Virtual Teams

Remote and Virtual Team Communities

by Kevan Hall, CEO, Global integration
I was reflecting on the video in a previous blog,  Learning from Students : Universities are full of “inclusion mechanisms” to make new students welcome. There are a range of societies, clubs and events (particularly during the infamous Freshers Week) designed to encourage mixing and help people to get to know each other. These mechanisms really work: we form some of our closest friendships during our university years.
The subject of community building often arises during our training and consultancy work on virtual and global teams. Community used to come as a free byproduct of proximity. The fact that we were in the same place made it easy to build relationships and trust. In today’s distributed teams and organizations  it is often expensive to meet face-to-face, and the costs of building community become much more explicit.
In my first job, I worked in a large factory in North London. It had 4500 people and a huge range of ways in which people could interact and meet each other outside the work context. There was an active social club, a range of sports clubs and internal competitions (including the highly dangerous apprentices versus senior managers annual grudge match). As a young manager, I found these networks invaluable for finding out what was really happening and creating relationships across functional and hierarchical boundaries.
When I returned to the site two years ago it had been acquired by a multinational telecommunications company.There are only 600 employees now, in a single building, and there seemed to be a complete absence of any sense of community. There were no clubs, societies, no real opportunities to network even across floors in the building (unless you were one of the community of smokers exiled to the outside of the building their breaks). By 5.30 pm both the building and the car park were deserted.
People DO need a sense of community. If they don’t find it at work, they will find it elsewhere – and this could prove significant for your business. In virtual and global teams, building community is expensive: it can cost $50 – $100,000 just to bring a typical team together.
In our workshops, we help people understand the keys to community that they have access to, to understand specifically what they need a sense of community to help them achieve, and, critically, what can they afford. From being a free by-product of location, community now becomes a business investment – but it’s not one that we can afford to ignore.
How does your organization or team build community?
Further information on our work, offering training and consultancy to remote and virtual teams can be found on the Global Integration website.

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