How I use coffee for culture
Two years ago I decided to take every new coworker out for a coffee. And I think you should try it too.
When I first started working at Envoy, there were about 30 employees. A few of them invited me for a one-on-one in my first week. It made me feel welcomed and much more confident about starting conversations as the new girl. So I decided to message the other 26 current employees to initiate getting to know them as well. Since there were also a couple more new hires during my first month, it seemed only natural to reach out and add them to my coffee list. As more people joined every couple weeks, it quickly evolved into a habit.
It’s not anything fancy. My approach is just thirty-ish minutes to get to know each other more personally: learn about our backgrounds, how we ended up where we are, passions, hobbies — anything. Of course, this act is far from revolutionary. But it’s something so simple that it can easily fall through the cracks.
Deciding to prioritize it has helped in more ways than I could have guessed.
These one-on-ones make it more natural to have things to talk about while you’re in line for lunch or waiting for a meeting to gather. How’s your marathon training going? Any promising candidates for your director search? You already know some things about each other, so there’s an easy foundation for conversation.
As a designer who often works with many different teams, talking with each person also surfaces our roles, opening a door that leads to further collaboration. Someone from Sales might feel comfortable to reach out for new materials or I might feel more confident about asking someone from Customer Support about common pain points. It can improve design—from consistency within the brand to experience within the product—with greater velocity than operating within our respective silos.
Establishing familiarity with everyone also encourages a positive, friendly culture — not just interpersonally, but professionally too. It naturally fosters an environment of willingness to go the extra mile. We all are inherently more likely to bend over backwards for someone we care about, and the easiest way to start caring about each other is to know each other.
With remote employees, I usually do the same type of thing, just over a video call. It helps to shorten the “long hallways” to different cities and makes it so that when they visit HQ, they don’t feel like strangers.
By now I’ve had over a hundred get-to-know-you coffees.
Of course, the more we scale, the more difficult it will be to keep up, but I plan to give it a shot for as long as possible.
Will you give it a try? If your company is already too large to take out every new employee (and still be productive at your job), it could just be everyone on the floor, or everyone on an extended team. No matter what you choose, I would advise you to open up the scope of inclusion as widely as feasible to really maximize connections.
What have you got to lose?