Team Development for the Virtual Era

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst in the move towards organisations embracing virtual working. Industry announcements, like the one from BP who told 25,000 office-based staff that they will be expected to work from home for two days a week as part of a post-pandemic shift to flexible working, suggest that these changes are here to stay.

A study for BBC News and King’s College London reinforces this school of thought. The study found that almost a third of workers (32%) say they anticipate working from home more and 23% of commuters say they will do less travelling to work than they used to.

Team members will be more disconnected from each other when working in different physical locations, so finding ways of keeping people connected is key. As a day-to-day resolution, leaders often establish weekly team video calls, one to ones, and work focussed project groups. These methods of engagement certainly have their place in bringing a remote team together but are unlikely to bridge the gap in relationships and innovative ideas that have come about from water cooler conversations, cross desk chats or even after work drinks.

With drastic operational changes taking place in such a short time, leaders must be ready to support their teams and understand what is needed to keep them performing effectively without that face-to-face interaction.

Team Development

Team development programmes are not new, but they are becoming an essential tool for leaders that want to bring the very best out in their team. A well-designed programme not only provides an opportunity to build the fundamental dynamics of a highly effective team, but also develops the individuals within it.

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Unlike Team Building which gives a short morale boost through activities such as climbing ropes through the treetops or building bridges with plastic bottles, in a Team Development programme, team members gain a new appreciation for each other by using their combined expertise outside of the regular workspace.

At Emerging World we do this through programmes that use immersive learning experiences. These experiences enable teams to learn new ways of working together by focussing on a meaningful and unifying cause. Immersive Team Development programmes can be completed in-person, but they can be just as powerful when completed in a virtual setting using our virtual Immersion solution which we call INmersion.

Here are details of some of the Team Development experiences that we have already delivered:

In-person Team Development (Immersion Experience) – Salesforce

In 2019, the team responsible for small business customers in Salesforce completed an in-person Team Development Experience.

The 3 day experience took 18 team members from the San Francisco Bay Area to Oakland, California. As part of the experience, the team worked together with three different inspiring partner organisations. The organisations, Mom Relaunch, Refugee & Immigrant Transitions and Talking Peace, operated locally and connected to themes that were relevant for the Salesforce team. The challenge was for the Salesforce team to come together to help these organisations solve the real challenges that they were facing.

Wrapped around these experiences were opportunities for the team to connect with each other through values and the causes that inspired them, creating deeper connections between team members at a more visceral level. Several sense-making sessions helped the team process what they had learnt and integrate the new behaviours from the work with the partner organisations into their day-to-day work at Salesforce.

“Emerging World’s immersive learning approach helped us to identify ways in which we could work more effectively to achieve success and ultimately brought our team closer together. This is helping us to drive change and impact in our area of work and the experience is something that team members still talk about months later.” Marie Rosecrans, SVP, Salesforce Essentials and SMB

Virtual Team Development (INmersion Experience) – In-house Experience

In September 2020, The Emerging World Team participated in our own fully virtual Team Development programme. Like most teams, because of the pandemic, we had been working in a completely virtual environment without any in-person interaction. The team wanted to get together on a different level, not just a work focussed video call. We wanted to re-energise, improve how we work together and re-affirm our appreciation for each other. We decided to do this on one of our own fully virtual INmersion programmes.

The experience took place on Zoom over 3 half day sessions which included a virtual tour of Mombasa, a cultural orientation exercise and reflection work. Particularly inspiring was the work that we did with Pwani Teknowgalz, a technology women-led organisation that equips girls and young women in marginalised communities in Kenya with employable practical skills in STEM. Together our team worked with them on a current and urgent challenge that they were facing. It was a powerful experience that brought our physically separated team together outside of a work context and enabled us to work on a different level.

“Simply…this was a great experience from a team perspective for us all to get to know each other a little more, work together to develop as a team and to come together to help an organisation with their challenge.” Andy Gale, Business Manager, Emerging World

What will the future look like?

While these Immersive Team Development Programmes are effective for both in-person and virtual teams, they do provide leaders with an effective way to address the increasing need to connect remote teams in new ways. And with virtual working looking like it is here to stay, programmes like these are going to continue to be a great way for team members to unite around an inspiring social cause, gain a new appreciation for each other, develop inclusive leadership skills and enhance their group performance.

If you would like to learn more about our Team Development Experiences

Click here