In today’s world of remote work, team members want to connect with each other on a slightly more personal level. They want to build more meaningful conversations with their colleagues. Despite the need and desire for more relationships, remote socializing events are very quick to lose excitement and participation. When you are in the office there is more pressure to attend the event, even if just for a bit. When working remotely you have a completely separate life away from the office with little need to be available outside of your set work hours. Even though consistent participation is a challenge, building meaningful professional relationships is important for an individual’s career as well as the companies success, so investing in the right processes is important to the wellbeing of your organization.
Here are key things to consider to get more participation for your remote team coffee chats:
- Time Zones: This is a big challenge for any kind of live remote team event. Any tools that you use need to take time zones into consideration when connecting participants. You also need to accept that not everyone will be able to engage with each other. Find the simplest way to have people within similar time zones connect with each other.
- Coordination: Do not leave it to participants to coordinate anything! I cannot stress this enough. Having team members coordinate amongst each other may work once, or maybe twice, but will be one of the biggest killers of long term participation.
- Inclusion: You might not like this, but it is likely that the only way that you will have consistent participation is making it mandatory. There will always be people that are eager to participate and others that are not. Some times they need a little extra incentive. The leadership team should be part of the decision on how to decide who is included.
- Tipping Point: You need enough people to make it work. Without a large enough group, individuals will talk to the same people during every coffee chat. This goes back to strongly encouraging or forcing participation, at least to start. Deciding on a day of the week can help team members keep their calendars open.
- Simplicity: The more things team members need to do the less likely they will participate. Coffee chats need to be set up for them and automatic. Even sending a calendar invite or meeting link will negatively impact participation.
- Cadence: Find a cadence that works for your team. Think about what your team can handle both in their work and personal schedules, then make it consistent.
- Notifications: Telling employees about it regularly is not going to get them there. Extra notifications are just annoying, especially if it is in a messaging tool. Have it set up in advance, put it in their calendar, and give them one simple reminder. Don’t barrage them with emails and messages, they have enough on their plate.
- Calendars: The only way to guarantee attendance is to have something in their calendar. If it is not in the calendar it does not exist. Accessing individual calendars also allows you to find the right times that work for all participants without giving participants extra work to do.
- Variety: This goes back to having enough people participate. Coffee chats should be with new people as often as possible. The entire point is to build NEW relationships. Not connect employees with other people they already talk to on a regular basis.
- Preparation: Give team members an opportunity to learn about each other first. Perhaps there are individual profiles or responses to questions. Don’t do the preparation during the call. Then it won’t get done and participants will potentially struggle for conversation.
- Video: Coffee Chats should be done exclusively over video. Trying to connect with a new individual in your organization over messenger or email just doesn’t work. It lowers engagement significantly and leads to a poor experience.
- Group size: Keep the groups small to encourage interaction and more meaningful conversations. 3 Max.
Thinking up fun ways for your team members to engage with each other is important, but very often loses steam after employees try it once or twice with an experience that they do not enjoy. Anything that creates friction for your team members’ to attend, connect, or engage with each other will limit participation. Take as much as possible out of the control of your team members so that all they need to do is do a little preparation and engage without the hassle of coordination or setup.
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