As a growing company with new people arriving nearly every week, it can be hard to maintain a feeling of connectedness. Add being dispersed across multiple locations in different countries, time zones, teams, and not having the ability to run into someone to have a casual chat, it can be even harder.
The People and Experience team knew from our engagement surveys that Campers (our name for employees, short for Culture Amp-ers) were starting to feel the strain of being disconnected. We were seeing lower favorable responses in answer to the employee engagement survey question “We collaborate well across organizational boundaries (Group, Team, geography, etc) to get the job done,” along with comments that people felt “siloed geographically.”
As Senior People Operations Manager, Campers came to me and expressed that they lacked an understanding of who was joining or where. Myself, along with team members from our Customer and Insights teams, brainstormed elaborate ways of matching people up to have lunch together but stalled on the execution. It wasn’t just about finding a solution to match people within the same location, but across the world.
How could we pair people up globally in a way that was easy to implement?
The solution: Have a Donut
The solution came to us by happenstance in the form of a Slackbot called Donut. One of Donut’s founders, Dan Manian, met our Director of Customer Success, Steve Hopkins, at an event celebrating the launch of our diversity and inclusion survey. Not long after, Steve and I were discussing our global onboarding process, and he suggested I meet with Dan to talk about Donut.
Donut enables us to pair up Campers within Slack and allow them to schedule an outing for themselves, be it in person or virtually. We introduced Donut as an experiment and invited Campers to participate, with an offer to pay up to $10 per pair for coffee or snack. We later learned that the $10 reimbursement wasn’t a necessary incentive, as most participants don’t submit an expense.
We also asked people to document their meeting with a photo and blurb of what they talked about. These photos are shared within a dedicated Slack channel so we can all learn something new about each other.
Every three weeks, participants of the lottery get an automated message from the friendly Donut bot. The bot creates a chat between participants, so they can decided when and where to meet.
Our team assumed that people wouldn’t have too hard of a time striking up a conversation, but we provided some talking points to get things started like – “If you could abolish one piece of modern technology, what would it be and why?” and “What were you doing before you joined Culture Amp?” We also provided some conversation starters related to work, but our aim was to provide a context where people weren’t expected to talk about work. The focus was to foster a sense of connectedness.
Getting to know fellow Campers
The Camper Coffee Lottery remains strong after two years of use. There are close to 100 Campers in the channel at any one time, and it is consistently updated with pictures and funny blurbs of people’s meetings.
One of the unexpected benefits is that as people learn more about each other one-on-one and post about it, we all learn about each other en masse. Michele Gallagher, Director of Global PR & Communications says, “I like Donut meetings because they open up your mind to other parts of the organization and people I wouldn’t normally be collaborating with on a day to day basis. I am always learning new things about what they’re working on.”
People Scientists Sahra Kaboli-Nejad adds, “I love our camper lottery because it gives me a chance to connect with people in all parts of Culture Amp (Executives, Marketing, People and Experience, etc.). So far, everyone I’ve had a camper coffee with is someone I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to talk to one-on-one otherwise. It’s also a great chance to let both of us unwind and connect with our coworkers on things that aren’t necessarily related to work (hobbies, upcoming vacations, food)!”
Given the Camper Coffee Lottery’s success, we’re now testing ways to harness the power of Donut for onboarding new Campers. Still in the pilot stage, we’re working on using Donut to match new Campers during their first few weeks on the job with people in different roles throughout the company. This acclimates our new starters to how our teams work, who does what, where they are, and orients them to our company as a whole.
What started as an experiment is now a sustainable program that connects Campers across offices. We’re looking forward to continuing our Donut meeting tradition and further building a sense of connectedness across offices.
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