Making digital engagement meaningful and fun

WFC workers
Picture of Firstup

How can a traditional 82-year-old company—with no intranet—engage digitally with its onsite and remote workforce? Becky Graebe, Firstup’s Senior Director Communication Strategy, found out when she sat down with Raleigh Decker, Senior Director of Communications at World’s Finest Chocolate, to learn about the launch of their WFWORKS (World’s Finest Works) app.

Running a successful chocolate company sounds like fun. And it is! But, like any business, it requires a dedicated and motivated workforce. Just ask the people at World’s Finest Chocolate (WFC), which has been crafting world-class chocolate from a cherished family recipe for 82 years. This is a highly civic-minded business, known for youth fundraisers and giving back, which has helped customers raise over $4 billion for schools and organizations.

“We don’t make chocolate. We make the world’s finest chocolate, and it’s made by the world’s finest people.” 

— Ed Opler, Sr., Founder, World’s Finest Chocolate

The company lives by its mission: To deliver extraordinary value with fun and purpose, with their CEO, Eddie Opler, encouraging employees to incorporate “their secret (chocolate) sauce” into everything they do. WFC’s founder, Eddie’s grandfather, used to say, “We don’t make chocolate. We make the world’s finest chocolate, and it’s made by the world’s finest people.”

Values from the top

All of these good vibes start at the top, with a respected CEO and leadership team that exemplify the company’s mission and values. With their enthusiastic support, the internal communications team wanted to make sure the workforce of 300 internalized the same fun and purpose every day—a particular challenge during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This is where the “WFWorks” app comes in and the steps taken to create a meaningful digital engagement with and for their people, who work both onsite and remotely. What was needed was an employee communication platform that would help them address the unique challenges of their dispersed workforce.

Evolving from old-school communications

“Before the pandemic, our people communicated with their immediate colleagues, but there wasn’t a consistent, immediate, company-wide way to make sure our people were connected and supportive of each other and our mission,” says Raleigh Decker, WFC’s Senior Director of Communications, who almost single-handedly created this new and unexpected way to capture and share the spirit of this family-owned company.  

The challenge: As a traditional manufacturing company, “we never had an intranet—and half of our employees, who work in the plant, don’t have a work email address,” Raleigh explained. “And because of COVID, we were apart for 15 months, thinking initially it would be only two weeks!” 

Personalization powers engagement
“Ensuring employees have access to the latest information, and having it personalized to them, is really important. It’s transformed the way that people interact with our comms. Before Firstup, we weren’t able to do that.”

Continuous engagement

With the launch of the app, change was brewing and people were connecting, despite the obstacles. The key was continuous engagement from the company and among employees.

“Employee-generated content – it’s a fun way to keep our culture, and our business, healthy.” 

– Raleigh Decker, Senior Director of Communications, WFC

Starting with Founder’s Day posts, online content—a snappy mix of text, videos and photos—is spread out through the week, including employee-generated announcements, personal stories, comments and suggestions, surveys, and team photos, job postings, service awards, milestone recognition and a thematic calendar that keeps participation high all year.  

For example, Pinktober, a celebration in October of National Breast Cancer Month, is a cause that employees feel passionate about. Now they have a way to share their thoughts, ideas and experiences with their co-workers. Thankvember, a daily celebration of thanks in November, and Spirit Week are other timely events employees now enjoy and share through the app.

Pinktober Retail Team

People make and post their own videos using guidelines for consistency and fairness. One team made a video with many on-camera testimonies to honor a colleague celebrating 40 years with the company. Senior leaders were taught how to record and submit their own videos each month, with managers doing so once a quarter. Videos, as well as monthly online town hall meetings (up from twice a year) have been particularly useful in connecting leaders with the entire staff.

Source: Clip from our webinar with World’s Finest Chocolate, “Find your secret (chocolate) sauce!”

Everyone is on the communications team

The app is built for social sharing, including discussions about open job positions, which strengthens the company’s culture and reinforces meaningful employee connections—we’re all in this together. Everyone, in effect, has become part of the company’s communications team, a huge accomplishment with so much good content coming from across the company. 

This was especially satisfying for Raleigh, a communications team of one with no graphic resources, writers or video crew to rely on. She proved that maybe a big communications team isn’t needed when the entire staff is contributing. 

Learn how to engage your frontline workforce with the right information using the latest technology. Download our free 3 step guide to empowering your frontline teams with technology.

The inspiration of gamification


And then there is gamification, launched in the fall of 2021, which saw engagement take off considerably, even after the platform launched with positive results and solid employee interaction. With gamification, employees are automatically awarded points for various actions on the platform: submitting a photo or video, commenting on a post, recommending a colleague for a position, participating in a survey, etc. 

With accumulated points, employees are awarded small prizes, such as gift cards and professional sports tickets, every month. The company’s leaders also set up custom leaderboards for specific campaigns, such as sharing specific hard-to-fill job postings or nominating teachers who deserve classroom grants. 

With so many ways to connect, share, support others, learn and earn prizes, the platform has increased employee engagement significantly. Employee discussions, for example, increased by 215%, and more than 1,100 comments were posted during a span of 30 days. 

“Informative, relevant community-building information is now at everyone’s fingertips, thanks to this platform, and it’s inspiring to see how much more connected everyone feels, even with many of us still working remotely.  People who were uncomfortable with social media now see it’s not hard at all.”

—Raleigh Decker, Senior Director of Communications

To make sure the early success of WFWorks continues, Raleigh says the company will conduct a survey about what people like best and what might be improved—with points for gamification. Of course. 

Find your secret (chocolate) sauce!

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