Employee Engagement Through Donuts -- Yes, Dough-nuts!

“Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”

-Kevin Kruse Founder+CEO of LEADx.org | NY Times Bestselling Author

Have you ever wondered what your colleagues like to do when they’re not at work? Do you know who they are, and I don’t mean what title or position they hold at the organization -- I mean, who they are? You might love the same band as Greg from HR, Maddy, in sales, might also race falcons. Of course you don’t know this because you only know them only by name and department. Work can be so busy and overwhelming that you may not even have time to think about getting to know your peers. However, almost everyone agrees that if they were given the chance and time to get to know their peers on an individual level, work would be more fun and everyone would be more successful!

Chicago-based technology company Narrative Science has constructed an initiative that solves this problem, by facilitating team members to get to know each other through one-on-one, low-impact meetings. It has created an extremely positive outcome, not just for employees but for the organization itself. What’s the answer?? Donuts. Obviously.

Narrative Science wanted to come up with a plan that would essentially help them advance their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within the organization. Tea Geckle, a software engineer at the organization, suggested the idea of “Donut” -- a Slack add-on built to create relationships between employees at organizations through friendly meetups. The plan was for team members from different levels of the organization to be matched through a channel on Slack and they would then go out for donuts and coffee to get to know each other. The idea was to create a warm culture amongst team members from all levels of the organization. Another result would be giving team members the opportunity to get to know each other better so that in the event someone needed to speak up anytime, it would not be taken personally or elicit unconscious bias from anyone else on the team.

Narrative Science deployed “Donut” with a kick-off party -- with donuts of course -- in October of 2018. On the first day alone, approximately half of the company had signed up to take part in “Donut.” By now, the entire leadership team and 75 percent of the whole team is signed up for and goes on these outings constantly. Since then, the idea has had a positive impact on the organization beyond what anyone thought it would.

Narrative Science “Donut” Kick-off Party

Narrative Science “Donut” Kick-off Party

“We've had a 75% adoption rate so far, with people at all levels of employment participating - including our entire C-suite. It has been great to see all the interactions between people who don't work together directly on a regular basis. I also think the atmosphere at the company has become even friendlier since we've rolled it out. So many people have come up to me to tell me about how much they love it, or how they'd never talked to so-and-so before they got matched up, but they're so cool and did I know that they're a competitive skier?” Geckle said.

DEI can seem overwhelming and challenging but companies need to find quick wins to get things moving. “Donut” is a great example of this --a low effort, high impact initiative.

“My advice would be to remove as much friction as possible for people to join and participate and to create an atmosphere of excitement when you get started,” Geckle said. “We have a monthly drawing to ‘sponsor’ someone's donut date with their matchup, and I give extra entries to anyone that uploads a selfie or drawing from their donut date. We also run it every other week, so that people don't find it overwhelming. Getting a high level of adoption out of the gate is very important because if participation is low, it will be hard to sell people on it later!”

Geckle recommended Donut, or a program like that, to help encourage other organizations to find a way to foster employee engagement. Many of the organizations that we work with at Holistic have limited financial resources or benefits, and so even if you don’t have the financial resources, you can do something as simple as “Donut” to help employees feel valued and connected to other team members. This will essentially benefit the organization by having happier and more collaborative employees.

We want to know your thoughts! If you are interested in learning about how Holistic can help your organization improve its employee engagement efforts and foster happy employees, please reach out to us at elda@holisticindex.com.