Why internal comms is known as ‘black ops’ at Dropbox

Why internal comms is known as 'black ops' at Dropbox

April 8, 2015

Dropbox has provided a fascinating glimpse at the way it approaches internal communication.

Company stalwart Jon Ying has been tasked with fostering a unique company culture among the 1,000 employees at the popular file-sharing business.

Black Ops. That’s what they call internal communication these days at Dropbox.

A little dramatic, perhaps, but it certainly has impact.

Jon, who insists he doesn’t have an official title although muses he could be classed as “Creative Director”, explained to Fastcompany.com: “At Dropbox we call what I do Black Ops, because it’s kind of this secret wing that accomplishes whatever needs to be done at the company.

“It amounts to connecting people, keeping them informed and inspired and, lastly, keeping them really happy. I focus a lot on what at other companies would be called internal communications, taking Dropbox’s story and translating it for Dropbox employees.”

So what type of things does the “Black Ops” team promote to connect the firm’s employees?

Activities include:

* Hack Week. Staff are given an entire five days away from their everyday roles to work on projects that personally interest them, directly resultng in some of the company’s latest leading developments.
Jon said: “What’s really great is that people end up working on projects that deeply benefit Dropbox in some way or another. Critical features like two-factor authentication and even Dropbox for Business, that we launched last year, were employee-driven and not a mandate from staff.”

* All-Hands. Delivery of business-critical facts in an engaging way. Using PowerPoint is a big no-no.
Jon explained: “With an All-Hands, what you’re basically doing is reciting a lot of facts and then of all those facts, you want everybody to remember, like, five bullet points. You want them to retain that. There are different ways you can do that. There’s copy/paste a bunch of crap onto a PowerPoint and just flip through slides and you hope people remember it, or you can put a little bit more effort into it and make it something really special. That’s kind of what it’s all about.”

* Making people happy. A broader point but Dropbox continually goes the extra mile to bolster employee engagement.
Jon said: “Part of that is just giving people more ways of connecting with one another. My colleague Russ actually went around the office and did a scavenger hunt of all the different things that Black Ops has done over the past few months. We do events like our annual taco trip and holiday party. We do a musical number every once in a while, like tell the news.”

Jon and his internal comms team started with a clear goal: the need to combine the benefits of being a 1,000 person company with the attributes of a 10-person firm.

He added: “My thought process was, how can I turn back the clock or slow it down? A very healthy company, a very happy company produces very healthy and happy products.

“My line of reasoning was that anything that we can invest into making Dropboxers better results in a better product. And so that’s actually where I started.

“It was pretty difficult to make the switch because it’s invigorating to make something and ship it out to millions.”

To read the full article, visit the Fastcompany.com story here…