Improving Organizational Culture: BYU-Idaho Online Learning Field Day

A Project and Publication by Sarah Brooks

Project purpose or objectives

The culture of an organization heavily influences the employee experience and satisfaction. Culture is the overall character of the organization and is comprised of the business’s values, beliefs, goals and attitudes. Employees need to feel connected to the organization’s culture, its purpose, and the people within. This connection is important because it motivates and inspires employees, leading to a higher retention rate and increased productivity. 

Over the past 14 weeks, I have been working with BYU-Idaho Online Learning. This organization is structured to include over 20 teams of Full-time Employees and well as student employees that all work for a common purpose, but do so separately from each other. Students especially rarely, if ever, have the chance to interact and work with students in different teams. The student culture within each individual team is generally strong, but collectively, there is not much interaction or culture. I set out to facilitate and strengthen the interaction between student employees as well as full-time employees within these various teams. I did so through planning and carrying out an Olympic-themed Field Day event. Cooperative and team games were planned to make the field day enjoyable for all in attendance, and a catered lunch was provided afterward. This event gave students a chance to unwind outdoors and leave their office desks, facilitating interaction and leading to stronger team culture. Through this interaction, students, as well as full-time employees, were able to get to know each other better and then further the relationships made during the event to the office and beyond.

The Project

Challenges encountered in completing the project

During the planning process, there were few challenges that I came across. One main challenge came as a result of leading many other people to plan the event and being able to rely on them to deliver. Two experiences illustrate how this challenge came about and the steps taken to reach resolution.

In order to successfully plan the event, I recruited a committee comprised of student employees. Most, if not all, were quite reserved initially, as being part of a new group takes some time to get comfortable with. With this challenge, extracting ideas and fostering collaboration during our meetings proved to be difficult as the lead. However, because I was very well prepared, this challenge did not seriously affect the progression of our planning. This challenge also quickly resolved itself as we continued to meet and I designated tasks and responsibilities to team members, giving them individual purpose within the group. 

On the day of the event, our volunteer moderators arrived late and we had very little time to explain the rules of the activity to them. This was a stressful challenge because the success of the event rode on their ability to facilitate the activities and ensure students were successfully completing each activity. We had to begin activities a little bit later than planned because of this challenge. Next time, I would brief the volunteers before the day of the event. 

Another challenge came as a result of communication barriers encountered when addressing a large group. These included misunderstandings due to physical distance, and a diverse, large audience. 

We had difficulties controlling the timing of rotations between each activity and team. Announcements had been made on the process by which rotating would occur, however, due to a lack of understanding, the presence of distraction when announcements were given, and the inability to ask questions in such a large group, teams were not able to correctly follow the given rotational directions. Thus, it became difficult to keep track of which rotation all teams were on and to make sure every activity had active participants rather than participants waiting for their turn. It was hectic to control the rotations once they got mixed up. Luckily, my committee and I were able to put a halt to rotations by targeting the five moderators, communicating with them individually on how to keep their groups put until the announcements were made. We initially had planned out the timing of rotations, but the process thereof appeared to be not very well communicated or understood by participants and moderators. I realized that it was much easier to thoroughly brief and give directions to the moderators who had the ability to clarify confusion to a cluster of the large group rather than trying to communicate an idea to the whole sum of the group. However, because moderators were late to their briefing before the event occurred, we were not able to thoroughly give them that direction.

Despite these challenges that occurred during preparation and the day of the event, my field day committee was able to work very well together to plan an event that was overall enjoyed by all participants. 

