At the beginning of November 2016, we started a program at Nugit and called it “Date Your Colleague.” It was a huge success, with over 150 dates between colleagues – 60 dinner dates and 90 lunch dates – but I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s how it all began…
2016 was a massive growth year for my company, and by the end of October, a third of our employees were only 4 months or less in. The company was at the critical point of 25 employees and new folks were arriving every other week. A while back at a conference in Phuket, I was chatting with Nik Hodges and Rob Norman, both of whom had warned me of this event – it’s the point in a company’s growth where it’s totally possible for someone to go a week without speaking to everyone in the office at least once. To be fair, it’s not as bad as when a company gets to 50 team mates and not everyone knows everyone else’s name, but that event is something to deal with in time.
Nugit is very diverse, with a healthy mix of engineers, data scientists, designers, product managers, and customer service executives from 14 different countries, native in many different languages, oceans apart but sharing the same vision. These different types don’t always naturally hang out together in the wild, so making a comfortable environment to share ideas and get to know each other was a big priority within the team.
Nugsters hail from 14 countries across the globe. Asia is the most represented continent with 8 nationalities, followed by Europe with 4. I really need to do something about getting more Aussies on the team.
More Nugsters = More Relationships
As teams grow, the number of individual relationships expand exponentially as well. In a very short space of time, there’s a whole bunch of relationships that need to be created and maintained between the crew.
A little over a year ago with 10 employees, there was a possible 90 relationships in the company. With a crew of 30, there are 870 relationships possible relationships or 9.6X as many.
As mentioned earlier, we have an eclectic mix of people from various fields – data scientists, designers, sales, strategists and storytellers… Some are introverted, while others are more outgoing. Not everyone will naturally be keen to know everyone, and that means ideas could be missed and perspectives limited. So we came up with “Date Your Colleague” which became affectionately known as DYC, to give us all a good excuse to get to know our peers better.
Date Your Colleague Rules
1. Take a colleague out on a lunch or dinner date, share ideas, and expense it on the company. Budget = $30 for lunch, and $50 for dinner.
2. To claim your meal, you must take a selfie and post it on our #DYC Slack channel.
3. You may only date each colleague once, and no outsiders (non-colleagues) are allowed.
Over 150 dates in the first 2 months.
How many dates did each person go on?
There was an average of almost 6 dates per person. Mind you, quite a lot of these were double and triple dates which wasn’t technically part of the rules, but we learn.
Most Popular Cuisines
Other interesting observations from the Program
Lunches were the most popular time to take a colleague out, with 50% more Lunches vs. Dinners. People were more adventurous in travelling further out for dinner. This is probably due to time constraints during lunch hour, which doesn’t apply for dinner.
There were also a lot of double and triple dates, so people could stretch their date dollars further. This wasn’t one of the rules, but we didn’t have a rule against it either.
So how did people feel about DYC? I was curious to find out if it actually helped with the company culture or was it just another case of employees enjoying (and taking advantage of) company perks. We did a survey in the office and here are some of the honest responses:
What did you like about it?
“I was able to work better when I felt more connected and invested in the team. I now have a better understanding of what folks are doing in their roles” – from Client Services.
“Helped break the ice to understand team dynamics better” – from the Product Team.
“I got the opportunity to learn what everyone does, and communication with my colleagues is more fluid now. Also got the opportunity to discuss purely technical stuff” – from the Engineering Team.
Did it improve your work performance?
“I don’t think it’s really tied to my work performance, but the fact that you can chill out at nice places in the evening with colleagues as one of the perks makes you feel better about working at Nugit” – from the Engineering Team.
“It made me more comfortable approaching people when I needed something for work or was unclear about something. Also felt like part of a bigger team, which always helps” – from Sales and Marketing.
“I always feel more motivated to work after DYC. I feel positive working with smart and passionate colleagues. But while it makes me feel good working at Nugit, I don’t think it directly affects my work performance” – from Client Services.
How can we improve the initiative?
“I find smaller groups (or even just a pair) better for dates, versus going out in one big group” – from the Engineering Team. In reference to the date ‘hack’ some of the guys figured out, where they went out for triple dates.
“Share the spreadsheet with the team every month so they can keep track of their dates – to avoid double dates” – from Operations Team. I guess this guy went on a lot of dates!
“Maybe we can invite other people (clients, tech companies, vendors/partners, etc.) to DYC” – from Client Service. Interesting feedback which suggests that some of the crew might not know they can expense these meals too; note to self – need better communication.
In summary, I think Date Your Colleague was a unanimous success. It helped build better relationships between colleagues, helped newbies assimilate and learn more about the company as well as the people in less formal settings. It’s clear from the photos a lot of fun was had. While it didn’t necessarily affect work performance directly, it seems to have indirect benefits on collaboration and teamwork.
There were a few hacks the team found, with some of them taking the opportunity for a free meal, and drink or two on the company, with a big trend towards group dates. While unexpected, I don’t think it got in the way of us fulfilling our objectives.
Will we continue DYC?
With many new people joining the team and many dates still remaining, we will extend this program until the end of June with a reset date tally so everyone can also do a second date with their peers that they’ve already dated once.
A few things we’ll change to improve DYC for Round 2:
1. The person must find out one interesting new fact about their date and post this to Slack with the selfie — this will help the team get to know their workmates even better.
2. They must not go to the same place twice — this is to encourage exploring new places and the amazing food in the neighbourhood.
3. Colleagues will be auto assigned 2 dates per month based on a random selection from the pool of colleagues yet to be dated. This will give people who are still too shy to ask for dates a chance to meet everyone.
4. Only up to 4 colleagues (or two pairs) are allowed at any one time to go on the same date. While we think the big group date was great for team bonding, there was a lot of feedback that said this took away from getting to know each other individually. We’ll support big lunches and dinners in other ways.
Looking forward to see how the improvements we introduce will impact the initiative over the next few months and help the team stay in touch with each other as we work towards the next milestone of 50 Nugsters.