Executive teams invest their hearts and souls into building an environment, a vibe, and a workplace culture that not only attracts new talent, it also keeps employees from looking elsewhere. But, when I say “culture” did you immediately think ping pong tables, sushi chefs, baristas and nap pods?
While these are great perks (who doesn’t love a nap pod), workplace culture should have a little more depth than just free stuff. If it was that easy, improving company culture wouldn’t keep entrepreneurs, founders, and executives up at night. This secret sauce to “company culture” is, for many leaders, their legacy and driving force to get up in the morning.
What is company culture?
If it isn’t free lattes, what is company culture? According to Boris Groysberg, Jeremiah Lee, Jesse Price, and J. Yo-Jud Cheng in Harvard Business Review, "Culture is the tacit social order of an organization: It shapes attitudes and behaviors in wide-ranging and durable ways. Cultural norms define what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected within a group."
So, while company culture does take into consideration work environment, it also includes leadership styles, the ethics and values of the company leadership, the goals of the company and the expectations set for employees. Whether intentional or a result of decades of smaller choices and priorities, company culture is critical to attracting the talent you want to grow your business as well as retaining essential team members.
Prior to 2020 (the year that felt like a decade), many companies could lean on fancy perks to buoy weaker areas of their culture. However, in our remote work reality shift, physical work environment (goodbye sushi chef) becomes less important.
Remote work culture, conquering its challenges
A study from McKinsey in the spring of 2022 shows that 35% of workers are full-time remote (up from 22% in 2018), and 23% are part-time remote. According to census data, that's roughly 92 million workers working remotely.
That is a whole lot of WFH. This leaves fewer employees to use the ping pong tables and feel the office vibe. The rapid change from in person to remote work meant companies hadn’t considered how they would keep their culture when employees were no longer in the office. Without the physical workplace to unite them, employees started feeling disconnected from their organization and colleagues. But does workplace culture influence employees’ leaving? The short answer, yes.
What part does work culture play in attrition?
Company culture plays a large role in attrition and retention. A McKinsey study of The Great Attrition (Renegotiation) shows that 40% of employees plan on leaving their jobs. The report offers numerous reasons related to company culture or lack thereof.
It's safe to say that culture influences retaining talent. So, how can executives improve virtual work culture to establish this new normal of company culture in an environment of primarily remote workers?
How to improve company culture while working from home
While there isn’t a physical office connecting us directly, there is something that remains. The products they design, develop, market, sell and support. Products are an extension of the company and the result of ALL the employees' hard work.
In 1980, Apple had been around for about four years and was looking to disrupt a significant market with new technology. During this time, there was a famous interoffice memo that changed much of the tech world.
Fun fact: In 1980, there also happened to be a recession, inflation, higher interest rates, less business spending, all things that sound familiar in 2022.
Apple's CEO Michael Scott (no, not of Dunder Mifflin) sought to rally the troops with a few famous lines.
- "We must believe and lead in all areas. If word processing is so neat, then let's all use it!"
- "We believe the typewriter is obsolete. Let's prove it inside before we try and convince our customers."
The memo held a powerful message that products are successful when a company believes in its mission and, if possible, adopts the solution. Although this is not a new strategy, it wasn't a pillar of technology companies. The practice is called dogfooding and is an essential part of the product development in many of the world's leading technology companies.
As a unifying piece between departments, a company's products offer a unique opportunity to improve company culture.
How does dogfooding help improve company culture?
Imagine for a moment if you had something you could give your employees that inspired collaboration, innovation and engagement. No, not nap pods, your own products.
Dogfooding can improve company culture by letting employees collaborate with their colleagues to influence the development of the products that are the very heart of the company. Giving employees early access to products goes beyond just bug hunting. Dogfooding unifies employees–from engineering to sales and marketing to customer support–in working together to make the company’s products better. It's no coincidence that top companies with great workplace cultures use dogfooding.
What are the benefits of dogfooding for improving company culture?
Centercode's 2022 Industry Trends Report indicates that 64% of respondents felt dogfooding had a noticeable impact on their brand. While 84% of respondents using Centercode reported that dogfooding had a noticeable effect. The benefits of dogfooding on company culture can be summarized into three areas: employee engagement, product enablement, and product quality.
Dogfooding brings employees together to test and learn about new products before being introduced to customers.
- Brings colleagues who are working directly on the product together with those that aren’t to collaborate and introduce new ideas and comment on existing ones.
- Allows employees' voices to be heard during the development process and promotes an inclusive environment with fewer walls and obstacles to giving feedback.
- Together employees will identify the strengths and weaknesses to influence the product roadmap.
- Employees get the added perk of getting an exclusive look at products and technology before launch.
Tip: with Centercode, you can build and maintain your community of employee testers in one centralized location with easy integrations into your company’s HR platform to onboard employees (with single sign-on simplicity) into your dogfooding community.
Early access to technology can produce a wealth of knowledge for employees that will be marketing, selling, and supporting the product as it is released.
- Employees will get a first look at a product.
- Hands-on product knowledge to learn about product features and reduce hours spent on training.
By understanding the product and market, employees will be better prepared for their job.
- Discovery and resolve bugs and defects while still in development.
- Identify new features and enhancements to produce a better product experience.
- Learn what is working well for testimonials and user-generated content.
- Uncover workarounds and support articles with issues that development won't resolve before launch.
What are the risks of dogfooding?
Dogfooding comes with its share of risks and challenges. While companies say their brand has a noticeable impact, they feel dogfooding is less effective than customer testing. Why?
Are employees the best candidates for participating in tests where ratings, feedback, and reviews are collected? Employees could be overly optimistic and pessimistic toward a product in development. Employee feedback is invaluable, but it shouldn't be your only candidate for testing. So using your target market or customers is a great way to check your employee bias.
You should balance what you give and get from your dogfooding program because getting testers to engage can be difficult.
- If friction is applied to providing feedback, you could see fewer data from your program.
- If no clear expectations are shared with testers, they could feel entitled to the product and produce less feedback.
- If testers have too many tasks, they could easily feel overwhelmed.
How Centercode helps establish a culture with dogfooding
Whether you need tips to counteract the challenges of dogfooding or are looking for a tool to help you build a great program, Centercode is here to help. As the premier tool for companies doing dogfooding, we offer an unparalleled feature set for building a best-in-class program.
Easy Project Building
- Build a project with Centercode's project builder and kick-off dashboard within minutes.
- Define tasks and create your schedule with Centercode's Test Designer.
- Post invitations on Slack, Confluence, emails, intranet, and anywhere your employees go to get information.
- Quickly provide instructions through landing pages or content, so employees know what they will be doing and what is expected of them.
- No need to dig through emails; employees have access to a branded portal and designated project space to submit all of their feedback.
- Submit feedback through Slack and safely store it in Centercode with easy integrations.
Better tester engagement
- Employee participation in testing can be challenging, but Centercode has the world's first bot fully dedicated to ensuring you have high and consistent engagement.
- With a dedicated portal for your project, testers can quickly see what needs to be done with activity lists.
- Create clear expectations with Centercode's Content Management System, so testers understand what should be done.
- Don't waste any more time copying and pasting data from an email into Jira, Centercode's Jira integration seamlessly sets up a flow of data for your product and development teams.
- See updates in Slack about feedback to have a continuous stream of product sentiment.
- Centercode has automated daily emails that set you up for success.
Want to learn more?
Download our Dogfooding Tester Guide to learn about the strong influence that dogfooding has on increasing employee participation and walks you through the essential components of managing a dogfooding program – from setting clear expectations to fostering a collaborative environment.