Team building brings benefits post-lockdown

With New Zealand’s ‘team of 5 million’ coming back to often vastly different workforces and a challenging economic environment, how can we keep the ‘team’ spirit alive? Three New Zealand specialists in team building talk about the challenges of Covid-19 and the ongoing business need to engage your people.

Team Up Events, Rage Around the World

In March 2020, New Zealand-based corporate team building specialist Team Up Events claimed a world-first: bringing a team separated by approximately 8,500 kms of ocean together in ‘The Infinite Loop’, a virtual reality-based team challenge. Covid-19 travel bans had forced a planned event for a management team to be held across two locations, New Zealand and Singapore. The remote virtual event saw Team Up NZ link with its Catalyst Global Team Building Partners – Asia Ability – in Singapore to provide ‘on ground’ support.

With a facilitator in place at both locations, conference call facilities available, and the technology to connect two remote teams to one collaborative game, the team played simultaneously. Participants took turns entering ‘the virtual world’, communicating what they saw to team members in the ‘real world’ in order to solve a range of complex challenges to free a trapped teenager.

Stu Robertson, Managing Director at Team Up Events, says: “It went really smoothly. We were able to make it feel like they were all participating in an event all together.”

When lockdown came, this type of multi-location event wasn’t possible, and Team Up was forced to pivot yet again, introducing wholly online and remote events. With face-to-face business impossible and their live events pipeline decimated, Team Up has hosted some 25-30 online events since March. It now offers 14 different types of activities across three formats: app based, web-based platforms, or live facilitated.

Successes included connecting 120 team members in New York, Scotland and New Zealand to play Race Around the World, an app-based team challenge; and hosting 200 people across New Zealand in a remote version of Gameshow Live aimed at connecting and social engagement.

“We’ve been lucky due to our international relationships to be able to repurpose, design and produce remote products,” Robertson said. “We had to move very quickly to reimagine our offering.”

He hopes that not only the format, but the intent behind team building gets a post-Covid makeover: from the hackneyed games of old to being recognised as vehicles of engagement, connection and aligning company values and culture.

“Team engagement, and keeping your people connected and engaged is more important than ever.”

Tough times

Meredith Drucker, General Manager at The Events Group, also points to the lockdown’s ‘massive’ effect on business, with the company losing 60% of the year’s revenue over the space of two weeks. 
The Events Group was the first company in New Zealand to deliver technology-based team building seven years ago, and has been delivering multi city-events with its global partners for the past two years. Drucker says: “When COVID hit it meant we could pivot fast as the technology platform was already there – we just needed to tweak it to reflect the fact that everyone had to be at home yet still work as a team. Since lockdown we have been delivering remote events with delegates across 35 different countries and time zones.”

Its Remote Team Building Series uses three themes – The Team Quiz, The Daily Kick-Off and The Virtual Away Day – to facilitate team interaction and build morale via live video stream and an award-winning app.

“Company culture is a key part to any company being successful,” she says. “When a company experiences restructuring and retrenchment the effect on the remaining staff is significant and we have worked a lot with clients rebuilding their culture and confidence during these times.” 

Rob Stewart-McDonald, Managing Director at Queenstown-based HQ & Lead Facilitator of Peak Teams NZ agrees: “Business events are going to be just as critical if not more critical after something like this.

“You don’t build a culture and get people on board by holding a Zoom meeting. You need people to engage with what you want to achieve. From a team development and leadership perspective, we provide a really good way to look at what's important and to get people's heads out of that Covid space; to get everyone together to see how we make things work going forward.”

True team spirit

Given the difficult state of affairs in tourism-reliant Queenstown, Stewart-McDonald took this team ethos and shared it with the market.

HQ is holding a free team and leadership development programme at the end of July for up to 15 local partners to help them get back on their feet, bringing in motivational speaker Mark Inglis and XL Coaching’s Amanda Woolridge.

“The benefit for us is that they experience the programme and may be more likely to recommend it. But also people in Queenstown are turning up in their office and half the people are no longer there. It will give them some good content to help them navigate their way for the next 24 months.”

He is also looking to stimulate business, with local partners releasing a 4-star and 5-star package for Queenstown, including team building, at some 40-50% off pre-Covid costs: “a pretty phenomenal price”.

The Events Group has offered trials of its remote team events for free, as well as offering advice to clients wanting help to boost morale. “One thing that unifies every business right now is their greatest asset – their people. We know that when employees are happy and secure within their roles, their level of commitment to their job and their team is much higher. So how do we build culture and resilience after a pandemic?” Drucker says:

  • Create a culture that aligns with your core values
  • Learn from the past
  • Communicate
  • Have fun
  • Work as a team to evolve and maintain your culture

Team Up similarly ran free remote energiser events in April for New Zealand businesses wanting to cope with the rapid shift to remote working, running 30 events for some 500 people.

It also ran a successful five-week remote activity series of 30-minute demos to build trust and confidence that these events do work.

Robertson says feedback from these remote events showed 92% felt more ‘connected’ with their team after participating in the Remote Engagement Programme, 83% felt a higher level of focus and engagement in their work.

A remote future?

All three operators say that enquiries are trickling back in, including some face-to-face events. But will these be superseded by the remote team building experience? They hope not: Firstly - and honestly - they don’t deliver as much revenue to their already struggling bottom line, despite often being more expensive to deliver; and secondly, they don’t believe they can beat a live event.

Team Up’s Robertson says: “In New Zealand the demand in the last two weeks has been for hybrid or live, to get the team together to start rebuilding. Other countries are still a long way away from live events. For those with budget issues, or with international delegates involved, hybrid gives people the opportunity to participate.
“Our clients are telling us that the desire to meet face to face again is as strong as ever. Whilst there will undoubtedly be a place for remote and hybrid events moving forward, the preference will always be to meet in person as these social interactions cannot be replaced virtually.”