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Culture doesn't grow on trees. Nor is it like a cactus that thrives on a tablespoon of water every leap year or so. It needs its vitamins and minerals to grow up strong and healthy, to become an essential asset for an organization and its people. At Embark, we take our culture and values seriously, making a tradition like our Third Thursdays a tall glass of milk to keep our bones strong.


While we've discussed our culture and people at length in the past, we've only given a peek behind our culture curtain a handful of times. So to that point, we introduce you to Third Thursdays, an Embark tradition that's very much a cornerstone to what we do here in Embarkville.


What the Heck Is a Third Thursday?

Our Third Thursday tradition is exactly what it sounds like – the third Thursday of each month, where we set aside some time to enjoy the company of our fellow Embarkers. The brainchild of our founder in the bustling nascent days of the firm, its origin story is pretty straightforward – since our handful of consultants at the time were usually at client sites, the small group simply needed an excuse to hang out with each other and strengthen those critical bonds. Given how ingrained the tradition is within our culture at this point, however, Third Thursdays now seem as if they’ve always been around and will always be around. Sort of like fruitcakes at Christmas, only without the empty carbs and, well, grossness.

Read Next: People, Culture, & Leadership: What Makes Embark Different

But it's not the origin story that's important. It's what Third Thursdays mean to our organization and people that matters most. We don't need a radioactive spider to lend Third Thursdays a sense of importance and gravitas because their impact is more than enough to propel the tradition's own unique mythos. Whether we're all attending a Beatles cover band concert, playing broomball in a hockey rink, or renting out a floor at Top Golf, our Third Thursdays are about camaraderie and teamwork. And their countless benefits are impossible to put a price tag on. Put another way, Third Thursdays are invaluable to our firm.


People-Driven Culture

Third Thursdays are completely employee-centric, from the planning stages to their completion. They're not a generic event organized by HR or cookie cutter in any way. Instead, we put out a sign-in sheet where each of our consultants can volunteer to plan and coordinate a specific Third Thursday.

Whoever signs up basically has free reign over the event. Granted, there are a few constraints – renting out the International Space Station is probably too expensive and a logistical nightmare – but for the most part, our people are in charge of dreaming up a unique experience for their fellow Embarkers. That includes everything from food and beer to facilities and the planned merriment itself. Suffice it to say, a Third Thursday is quite an undertaking.

We've designed our Third Thursdays in this people-driven way for a few specific reasons. First, it creates a sense of ownership around the tradition, injecting both accountability and autonomy into every event. No one wants to let their coworkers down, drop the proverbial ball, and roll in with a box of stale bagels and flat champagne. Rather, they want to go above and beyond to give everyone a memorable experience. Of course, claiming bragging rights over the best Third Thursday is equivalent to being named Super Bowl MVP in these parts, so competition plays a significant role as well.

Every Third Thursday starts at about 4 PM to give everyone plenty of time to tie up loose ends in the office, pick up their kids, wash their car, or handle whatever they need to get done. Like everything else about our firm, it's important that Third Thursdays mesh with the work-life integration that's such a focal point in our culture.

Read Next: What Are The Building Blocks of Embark's Culture?

Naturally, we don't force, ostracize, or throw small rocks at anyone that doesn't attend. However, participation is never an issue since everyone always has such a good time hanging out with their coworkers and letting their respective freak flags fly a little bit. Even our consultants working an on-site engagement make sure to block off the time and tell the client about the Third Thursday. Ultimately, although Embarkers thrive on making clients smile with their problem-solving wizardry, they work for Embark, not the client.


The Bigger Picture

So now you have a better idea of what our Third Thursdays are about, and why they're so critical to our culture. But their importance goes well beyond just the obvious, where it’s the example they set that fuels a satisfying employee experience from day one. When we demonstrate to Embarkers – especially new ones – that we are both willing and happy to invest in our culture, it really emphasizes the fact that this is a special place.

Likewise, given our rapid growth in recent years – in revenue, new markets, and employees – the cohesive culture that Third Thursdays foster are absolutely vital to our firm. With a footprint that seems to grow by the day, the culture and vision that makes us so unique could easily and quickly melt away as our firm and its people spread out across the country. That, however, is why we put so much importance in our Third Thursday tradition – whether someone is on their first day or pushing a decade, in Denver, Oklahoma, Dallas, Austin, or anywhere else, they're an Embarker. And that means something.

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It's plain to see that our Third Thursdays are more than just an opportunity to tell funny stories, drink a cold one, and relax a bit. They're a flag for our firm, part of the mortar that holds our building blocks together. A Third Thursday is a chance for everyone – executives and decision-makers on down – to revel in our collective Embarkness. So no matter if we're walking around the state fair, checking out a Rangers game, or racing for the gold in our Office Olympics, we know that every Third Thursday is special and something to look forward to. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

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