Project processes


  1. Draft a proposal for the Field Day Event
  2. Approval from Leadership
  3. Create a student employee committee and conduct weekly meetings
  4. Decide team grouping methods
  5. Formulate and test out activities
  6. Draft activity writeups
  7. Create moderator packets
  8. Advertise the event through messaging and visually appealing posters
  9. Find volunteer moderators
  10. Collect materials for the event
  11. Order catering
  12. Create a detailed schedule for the event and assign responsibilities
  13. Carry out event
  14. Create evaluation
  15. Analyze evaluation results and make suggestions to leadership


I have been working with BYU-Idaho Online Learning for about 2 years now. During this time of working with them is when I noticed the lack of student culture. I also was able to get to know a lot of the student employees and members of leadership. 

I began by creating a proposal for the event, outlining the purpose, intended audience, responsibilities of those involved, considerations, a proposed timeline, a budget, and possible questions with provided answers. This proposal was sent to leadership and was approved within a week. Once I received the green light, I formulated a student committee that I would lead to help plan the event. 

The student field day committee consisted of 5 student employees. Some I had been able to work with before and others I had never spoken with. We met every Wednesday for an hour to discuss and plan ideas for the Field Day; this spanned over a time period of 9 weeks. Resulting from these meetings, we were able to plan activities and test them out, write up activity processes and instructions, work through team formations and rotations, plan decorations and spacial settings, gather and assemble materials, as well as draft advertisements in the form of writings and digital art. 

On the day of the event, we started setting up 2 hours before the event began. We prepared prizes for winning teams, set up decorations including the check-in table and individual activity stations, briefed each moderator on their station, and set up audio equipment to allow for amplified announcements as well as to provide some good music. 

As the event began, I was able to address a turnout of 122 attendees. This included welcoming everyone, explaining how teams were to be organized and how they would rotate, as well as being the go-to person that my student team, attendees, and moderators would go to for resolving any complications. Near the end, I also announced the winners, welcomed everyone to grab lunch and wrapped up the event with a thank you message. 

The day after the event, I sent out an evaluation to receive feedback on the event from attendees. I reviewed the results, shared them with leadership, and was able to gauge the success of the event as well as make suggestions for future organization events.

An overview of my Experience

Through this project, I was able to experience each stage of event planning. I did not have much of an interest or knowledge of what it took to plan large events initially but knew that the skills and experience gained from doing so would be of great value. After completing the planning of this event, I now feel capable to plan events for endless types of groups, from 50 attendees to 500 attendees. I recognize that the processes of event planning do not change much depending on size and scale. The preparation and process of this event would have proven successful for an audience of any scale. 

From my experience with planning this event, I was also appointed by leadership to the position of Student-culture Committee Lead. Online Learning has recognized the need to have more student-employee targeted events and engagement efforts. 

Before, Online Learning had a culture committee comprised of full-time employees who would plan events for the full-time employees and occasionally student employees as well. However, student employee events were second in priority to full-time employee events and often were not as effective, thoroughly planned, or well attended. 

Now, starting in September of this year, Online Learning will have an operating Student Culture Committee in which I will act as the lead. Our responsibility will be to plan activities and events for student employees of Online Learning, ensuring their satisfaction and success in the workplace as well as strengthening their connection to the purposes and mission of the organization. We will be in charge of new student employee onboarding, ongoing training, facilitating professional development opportunities, planning semesterly events, creation of student employee newsletter, and special outreach. 


The biggest takeaway from this project is the skill of event planning. Event planning is not something that I have learned in great detail about the process and development of, but it is something that I have learned is of great importance in organizational culture. Organizational culture is so fascinating to me, and being able to facilitate its growth and improvement through planning an event for an operating organization provided me with a great sense of fulfillment. I spent almost 50 hours planning for the production of an event that only spanned two hours. All these hours were needed, and the payoff, being able to see participants enjoy themselves and interact with their colleagues, was worth every minute of time spent preparing. I believe that organizational culture is something that needs to be actively considered and worked on. Events are such a great way to facilitate interaction. They do not need to cost much. They do not need to take a lot of time. But they do need to make employees feel valued and connected to the purpose of the organization. I know how to do this. I love facilitating organizational culture, and I hope to continue to do so in future projects I work on.