LinkedIn’s workplace learning report of 2021 says that 37% of employees feel less connected to their teammates and 31% feel less connected to their leaders. These numbers are quite worrying for HR teams across organizations.
As we remain embattled in the COVID pandemic, virtual continues to be the way forward for us too. Is it ideal? Absolutely not. But it is the reality. Also, let me just say it. Having a Virtual teambuilding program is any day better than having none at all.
There are loads of options to choose from too. Several vendors in the market have engagement programs that do the job for you. As we moved to virtual ourselves, we learned that a lot of what works in the physical world doesn’t work in the virtual world. Some engagement activities are not meant for virtual. We thought we will put together a list of things that you should be wary of while choosing team-building programs. Here are 5 not-so-good ideas for virtual engagement.
1. Music-based Team Events
While you could have people in-person sessions, it was easy to have a music-themed session where participants either create motto/team spirit jingles, sing together, play instruments, or some such. But adapting that to virtual sessions poses many challenges.
Firstly, expect a time lag and network issues that will plague synching of systems. This will result in the same music being heard differently by different people and the meter won’t match. Musicians have to be supremely talented to pull it off. It’s challenging to create synchrony even in the physical space especially if most of the participants are novices. Moreover, odd items as musical instruments sound cool in theory, takes talent to make them work. This can end up disengaging your team.
2. Extempore Leadership Talks & Town Halls
We have been conducting workshops addressing audiences ranging from leadership teams to management trainees, across a variety of organizations, for 17+ years. I revelled in the extempore space and required minimal preparation to create engagement and interactivity in my sessions. But the virtual space is a different animal and one needs to work extra hard to create that engagement among people who you can’t see or make any eye contact with.
It takes a lot of preparation and use of interactive elements like live polls, collaborative boards dice games, show wheels, etc to make these sessions engaging to keep the participants involved and engaged.
It is different from the Townhalls where you had hundreds of employees huddle up on office floors and cafeterias creating a buzz, that a leader could feed off or even evoke laughter, applause, etc. So encourage your leaders or even go ahead and help them to ensure that they are prepared with enough interactivity apart from their content.
3. Stand-Up Comedy
We all know how comedians feed off the energy of the audience to make their gigs work. In the past six months, I have organized or attended several stand-up comedy sessions and have had great experiences, some of which were excruciatingly painful. And the issues with the ones that were painful, was never about the talent of the comedian. So before you finalize ensure you have a mock session or a conversation with the comic to ensure they have enough experience in understanding how to host a virtual stand-up session. Ask her or him how they plan to involve audiences especially if people don’t have their cameras on. Do give them a fair warning if your team is likely to be fairly passive during the session.
4. Please… No More Bingo
Before the pandemic induced WFH situations, how many Bingo events
Did you organize or be part of an engagement activity? (I am guessing your answer ranges from one to none). Then why would you assume that the same event would be popular in the virtual space, to begin with?
Organizing an event just because it’s easy shouldn’t be how we approach an engagement activity. Things like online Bingo have become part of virtual family & friend’s meetups to birthday parties.
And when you organize it as part of your team catch-up or monthly engagement activity, your team may grudgingly accept the invite but is unlikely to feel engaged.
5. Guest & Celebrity Speakers:
The last thing you want to do is pay tons of money to a celebrity
speaker and watch their address to the audience resemble a free youtube video! I’ve attended sessions where a well-meaning speaker, who is knowledgeable in that area of expertise, launches into a monologue, albeit with a lot of passion, without connecting with the audience or on a topic that might be of interest to them.
Bringing on a big name and assuming that your job is done is just not good enough anymore. This means making the live session contextual and interactive so that the audience feels special and comes as close to the excitement of a live session where they get to meet the celebrity in the flesh.
Make sure you set aside enough time for the conversation with your speaker to give them the context of the audience and ensure that this conversation is part of your contract. Ensure you have a 70-30 ratio of presentation and Q&A at the end of the session. Ensure you communicate the same to the audience beforehand so that they may have questions ready. While using the chat to post questions seems like an easy and efficient idea, it is better to have the attendees pose the question directly to the speaker. This makes the person feel special and in fact, far more intimate than if they were standing in one of the faraway rooms in a large convention hall.
All of these are not bad ideas but these do not work great in a virtual setting. If you are not repeating them and are willing to put in the rigour required to make them work it is possible to conduct some of these too. But it would take some effort on your part to stitch it together. If you’re not prepared and have solely relied on the sales pitch of your vendor, then you are signing yourself up for moderate to poor experience.
If you are looking for fresh ideas for remote team engagement, talk to us at BlueSky Learning. We have activities for small and large teams and can meaningfully engage teams in exciting activities and challenges.
Talk to us today