Former PayPal president David Marcus made headlines last year for a memo in which he exhorted employees to use the company's mobile payments app--or look for another job. It seems logical to expect, or demand, such devotion from staffers. But where do you draw the line between encouragement and ultimatum?
Start with the former. "You can't mandate engagement," says consultant Paul Marciano, author of Carrots and Sticks Don't Work. "However, you can mandate that your supervisors and managers treat people with respect."
PayPal has done that in part by making it easy for employees to integrate the payment service into their daily lives. The company's cafés, mailrooms, and on-campus food trucks all accept PayPal, so staffers can walk around wallet-free. There are any number of ways you can create employees who are enthusiastic customers.
Preach to the convertible
Local-food delivery service Good Eggs looks for workers who share its zest for hand-raked littleneck clams and seasonal fiddlehead ferns. But new hires don't have to be farmers' market fans.
"Sometimes there are people who want to do good in the world but aren't particularly knowledgeable about food," says Rob Spiro, co-founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based firm. After sampling Good Eggs' free daily lunches, featuring dishes like spring leg of lamb with grilled little gems, employees tend to become converts. "Tasting the food every day," Spiro says, "changes the way they eat."
Ambivalence is the enemy, so screening potential hires for enthusiasm is a must, says Marciano. Some people, no matter how qualified, aren't going to show the love you want. Vegans will be unhappy at fur companies, and couch potatoes will resist promoting gyms. "I understand the reality that people need jobs," says Marciano, "but it's critical that their values align with the organization's."
Buy them off--to a point
Freebies and discounts can help transform employees into enthusiasts. But companies should also consider unique ways to help workers form personal connections with a product.
Online DIY company Brit Co specializes in helping women tap their creativity--and that goes for its 50 employees too. Once a quarter, they can sign up for free classes on everything from screenprinting to cheese making as part of the company's Creativity Day. They can also drop by frequent classes in 3-D printing and chocolate making, gratis, at the company's San Francisco retail outlet.
"Our mission is to inspire and enable creativity, so how can we achieve that without practicing what we preach?" says founder and CEO Brit Morin. "If we're asking users to make time for creative play, then we should too."
Let 'em scope the competition
Some bosses get prickly if employees use rivals' products. But this attitude risks creating an isolated culture, according to Adam Richardson, group product manager at investment services company Financial Engines.
"There should be clear messages from the leadership that they want to see what the competition is doing and really understand it," he says.
Atlas Wearables in Austin certainly welcomes competition. The fitness wristband company has employees check out rivals' trackers along with its own devices at the company gym. Employees will often strap one of each on either wrist. "It helps us learn the pros and cons of the overall experience," says Atlas co-founder and CEO Peter Li.
If you can't beat 'em, switch gears
If employees consistently prefer rivals' products, it may be time to change strategies. "Find out what it is about the competitors' products that is more compelling," suggests management consultant Roberta Matuson, "and do it in a nonconfrontational way."
Cariloha founder Jeff Pedersen embraced the fact that employees were spurning the bamboo- apparel maker's socks for pairs with wild patterns and clashing hues. "Employees said they loved wearing these socks that are really colorful and add personality," says the CEO of the Sandy, Utah-based business. "So we made a line of socks to appease that group, and they've become really popular in our stores."
A Brief History of 'Dogfooding'
Call it the Fido principle. Being your own customer has a long, colorful history:The real deal
Mars boss Forrest Mars famously requires executives to sample its pet food brands. Not that dogs are all that fussy, but Mars is.1970s: Razor backer
In ads for the Remington shaver, president and CEO Victor Kiam proclaims, "I liked it so much, I bought the company."1982: Hair today
Commercials touting the Hair Club for Men feature founder Sy Sperling's iconic tag line, "I'm not only the Hair Club president. I'm also a client."1988: Eat my words
Microsoft exec Paul Maritz immortalizes "dogfooding" in an internal email: "We are going to have to eat our own dog food and test the product ourselves."2001: You've got hate mail
After AOL merges with Time Warner, the whole company is forced to use AOL mail. Staffers resent the fiat, and the plan goes awry when important messages do.
Walk the Talk
These five businesses have drummed up unique ways to help employees get invested in the products they peddle.
Workers with this lending startup get access to credit at the company's lowest rate--on up to 25 percent of their base pay. So far, employees have borrowed to remodel kitchens, book honeymoons, and finance exotic vacations.
This firm helps companies replace paper-based data collection systems with mobile apps. Employees see the social impact of their work, thanks to an internal "Ante Up" program that lets them donate the apps as well as their time to worthy nonprofits.
This on-demand shipping company adds a dash of suspense to the courier business with a holiday "Secret Shipper" gift exchange, in which employees send small tokens to one another anonymously. And whatever their job title, they all pick up customers' cargo a few times a month.
The crowdfunding platform gives employees $100 in credit each month to back a project or cause of their choice. Staffers have also chipped in to send a co-worker skydiving for his birthday and pooled funds to purchase a margarita maker for rooftop bashes.
The recipe-sharing site hosts seasonal company bake-offs to encourage workers to reveal the methods behind their meal-making magic. The recipes are compiled and published as a special edition.