Team-building day at Elysium EPL

The challenge of collaboration and team-building, at scale

Remote and flexible work is here to stay. Still, the challenge remains. How do we get the policies and practices right to achieve a competitive advantage in the war for talent? How do we secure the productivity levels that flexible work delivered during the pandemic? And how do leaders provide opportunities for collaboration and team-building at scale?

Airbnb has answered the challenge with their ‘Work from anywhere-with a catch’ policy, expressed in just 105 words.

  • You can work from home or the office–whatever works best for you; move anywhere in the country, from San Francisco to Nashville, and your compensation won’t change; have the flexibility to live and work in 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location.
  • We’ll meet up regularly for team gatherings. Most employees will connect in person every quarter for about a week at a time (some more frequently).
  • To pull this off, we’ll operate off of a multi-year roadmap with two major product releases a year, which will keep us working in a highly coordinated way.

So what’s the catch?

“While imaginably many teams will be working apart from each other, most will be required to meet up quarterly for team gatherings (and some even more frequently)”.

Why? “The most meaningful connections happen in person,” Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, explains. “Zoom is great for maintaining relationships, but it’s not the best way to deepen them. And some creative work is best done in the same room.”

At Hargraves, we call these regular meetups’ Team Days’. And in Australia, the lessons of these regular meetups to ensure team-building at scale are being applied equally by very different businesses.

Atlassian

Long-term collaborator Dom Price, Workplace Futurist at Atlassian, was one of the first to say, "You build relationships face to face and maintain them online".

As a certified 'Great Place to Work', Atlassian embraces dispersed teams, the norm for global technology companies where lessons were learnt well before the pandemic.

Elysium EPL

At the other end of the spectrum sits fast-growing consulting firm Elysium EPL, another certified 'Great Place to Work'. With around 50 staff, Elysium regularly practices bringing everyone together for a Team Day. (I recently had the pleasure of facilitating one of their events at Q Station in Sydney.)

For hybrid, flexible and remote working, these get-togethers are critical, whether your organisation is large or small, for-profit, for purpose or government.

For example, Symbio, a communication company of 400+ people, ran a series of Thriving Teams activities despite the pandemic. Meanwhile, Morton Real Estate delivered Team Days for their 100 or so employees as a stepping stone to building a new culture and values from the bottom up.

Scaling team-building and collaboration

But the challenge is cost and team-building at scale when you bring remote and flexible teams together. For example, a medium-size organisation of 500 staff could easily have fifty teams and 50 team days each quarter. The solution is to equip the teams with tools they can deliver themselves to improve collaboration and team-working, both at the Team Days and afterwards. (Follow up is vital.)

Following prototyping at Atlassian, the tool of choice for Team Days at Elysium, Morton, and Symbio is ‘Collaborizza’. Our team-building workshop comes complete in a pizza box, with bonus activities for when teams disperse. At less than $70 per person, the low cost makes it budget-friendly, and the follow-up activities ensure that transformation sticks, with a greater chance of success. (Have you ever been to a great workshop and learned new skills and tools, only to return to the old ways of working afterwards?)

Here are our top tips for a successful Team Day

  1. Get everyone talking within 5 minutes.
  2. Ensure that everyone has equal voice time.
  3. Provide tools to encourage good listening and engagement.
  4. Make it serious fun.
  5. Get tangible outcomes.
  6. Use your own office space. Make it comfortable with room to move around for group and pair work.
  7. Help people raise issues safely. Use canvases, cards, ranking etc.
  8. Follow up with meaningful action.
  9. Allow for commutes – start later and finish earlier.
  10. Ensure that every team member interacts with every other team member at least once during the day.
Infographic - Top 10 dos and donts for an engaging team day

Discover Collaborizza

Bringing together Hargraves’ Collaboration Assessment Tool and CCS Corporation’s Image Cards, Collaborizza is a powerful and engaging team-building workshop kit.

Including a step-by-step facilitation guide and hands-on materials, it’s team collaboration led from within with follow-up activities to ensure habits and behaviours stick. Stronger relationships, clearer purpose and healthy collaboration.

Collaborizza® is a registered trade mark of CCS Corporation Pty Ltd. Developed in a collaboration between CCS Corporation and Hargraves Institute.

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