How Whirlpool whips up engagement and crystallizes big-picture objectives

The home appliance giant puts on entertaining, educational events each year to get its employees hyped about the company’s big goals. It also landed a prestigious Ragan Award.

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When’s the last time you got a bit gnarly on the job?

Whirlpool employees might not spend their days shreddin’ rad barrels along the Pacific coast, but they are well equipped to ride the waves of corporate life—thanks to a yearly initiative cooked up by the company’s comms team.

Born in 2016, Whirlpool’s “Get gNARly” campaign was unveiled. Conceived as a mashup of a “TED Talk and a rock concert”—as described by Whirlpool’s director of corporate communications, Angie Seger—the 2017 iteration featured “Hamilton”-style musical numbers punctuated by presentations sharing the company’s objectives.

Why gNARly, you ask? The name is a pun spun from Whirlpool’s “North American Region,” and the company sees the term as a call for employees to take on challenges and “embrace new ideas.” It’s become a highly anticipated yearly event for staffers and execs alike.

“One of the most important benefits for the company is making our executives more vulnerable (we ask them to do some crazy things), which in turn makes them more approachable for our employees. It simply changes the dynamic between senior leaders and employees,” Seger says. “Our leaders find the most value in that type of direct employee feedback.”

Transparency amid tumult

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