It seems counterintuitive that separating people would actually bring them closer together, but that is exactly what happened at TrainTheCrowd (TTC) during the recent COVID-19 lockdown.
Many of our team members worked independently before COVID-19, whether that was working onsite with a client, at a training facility or travelling interstate, so it was very rare that all team members were in the office at the same time. In fact, it was very difficult to get everyone together, in person, at the same time. Last year we organised three Christmas parties just to make sure that everyone could attend at least one of them.
When COVID-19 hit and all team members were forced to work from home, contact with colleagues and clients was reduced and no travel was allowed; we were inspired to make sure everyone felt connected, supported and informed. Our inspiration led to five key changes.
1. Formed a committee
Our Delivery Manager, Martin Dunn, approached me to ask if he could establish a committee to organise social events and nurture the company culture. Within minutes a Chatter group was established and our CrowdCultureCommittee was live! It has been incredible to have a committee taking ownership of organising activities for the team to participate in, so instead of feeling isolated, the team felt a sense of belonging. “The CrowdCultureCommittee has turned what could have been an isolating, uncertain time into one filled with laughs, creativity and camaraderie.” commented Daniel Repaci, TTC Training Consultant.
2. Enjoyed virtual coffee dates
During the first week of lockdown our General Manager, Sarah Jenkins, organised virtual coffee catch ups (30 mins) using Google Hangouts. These were optional, but were attended by many. It was a great opportunity for people to share how they were feeling and what they had been doing with their time during lockdown.
We also learned the sessions were more inclusive if they were structured with a topic and a facilitator. Thanks to the creative input of the CrowdCultureCommittee, we now have the following CrowdCoffeeConversations scheduled each week:
- Monday: share your unique weekend activity, an activity that no one else on the team is likely to have also done on the weekend
- Wednesday: just for laughs, also known as CrowdComedyCongregation is TTC Training Consultant, Stephen Thorpe’s “favourite day of the week”.
- Friday: bring a fun fact to share, also known as FunFactFriday
It has been amazing to learn about the hobbies and interests of other team members, discover hidden talents within the team, form new friendships, deepen existing connections and have a profound new level of respect for each individual.
3. Organised social events
One tool that has been added to our list of cloud based subscriptions is, Kahoot!. We are eagerly awaiting round five of CrowdCwizCwestions, our monthly trivia night proudly hosted by our CrowdCultureCommittee. “Who would have thought virtual meetings could be so much fun, what a great COVID safe way to share a laugh and a little competition with the team!” exclaimed our Engagement Manager, Jodie Bryan. It is an enjoyable way to end the working month, and has also uncovered that two of our team are highly skilled quiz masters! Another hidden talent that may not have been discovered in a pre-COVID-19 world.
4. Went big on celebrations
A personal favourite is the opportunity working from home gave us to go big on celebrations. If it’s someone’s birthday, now branded as a CrowdCreationCelebration, our automated Chatter post reminds us to share a happy birthday message. These and other celebrations, including people’s TTC work anniversaries, now known as a CrowdCommencementCelebration, had previously been recognised in an ad hoc manner.
More recently we have used our daily catch ups as a forum for going above and beyond with team celebrations. We have celebrated birthdays, work anniversaries and even hosted a baby shower. There has been a collaborative re-make of the Def Leppard video clip Armageddon It (now known as Isolatin’ It), a Disney themed who am I dress up quiz, and a “This Is Your TTC Life” presentation to recognise Martin Dunn’s 7 year work anniversary. All virtual events have been recorded and published to our private Vimeo channel, CrowdCultureTelevision (CCTV).
It is important to make people feel special on their birthday, to reflect on the contributions people have made to the business, celebrate career milestones and acknowledge major life events. I am grateful remote working has encouraged us to be better at this.
5. Shared updates regularly
Kofi Annan, previous Secretary-General of the United Nations said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”. We want to make sure in our TTC family, people have the information they need to feel empowered and are liberated to make their own decisions. We aim to keep the team updated with changes as they happen, via the channel that is most appropriate for the information. Channels include phone calls for sensitive information, email for personal written communications, Chatter for general updates and WhatsApp as a social outlet.
Our experience has shown that maintaining an open dialog helps to build trust and loyalty. When times are tough, it is our belief that trust and loyalty keeps people together. “I never thought that social distancing would actually bring the team closer – but it has.” explained Iona Yeung, TTC Training Consultant.
As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. Through what continues to be a very challenging time for businesses in the world, I encourage you to reflect on what has been your silver lining. At TrainTheCrowd, working remotely has given us the opportunity to become more connected as a team.