Internal Event Strategy

Whirlpool uses an escape room to keep employees informed

An innovative approach to an annual event came when times were tough.

2018 gNARly Escape Room  - Logo -

For two years, Whirlpool had presented Get gNARly (for the company’s North America Region) as “a cross between a TED Talk and a rock concert.” The event presented important information to employees in a format that compelled their attention. In 2018, conditions drove the company to make the difficult decision to reduce its workforce. Because gNARly has an important impact on employees, leadership decided to maintain its budget. Its approach to the challenge has won Whirlpool first place in the “Event” category of Ragan’s 2018 Employee Communications Awards.

The challenge for 2018 was to make the event relevant under the challenging circumstances. The solution was to build a special escape room to deliver a unique experience to employees, who could escape only if they knew the company strategy (grounded in the idea of thinking differently and acting quickly).

A two-week teaser campaign ran while the escape room was under construction. The escape experience itself was centered around one-hour sessions in which up to a dozen employees participated. These sessions were held up to six times every day (extended two weeks beyond its original closing date due to popular demand).

Employees were briefed on their assignment: NAR’s president had gone missing; his administrative assistant had to find him for a call with the CEO. The experience required teams to work together to solve puzzles connected to the strategy—but also required them to think differently and act quickly. Upon escape, they saw a video message that showed the call with the CEO. Those completing the challenge on time received commemorative T-shirts.

More than 1,000 employees and 118 teams participated, achieving a 69 percent success rate. Follow-up research found employees were committed to playing a role in the company’s strategy and understood goals and priorities.

Congratulations to the team of Emily Kirchner, Angie Seger, Dave Neidlinger, Cindy Richards, Gretchen Arnt, Dan Velez and Ashlee Stroud.

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