With so many of us confined to our homes, we’re all rethinking what it means to communicate, connect, and engage with the people and communities around us. The same, of course, applies to teams and organizations looking for new ways to congregate their employees around something safe, uplifting, and positive.

But what does that look like when your team is scattered across a network of newly minted home offices? How do you help people feel like they’re still working towards a shared vision when spontaneous and face-to-face interactions are no longer an option? Groupon’s answer: local impact, powerful story-telling, and buzzing bees.


Spreading positivity

Amidst a flurry of communications about compliance, protocol, and safety, it can feel challenging to find joyful reasons to reach out. And yes – communicating about logistics and public health is crucial in such unprecedented times, but to Groupon’s Head of Social Responsibility Matt Kruse, it’s also important to find ways to boost morale and keep a company’s culture alive.

“What you don’t get now is the connection – not only to your coworkers but to the things that happened in the office every day and built that culture. It’s imperative that we take opportunities to remind people of what makes this culture great.”

-Matt Kruse, Head of Social Responsibility, Groupon

One of the ways they’re doing that? By keeping employees engaged in their urban beekeeping project. Installed in 2019, Groupon’s hive is located on the east side of their Chicago offices’ rooftop and is one of the few projects that was able to continue bolstering engagement and belonging throughout the pandemic thanks to digital workshops and MyHive updates.

In fact, over two-thirds of the company is now involved in the beekeeping project, be it through their involvement in orchestrating newsletters, educational activities or quirky, story-driven social media stories about the bees. Amidst difficult times and new work habits, those updates have been a welcome breath of fresh air and humor.


Leveraging the power of stories

Stories are powerful vessels for important information and human connection. In fact, it’s believed that messages delivered through stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than simple facts. Groupon has understood that power from day one, turning every experience and offer on their platform into a narrative people can imagine and engage with. Their internal communications strategy is no different, and their hive has provided ample material to feed their internal story brand.

Upon introducing the hive to the entire organization, for example, their team launched a naming contest for their Queen Bee. A few of the runner-ups to the ultimate winner Queen Debbie? Queen Labeefa, Ruth Beeder Ginsburg, and Bee Arthur.

“We thought it would be a really fun way for a company that’s built on gamifying and incentivizing to create friendly competition with things like stickers and t-shirts. Once we had a name, she was a character, she was a person, and she was part of our storyline.”

– Matt Kruse, Head of Social Responsibility, Groupon

As a character, Queen Debbie didn’t disappoint. In fact, the Groupon team was quickly given a golden opportunity to reel people in and bolster engagement when an unexpected plot twist emerged: a coup was underway. Seeing a chance to combine education and entertainment, they got to work crafting a clever company-wide email.

There is some serious drama going on in the hive.
A “coup” was attempted when another egg was laid, nurtured with “royal jelly”
and left to grow into a new queen. Debbie was not happy. This process is called
“supersedure”, the attempt by the hive to replace an ailing, ill or missing queen.
Fortunately, Debbie is none of those things, so her competition was squashed with
the help of Travis, our attending beekeeper (face hidden to protect Travis from retaliation.)

The Groupon team was hooked: hundreds of employees engaged with the email, digital workshops filled up in record time and people were eager to learn more about these diligent pollinators.


Start local

When looking to create impact, we often think we need to go big. But at a time when when finances are restricted, and going big is either not an option or a tabled idea, finding small ways to foster engagement and positivity within the community can seem impossible, making us blind to the smaller opportunities we have to foster engagement and positivity within our communities. For the Groupon Social Responsibility team, the goal has always been to multiply local impact and involve as many partners and collaborators as possible.

“Connecting partners is a big thing we try to do as a team. We really try to have a clear line of sight with different partners in the community, whether it’s the local brewery or another non-profit that could benefit from the proceeds. It’s a way for us to have a full-circle connection.”

– Matt Kruse, Head of Social Responsibility, Groupon

The hive, of course, provided countless opportunities to get creative on a small scale. 
First, their team coordinated a fund drive selling honey for $5USD a jar and donating all proceeds going to a beloved local charity; the Garfield Park Conservatory. Next, they reached out to a local brewer, who agreed to craft a limited-edition draft with their honey. That beer, in turn, would be sold by a restaurant in the same building as the Groupon offices, with all proceeds once again going to the Garfield Park Conservatory.

By thinking outside the box, the Groupon team was able to not only engage employees and broaden its reach within the community, but help everyone rally around a single positive cause and story. At a time when it can be hard to feel like we’re part of a team or a company, those small efforts can go a long way in helping people feel connected and loyal to that company culture we’ve all worked so hard to create.