The term “dogfooding” refers to the practice of a company using its own products to test and promote its product. It originates from an email sent in 1988 from Microsoft manager Paul Maritz to Brian Valentine, test manager for Microsoft LAN software with the subject line, “Eating our own dogfood,” tasking him to increase internal usage of their product.
This year, we’ve been on a dogfooding tear of our own at DoubleDutch. We’ve always used our product internally, similarly to how our clients use it – to build community, inspire, knowledge share, and keep tabs on what every department is doing. It’s one of my favorite aspects of DoubleDutch. However, as you can imagine, there is a bit of “productivity tool fatigue” that happens for a company headquartered in Silicon Valley. Different teams have their personal preference for communication, whether it’s Slack, Pride (our internal app), GChat, or any of the hundreds of tools at our disposal.
I wear a lot of hats at DoubleDutch, one of the biggest (maybe a fedora? Are those still cool? I don’t know.) is around employee engagement. I’ve made it my personal challenge to create a professional KPI around usage of our own tool. My thought is that we should be eating, breathing, and drinking our product day in and day out.
When we launched a quarterly initiative around our company core values, it only made sense that we incorporated our product. After gathering employee feedback on how they view and define our core values, we practiced intentionally living them with a “Core Value Challenge Week”. What transpired blew past everyone’s expectations. The week was filled with a visceral energy, people that had never spoken to one another were now eating lunch together, cracking inside jokes, and working collaboratively like never before.
Here’s how you can (and absolutely should!) use DoubleDutch for employee engagement.
Start with your goals
Our ultimate goal was create an atmosphere that encourages cross departmental communication and collaboration while putting our core values into action while using our own product. To achieve that, we put employees on random teams, forcing people to get to know their peers in other departments/offices.
Additionally, each challenge was structured in a way that tied back to our overarching goals.
For example, to ensure teams were actively communicating with one another, the very first challenge they could earn points for was to create a Slack channel inclusive of all team members.
Philanthropy is a big part of our corporate culture at DoubleDutch, so we also wanted to highlight that. To do so, we added in a “Bonus Point” challenge where individuals could earn points for their team by donating a school supply to a child in need. Each of our offices around the globe collected an overwhelming amount of school supplies to fill backpacks for the next school year.
Pro-tip: Think first of what you want to accomplish, and work backwards from there. Since our ultimate goal included using our own product, teams were only able to earn points by “checking-in” to a section in our app. You can do this by creating a “custom list” and enabling “checking-in” to each item on the list.
What’s a challenge without a reward?! Instead of leaving participation up to chance, we sweetened the deal at every turn. For starters, each team was assigned a “team lead”, who also happened to be one of our executives. At the end of our week of challenges, the execs on the lowest 3 ranking teams had to meet their fate and karaoke in front of the entire company (come on, a little corporate shaming never hurt anyone!). This made it so our execs had some skin in the game. Sure, they have busy calendars, but company culture is everyone’s job and we needed their weight to make this a surefire success.
Did it work?
Does a mouse like cheese?
(yes, and yes) (actually, not sure if mice like cheese).
Our execs had their teams hustling to complete each challenge. It was truly beautiful to see the fear of public humiliation in their eyes.
Pro-tip: If you want to engage your employees, make sure you have executive buy-in. It’s contagious when you see everyone having a little bit of fun and stepping outside of their normal work routine.
Promote, promote, promote
We wanted to build hype around the competition to get people excited and make sure they were paying attention. We scheduled a quick company All Hands meeting where we announced our Core Value Challenge Week and, after giving a quick overview, prompted employees to check Pride (our app).
They were immediately shown a promoted post that linked directly to the section where they could find out who was on their team. Que “ooohs” and “aaaaaahs”.
Next, we assigned executives to their teams by drawing names at random. This added in a level of unpredictability that captivated employees and had them cheering at every assignment. It was essentially the tech version of Harry Potter’s sorting hat.
To continue not only keeping people engaged, but also educated on the challenges, we scheduled a series of promoted posts and push notifications timed to go out at the start of each new challenge.
Pro-tip: if you have offices in various part of the world, like we do, scheduling ahead of time is a total life saver. We were able to schedule push notifications to go live in Amsterdam while we were sound asleep in San Francisco.
Meet people where they already are
The best source of inspiration for employee engagement is your employees! What are they already interested in? Are there any extracurricular groups that meet regularly? At DoubleDutch, we have what we’ve coined #fitfam.
#Fitfam is a group of employees in every office that meet for 5 minutes every hour for a quick exercise break. Each of our offices participates (sometimes we even video conference each other during workouts) and anyone can join! The workouts are quick, and simple- think sets of walking lunges, wall-sits, and planks.
For the challenge linked to our core value #bepassionate, we tasked teams to nominate one person from their team to compete in a planking competition. The person who held the longest plank would win 15 points for their team.
Holy smokes did this challenge bring out the Jillian Michaels in our employees. It was hysterical watching people compete to out-plank one another.
If you’re curious, our record was 8 minutes 30 seconds, held by our Creative Director, Sherri Takahara (who run the world? girls).
Pro-tip: Find ways in which your employees are living your core values each day right in front of your eyes! When people are passionate about something (workplace related or not) it tends to inspire others.
Did someone say data story!?
As you can imagine, a weeklong challenge like this produced a TON of posting in our app...and we all know that posts lead to data, and data can tell pretty interesting stories. I’m happy to report that by the end of the week, we reached 100% adoption and 95% engagement of Pride. In addition to the metrics below, we also had a pregnancy announcement (congrats, Amy!), learned how to code (way to go, Brittany!), and found out one of our execs actually moonlights as Superman (sneaky, Marlin).