If you’ve turned on your TV in the last twenty years, you’ve probably noticed that reality television has permeated our culture and daily lives. From Survivor to Dragon’s Den, people globally adore binging on shows that feature ordinary people filmed continuously for entertainment. Whether you like romance, fashion, or cooking, there is something for everyone and hours of mind-numbing programming. The shows inspire watch parties, heated debates, and even company events that foster meaningful employee relationships.
In 2008 the Noovo Network aired the Canadian adaptation of the British television program Come Dine with Me, and it quickly garnered a loyal audience. In the show, five strangers host a dinner party for each other. Each host prepares a menu that consists of an appetizer, main course, and a dessert. When the guests finish their dishes, they vote on food quality, hosting skills, and entertainment value. After the final dinner, the host shares the vote results, and the person with the highest score wins bragging rights and cash. The personable and unpredictable show has run for thirteen seasons, provided hours of entertainment, and gave the Recruit Action Partners an idea.
Domenic and Francois believed creating a similar cooking challenge would provide an excellent bonding opportunity for their employees. Francois says, “We are always looking for new employee activities that are not job-related. We wanted the event to help the team get to know each other in a different environment, and we felt a dinner party at each employee’s house would be fun and provide a great opportunity to connect.” Ultimately, the Partners hoped the challenge would put work aside and expose a personal side of each of their colleagues that they usually don’t experience in the office.
Domenic and Francois decided to have a dinner held each month at a different employee’s house using the following guidelines:
- Each employee creates and serves a cocktail, appetizer, main course, and dessert;
- The meal budget must not exceed $300;
- The host has two hours to prepare the meal and thirty minutes to greet the guests.
To maintain the show’s spirit, the Partners had the team members film the dinner parties and vote on the experience at the end of each meal.
Recruitment Specialist Maryse Laverdiere was just beginning her employment with Recruit Action when tasked with the challenge. So the event was a bit stressful because she was worried she would have to go first. Fortunately, she was picked last and had plenty of time to plan her meal and see how her colleagues approached the task. The experience made Maryse learn about her team members more than she could’ve imagined. She said, “I learned that I had a lot more in common with my team than I had thought, and we connected on another level that doesn’t happen in the office.” For example, the impression of her colleagues changed when she entered their house and sat down for their first meal. She said, “It made me feel very comfortable with my colleagues, and I’ve never worked for a company that has done anything like this before.”
Partner Kristyn Oleskewyz felt the dinner challenge was a great way to develop and maintain a strong connection with her team. “I got to see everyone’s funny side and how they handled the stress of the situation.” She learned that the team doesn’t take things too seriously, and they work well under pressure because creating a cocktail and a three-course meal for six people is not easy. She stated, “It was an incredible experience to make a stressful meal to share with people that you worked with and learn more about who they are.”
HR and Recruiting Advisor Marie-Helen Paquin still talks about the Recruit Action dinner with her family and friends. People thought it was such a great idea that they replicated the concept with their friends. Marie-Helen learned that each person’s dinner reflected their unique personalities. For example, some people tried to be bold and cook something they’d never prepared before, while others created dishes they wanted to share that they’ve made before. Marie-Helen felt the team laughed the most at Francois’s dinner, “He made us feel so comfortable because the ambiance he created was simple and relaxed.” Marie-Helen lives outside Montreal, so she is not physically close to the team. However, the dinner helped her get to know her team personally and have fun. Now she feels the people she works with are more like friends than colleagues.
Everyone at Recruit Action feels the dinner challenge was a success that each employee thoroughly enjoyed. Domenic hoped their idea would create an experience that the employees would talk about for years, and it looks like they accomplished his goal. Ever since the pandemic began, the Recruit Action employees have been anxiously waiting for an opportunity to repeat the dinner activity with the new members of their recruiting family. The impact of an out-of-office event changed how they see each other, the nature of their relationships, and how they work together. Domenic and Francois are delighted with how their team embraced the challenge and each other. Australian Chef Skye Gyngell says, “Cooking is not about being the best or most perfect cook, but rather it is about sharing the table with family and friends.” And the Recruit Action cooking challenge proved that you are more than just an employee when you work for Recruit Action. You are part of the family.