“Customers will never love a company until employees love it first” – Simon Sinek. This quote really hits home. Creating a culture where employees are fully engaged, have meaningful impact, and feel motivated as well as appreciated is key to any company’s overall success, and it’s something we strive for on a daily basis at AdRoll.

Culture is key
It was AdRoll’s core values, represented by spirit animals, that attracted me to this company almost 3 years ago. These values are strong. They have become ingrained in the organisation and remain at the core of how we work and interact with each other on a daily basis. Aside from this, we consistently look for new ways to create and maintain a culture to keep our employees engaged.

This year, at AdRoll EMEA, we built the “People” pillar of our strategy from concepts from the book  “Primed to Perform”, by Neel Doshi & Lindsay McGregor. If you haven’t read it, I’ll summarise: company culture drives motivation and performance. To maintain great performance, you need to build a sustainable culture, maximising the right motives. There is a lot more to this book, focusing on different types of motives, and how to build a sustainable culture, but what I’d like to focus on in this post is how we have leveraged the concepts of three direct employee motives: Play, Purpose and Potential. First, let me define what these mean:

  • Play is when you are motivated by the work itself, and you get to be creative in your day to day role. You work because you enjoy it. It’s about learning from the job we do, challenging ourselves to think differently about how we approach our day to day and always be curious.
  • Purpose is about impact. The output of your work resonates with you. You work because you feel like the work you do has a relevant impact on the organisation or the world around you.
  • Potential focuses on your development, enablement, and what you can achieve. Learning and development plays a key role here.

Although we celebrate Play, Purpose and Potential on a daily basis in the office, calling out examples and running small initiatives, I saw an opportunity to really bring it to life as part of our internal learning and development event, RollCon. This is traditionally a large internal L&D focused initiative, but this year, we broadened the scope. Our Management team were hugely bought into this, and they were excited to sponsor and take part in an event to help drive further motivation across the entire office.


This event took place over 3 days. I know what you’re thinking… “3 days off the sales floor?! You must be crazy.” Yes, it was crazy… crazy fun and productive!

Day 1: PLAY

In the morning we set up a sales competition. We split the sales org into 5 teams. Their challenge was to build out a pipeline for a designated region or vertical and generate revenue against the clock. Points were allocated for specific tasks and the intense competition created a serious buzz across the sales floor.  

The result? Tons of crossteam collaboration, lots of client outreach, tenured reps working with new reps to share best practices on pipeline building and outreach, people stepping out of their comfort zone, lots of group competition, additional closed revenue and lots of fun!

That afternoon, we decided to bring everyone together for an office-wide team building event, taking “Play” to a whole new level. The aim of this was to communicate the behaviours we want to see people demonstrate in the upcoming quarter – cross-team collaboration, urgency and accountability. We executed this with businessgames.io – I had such a great experience working with Ruben and the team on this.  

We split into cross-functional teams representing various states. Each team acted as the government of their state. It was up to them to make their nation prosperous and its population happy. This involved negotiation with other teams, collaboration and decision making under pressure. Teams worked with a sense of urgency, and accountability. It got competitive, but people embraced it! You can see more details in the form of a case study here.

The lesson? Our company consists of different teams & departments connected by a common business goal, but each team also has its own tasks and targets. Teams depend on one another. With this game as a metaphor (different states, one nation, one goal), participants learned that collaboration is something quite different from ‘working together’. Collaboration requires trust, openness, thinking across borders and integrity in weighing up between their own interests and the common interest. The energy created on the floor from this activity was enormous!


We wanted to create an activity where people not only felt an impact in their role, but also had an opportunity to impact the EMEA business overall. For this we created our own “Dragon’s Den” style activity, called “Pizza’s and Problem-solving”. We broke into mixed teams (with pizza, of course), and each team was allocated a business challenge to solve. For example, how we further improve team alignment, or how can we further improve our on-boarding experience? Ideas were then presented back to our Leadership team and selected for execution.

The result? This offered a platform for ‘Rollers to share their thoughts on aspects of the business. We had excellent tangible ideas presented on how to increase employee satisfaction, how to better align teams for overall success, and how to create more of a sense of urgency on the floor. Ideas have been implemented, and credit attributed to those who came up with the idea.


We ran a series of training events on the third day led by both internal and external facilitators. This included some amazing peer to peer training, giving people the opportunity to share their expertise on particular areas with their colleagues. Sessions covered a range of topics, from product & industry trainings, to mindfulness, to excellent softskills trainings around influencing, core strengths, and approaching tough interactions. We worked with vendors such as DevelopPotential on softskills. We also worked with Lowerthetone Improv to run some awesome Improv classes, challenging our people to step outside of their comfort zone, and have fun at the same time.

The Output

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with employees already asking if we can do the same again next year. This 3-day event allowed us to put our focus on the importance of our employees, their development and their motivation. There was a sense of excitement and motivation across the floor while the event ran and after it finished. We have replicated the sales competition to happen on a more regular basis and have already implemented some ideas proposed as part of our “Dragon’s Den” initiative.

What did I learn?  I learned that gamification works – introducing activities and contests beyond training injected more energy and competition into the office, and seriously increased cross-team collaboration, creating a feeling of community across the office. People loved mixing in teams with folks they do not normally work with on a day to day basis. People also loved the executive support behind the event, as managers encouraged them to take the time to attend trainings and activities, as well as delivering some and taking part themselves.

This is just one example of how we are trying to influence our culture at AdRoll. It’s something we continue to strive for.