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How Our Makin’ It Work Together Attitude Fueled A Virtual Culture in 2020

Jeremie Smith
Employee Communications Manager

In a year weighted with disruption, uncertainty, and a global pandemic, so many of us have had to face unprecedented challenges – both personally and professionally. Navigating through this unknown has been hard – even scary – at times, but it has also shown us the power people can have when they come together to overcome adversity.

At Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins, we surround ourselves with collaborative and kind people who roll up their sleeves, challenge the status quo, and have each other’s backs.

Like many things in 2020, our hard-working and fun-loving culture was challenged, and our brands and communities were tested.

To adapt to this new way of working and living while continuing to be places of comfort and joy for guests and communities, we rallied around our Makin’ It Work Together attitude to fuel our brands and keep millions of people running when they needed us most.

Establishing a Virtual Culture

How do you bring a collaborative, people-driven culture to life virtually? Rely on your strong values, relationships, and people to find innovative ways to Make It Work.

Early on in the pandemic, our Internal Communications and Human Resources teams came together to map out the framework of an ideal virtual culture for a global corporate workforce now working remotely.


As the teams identified ways to ensure our unique culture carried over into a virtual environment, the phrase, “Makin’ It Work Together,” was often used. That phrase quickly became a mantra for the work the teams were doing and evolved into a full campaign to rally the people behind our brands together and champion our collaborative culture virtually.

“Makin’ It Work Together is really about how we are coming together with one another and with our franchisees to meet challenges head-on and figure this unknown out,” said Stephanie Lilak, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins. “We work so well together, we genuinely care about each other, and we’ve got two brands full of strong, smart, and kind people that are innovative, versatile, and nimble. Our culture has thrived virtually this year because of the great people and great relationships we have here.”

Staying Connected: Leveraging Collaboration Tools & Technology

Keeping team members closely connected around the world has been a key priority in Makin’ It Work Together.

We’ve leveraged video conferencing, instant messaging, and collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to stay in touch with team members regularly. We also encourage team members to turn their cameras on when participating in virtual meetings to help cultivate more collaboration, discussion, and active participation with one another.

Staying Informed & Engaged: Information Sharing

Our Internal Communications team found new ways to communicate with all team members beyond email through the use of multi-media platforms like internal podcasts, video series, and Workplace, an internal social media network for businesses powered by Facebook.

These platforms have offered team members different ways to consume information while also creating opportunities to bring the fun-loving nature of our brands into a virtual setting. Workplace has been used for contests, information sharing, and even professional and personal news.

To highlight the many acts of kindness happening in our restaurants and communities this year, team members were encouraged to share photos and stories on Workplace, which the Communications team used to create a virtual “Moments of Kindness” photo wall to remind us of the power of people coming together for a greater purpose.

Additionally, the Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins leadership team regularly held monthly all-team virtual town hall meetings to check in, share key updates about both brands, and drive important business initiatives forward.

Networking & Cultural Experiences

Through the great work of our team-member-led resource groups, there are a series of networking, cultural, and development events held each year for team members to participate in. These events are typically held in-person at our corporate headquarters, but this year, we’ve had to make these work virtually.


Notable events hosted virtually this year include our annual holiday party, the L.E.A.D. Summit (professional development and learning conference), Pride celebration, a Dunkin’ JOY Run to benefit the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation, and a diversity & inclusion speaker series, just to name a few.

Additionally, many teams have organized regular virtual happy hours and hangouts to socialize and continue to build relationships with one another.

Rethinking the Way We Work

With the pandemic bringing an imbalance of work across different teams throughout both brands, the HR team championed an idea to offer team members the opportunity to help others through a temporary work assignment program called Gigs. This program created growth opportunities for team members and provided an impactful business solution for both brands.

For new team members joining our brands during the pandemic, the Talent Development team has been tasked with developing a virtual onboarding program in place of an in-person orientation.

“While the virtual program is a very different experience from the in-person orientation, we made sure our team members are getting the same – if not more – information,” said Talent Development Specialist Mikaela Almeida. “New team members are still learning about the different business units, but the program is more modular now and allows for much more flexibility.”

Similarly, for the New Franchisee Learning team, cross-functional partners from Learning Design, Field, and New Franchisee Learning came together to shift franchisee training initiatives that had been built as in-person sessions to virtual platforms.

“These trainings have helped us avoid any negative impacts from having to pause in-person classes,” said Nicole Hocking, Senior Manager, Field Learning. “We established these virtual sessions so that franchisees can continue to receive the same quality training remotely.”

The cross-functional team transformed the three-week program into a virtual curriculum comprised of 25, 90-minute virtual sessions with limited franchisee travel.  

Another example of how we have found ways to Make It Work Together this year is our Research & Development team. They were challenged early in the pandemic to work on product development and sampling from home, which presented many challenges.

Jeanne Bolger, Director, Research & Development, Baskin-Robbins and her team worked with HR and Corporate Security to develop a hybrid schedule to work on ice cream and cake design concepts. While the concepts were developed in the office, the sampling and review were being performed remotely.

“We learned to make it work and adapt to a new way of working,” said Jeanne. “The video conferencing product reviews require team members coming to the office to pick up a care package of product in the morning and bringing it back home to meet later in the day to discuss.”

A highlight for Jeanne this year was when her and the team had to evaluate 90 flavors of ice cream over a two-week period of time from home.

“My two kids were very jealous with all of the ice cream samples I had to evaluate and wanted to help me out,” said Jeanne. “They think I have the best job ever!”

In a trying year, we are incredibly proud of the strong, smart, and kind people who rallied together to find innovative ways to Make It Work Together and fuel our brands in any environment.

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