internal registration link was circulated four weeks prior to the event's start date. As associates registered, the CEA grouped them into teams based on their job function and experience with the game. Gaining cross-team familiarity was a stated goal. Once the total number of participants was known, the event team could decide on a final format: The event would be structured as a Swiss tournament, with two team practice sessions preceding the main event. The game LARC chose? Rocket League.

Let the Games Begin

The agenda for the week of the event was as follows:

  • Monday: First coaching session. Each team was given an hour-long timeslot and logged into their work laptops from home to participate. Since more than 60% of participants had never played Rocket League before, this session was dedicated to teaching the basics of the game.
    • Homework: Play three games as a team (estimated time: 45 minutes).
  • Wednesday: Second coaching session, focused on objective-based communication and how to give feedback quickly and effectively. While all coaching is game-focused, CEA coaches use the game as a metaphor to teach real-world skills.
    • Homework: Play three more games, this time bearing in mind lessons about objective-based communication.
  • Thursday: Last coaching session, talking about role-based communication and managing tension under pressure. Homework: Get hyped for tomorrow
  • Friday
    • 10:00 AM: Stream begins on Workplace with an introduction from the announcers.
    • 10:35 AM: Interview with Vice President of Product talking about the new initiative that this event was designed to support.
    • 10:50 AM: Teams assemble for their first match, first broadcast match video feed is set up, matches assigned.
    • 11 AM-2 PM: Six rounds of matches are played in a Swiss format. Everybody is guaranteed the same amount of playtime.
    • 2:15 PM: Last match concludes and the winning team is brought on stream to be interviewed. The first, second, and third place prizes are presented.
    • 2:25 PM: Event concludes.

Proving Value

The final report was proof of the difference that good team building and communication training can make. Below are a few annotated charts that the CEA delivered in its final report, created by the CEA's proprietary Comprehend platform.

Players learned new co-workers names quickly after the first session

Measured over each practice session, above is a report covering three players on the same team.  Jaime is a big-time communicator. With Jaime, the coach's challenge was to make her communication objective-focused and useful to the team. Jimmy, on the other hand, was an under-communicator. The coach gave Jimmy specific communication tasks, such as "always say this in this case."

Brought into the final debrief, one of the coaches used this graph to provide context to the chart above. This report measures how communication changed between sessions. For instance, it's clear that Jaime said substantially fewer negative things in her third coaching session than her first. Jackie continued saying negative things between sessions, but included more positivity as sessions went on.

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- Matt Mullenweg

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