Avanade’s got talent: shining the light on our people

  • Posted on September 30, 2014

Avanade's Got Talent

When you work for a company like Avanade you get used to mixing with bright and talented people. But, until this year, I never really knew quite how far and wide that talent stretched.  That was until our Chief Leadership Officer and program sponsor Howard Kilman told me he wanted to run a talent contest for our 22,000 Avanade employees around the world.

I confess I was skeptical at first—our entire team was.  We’d just finished handing out prizes for our first global photo competition we’d run the previous year, which has surpassed all expectations in terms of entries and quality. And, having borne witness in a past life to a catastrophically unsuccessful video competition, the thought of being responsible for something similar caused my stomach to somersault more than a few times.

Never one to shy away from a challenge though (and having candidly managed expectation to what I thought would be an achievable level), my team and I set about the task at hand. We offered three categories for people to demonstrate their talents: visual (photos, paintings, sculpture etc.), written (short stories, poetry, essays etc.) and performance (dancing, singing, juggling—anything as long as it wasn't dangerous or involved animals and children).

The response was phenomenal. Once again the men and women of Avanade seized the opportunity to showcase and share their passions and their pastimes.  They sung, they scribed, and they sculptured individually and in teams with enthusiasm, energy and evident enjoyment.  We very quickly eclipsed the 150 entries I speculated at the outset and, all told, we received a whopping 650 entries. We garnered impressive participation from each of our geographic Areas around the world, helping us reach our goals of increasing the numbers of participants in our Global Delivery Network and beyond.

In fact, our entries were so substantial they went beyond our team’s ability to judge. So we asked Avanade professionals to volunteer to help judge the initial rounds, generating more than 150 volunteers from across the business to help whittle down all that talent.

Of course, we made sure that we spread the word across Avanade through the usual channels and postcards but personally, the highlight of the contest was when we took the 11th hour decision to showcase a handful of entries in between the live presentations of the four finalists in our annual innovation contest, which takes place at our #1 training and networking event, TechSummit, in June.  A live audience of 500 people was glued first to a montage for photos and paintings, and then outraged to only be allowed to see half of a pool trick-shot video, and finally, mesmerized by another video: this time a collection of bridged guitar rock riffs. So popular were these “fillers” that the final team (imagine the pressure they were feeling anyway), delayed the start of the presentation to allow the guitar riffs video to finish, and the angry crowd demanded to see the second half pool trick shots video after the completion of the innovation content final presentation and collectively gasped in awe as ball after ball disappeared impossibly into the pockets of the table.

When it came time to reveal the top 3 winners, the response did not disappoint. CEO Adam Warby joined Howard for an Oscars-style video reveal—complete with tuxedos and Hollywood glam stage as a backdrop. The video, sent to all employees, has generated more than 25,000 views across-the-board, demonstrating our professionals’ desire to see their colleagues do more than just realize results for our customers.

I have no idea how we’ll beat that next year. But I’m sure my Avanade colleagues will once again rise to the challenge. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, it was the “Trick Shot” entry (watch it below) that won the talent contest, performed and entered by Yoshihiko Matsuda, from Japan. Mata ne (as they say in Japan).



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