Why You Should “Growth Hack” Your Employees (And How We Do It Here)by Emma Siemasko Published in Off the Ground on
When you think of growth hacking, you probably think of startups that use clever strategies to get more customers. Big companies like Pinterest and smaller ones like Help Scout and Quicksprout have used growth strategies to gain hundreds of new users and subscribers, resulting in more adopters and advocates.
But what if you growth hacked your humans instead of your product?
If you’ve read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (a high school favorite), you know exactly what I mean. By carefully crafting to-do lists, routines, and goals, you can growth hack yourself to be a better business owner, marketer, parent, or dancer.
You can’t reach your goals just by reading blog posts about productivity apps. As Franklin so wisely said, ““Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
The term “growth hacking” is over-used (it feels kind of meaningless), but ultimately the term means “a lot of growth in a short period of time.”
That’s exactly what we want for our team members at Grasshopper.
Kung Fu = A Skill Achieved Through Hard Work
At Grasshopper, we teach and grow our team using Kung Fu, a quarterly program that encourages employees to try something new.
We want employees to learn new skills and try out ideas that they don’t have time for in their daily workflow.
Our team divides into groups and gets a few months to come up with and research an idea. After that, we’re given 24 hours to build what we’ve been dreaming, then give a 5 minute presentation to the rest of the company.
Our peeps have done stuff like:
- Created an online version of “I Caught,” our employee recognition program.
- Built a sonar robot using arduino and controlled with nodejs and data output displayed with D3.js.
Sweet sonar robot made by @lewisarch for @Grasshopper’s Kung Fu day! pic.twitter.com/JrXWOitVE0
— Nick Johnson (@nickux) April 4, 2014
- Designed an updated version of our network statuses that makes it super easy for our customer service team to keep our customers informed.
Putting it in Practice (or What We Learned from Creating a Ridiculous Marketing Video)
You’re a young woman who works for a cool SaaS company and runs a couple of side projects– a freelance writing biz and an online dating consultancy. Your company has created a number of viral videos using contractors and freelancers, but you haven’t created many videos in house.
You love viral videos about entrepreneurship (like Sh*t Entrepreneurs Say) but you wish there were one created with YOU in mind (a.k.a. a 20-something female who likes pop music).
So, with your limited video editing abilities (circa 2004) and a coworker’s video camera, you make one.
You write lyrics to parody a popular song and ask a friend to sing and record it. You pay her $100 and round up two friends in the office to help you produce a video.
Now, replace you with me, and you’ll get what me, Mary, and Laurel did for our Kung Fu project.
Before we started recording, we outlined our goals:
- Create a video targeted at entrepreneurs (particularly friendly to a young, female audience).
- Learn basic video editing skills.
- See if in-house video creation is feasible for the marketing and culture teams.
- Learn whether we should advise video creation to customers.
Here’s what we created:
After we finished, we noted our takeaways:
- Video editing is really hard!
- SMBs should hire video freelancers or contractors (worth the money!)
- If you have a great idea, it IS possible to make a video (but don’t expect polish). We used two tools– Final Cut Pro ($299.99) and a video camera.
- Even if our video isn’t perfectly polished, it does show off the merits of the Kung Fu program.
So…Why Are You Telling Me About This?
A Growth Hacked Team is a Better Team
If you want your team to grow, you have to help. That might mean sending team members to conferences, helping them pay for education, or creating a program like Kung Fu.
I’m not sure where this conversation came from, but it’s been posted all over Twitter and LinkedIn in the past few weeks. It embodies the need for a growing team perfectly:
CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people & then they leave us?” CEO: ‘What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”
Programs Like This Improve Your Product and Services
A program like Kung Fu is good for your products and services, not just your team members. By encouraging employees to think outside of their regular workflow, you can explore new avenues that haven’t been touched before.
For example, Allison, our Customer Engagement Manager, Scott, our UI Engineer, and Dave, our Interaction Designer, worked together to create a display system that would show customers the current status of our network. The platform easily allows Allison and Mary, our Social Media & Community Specialist, to tell customers about any service interruptions. Ultimately, this will improve the Grasshopper experience for our customers.
Lessons Learned Not Only Help Your Team, But Also The Customers They Serve
Sure, we figured out that video creation is hard, but we also gained insight about video that we could relay to our customers.
I now know that:
- An in-house videographer might help you out.
- Outsourcing videos to freelancers and contractors is a great idea.
- Creating your own video takes a really long time (much longer than creating a blog post or other asset), so be prepared.
This sort of information helps me (and the rest of the marketing team) figure out what tools to recommend and what types of content to create for our prospective and current customers.
Ultimately, Process is as Interesting as Product
Our silly video probably won’t go viral– and that’s ok. The process of creating a video, presenting it to the rest of the team, and sharing this story is valuable.
Without undergoing these sorts of processes and learning experiences, we wouldn’t understand how to create an awesome viral video, or how long it would take to do so.
Tell Us What You Do
What do you do to excite and grow your employees? We want to know! Please share in the comments below.