Virtual Team Kickoff - Zoom ideas for team building and new year kickoff

5 Ideas for an Inspiring, Successful 2021 Virtual Team Kickoff

Zoom fatigue is real. It’s so real that even the term “Zoom fatigue” is getting tired. But we’re also dealing with a reality that will require virtual team work and collaboration for many of us at least for the near future — and maybe longer. 

Beyond the pandemic, the trendlines are signaling a move toward more remote working, shopping and learning going forward. That means video conferencing, remote team distribution, and virtual, technology-driven collaboration, in some form or fashion, are here to stay.

Of course, the reason they’re here to stay is that people and companies have picked up some new habits, and they’ve also experienced the benefits of flexible work environments. 

But there are downsides. Even before 2020, 19% of remote workers were struggling with loneliness. We now know firsthand that it’s always not easy to keep employees engaged, focused and dialed in as a team when everyone is dispersed and working in isolation. 

As we head into a new year, tired is not inspired. 

Now’s the time to get your plan in place for an effective, creative and motivating kickoff to 2021, one that will reinforce your goals and objectives for the year and get everyone on the same page, even if they’re not in the same physical space.

Tips for Planning Your Remote Team Kickoff

Let’s take a look at some ideas for planning a kickoff that will engage your entire organization and keep remote team productivity high as you launch into the new year.

  1. Put together a schedule — and stick to it.
    The only thing worse than sitting through a meandering, disorganized meeting in a conference room is sitting through a meandering, disorganized virtual meeting. If participants can’t figure out where things are headed or what the point is, it’s too easy to multitask or tune out and potentially miss important information. That’s not good for remote team productivity, and it’s not going to get people motivated and excited about the year ahead.

    If you’re the one planning the kickoff, a detailed schedule works almost like a checklist. You can be sure everything you want to do with the meeting gets done, and everyone else who’s involved knows what to expect and when. It also gives you a structure to follow to keep things moving and on track. With virtual events especially, your time needs to be highly orchestrated.
  1. Build in moments for teamwork and collaboration. The kickoff can be an important opportunity for creating that sense of belonging that keeps remote teams from feeling isolated or disconnected from the broader whole. But there’s a bit of stage-managing that has to be done when people aren’t in the same room together and they can’t just have casual, organic conversations around a table or during breaks.

    Herrmann’s VP of People and Talent, Kimberly Sullivan, suggests creating breakout groups using your video conference platform and moving people to different groups each time to give everyone a chance to interact with as much of the organization as possible.

    “You have to allow for moments for the team to spend time together,” she says. “We’re doing a moment of reflection in small breakout groups at the end of each day to get people talking. They’ll be asked to reflect on the past year and share the wins, all they were able to accomplish and gratitude to the team as they look back on a year with a lot of active change.”
  1. Galvanize people behind a vision and purpose. What does the desired future look like? Don’t assume everyone already knows or is fully aligned behind the goals or direction moving forward. With so much change and disruption over the past year, now’s the time to recalibrate and paint that picture of what a bright future looks like.

    This should also be a time for people to ask questions and provide feedback. For a truly holistic vision that everyone can buy into, you want input from the full diversity of thought on your team. Think through in advance how you’ll manage this discussion and what interactive tools you’ll need to set it up for success. If you don’t take the steps and time to find synergy among the group, things can devolve pretty quickly, and important voices might be squashed.
    This usually requires an understanding of the cognitive diversity on your remote team and a skilled facilitator or leader who can make sure the diverse thinking is respected, managed, heard and applied.
  1. Educate your team on the metrics that drive the organization — and create a space to share progress toward those metrics. Remote team productivity goes up when people understand the bottom line of what they’re aiming for and being measured against, not just in the long term, but also incrementally along the way.
    Create time in the agenda for each remote team or function to report out their numbers and achievements from 2020 as well as the problems they solved or challenges they’re still working through. Then have them share their goals and metrics for 2021 and discuss how those relate to the overall goals of the organization. This is a great way to drive more teamwork and collaboration by reminding people that everyone has a stake in each other’s success.
  1. Bring the fun: The reason Zoom can be so fatiguing is that we tend to get locked into the same old rhythms of virtual meetings. But you absolutely can and should bring in some of the creativity you bring to your traditional kickoff events to your virtual ones. Here are a few ideas to spark your thinking:
  • Theme days: Have people wear a shirt/hat with their hometown pride, favorite sports team, favorite color, thinking preference color, etc. 
  • Themed lunch breakouts: Allow people to select their breakroom for lunch by topic and join in the dialogue. 
  • Trivia is easy to do in a remote environment.
  • Have the remote teams create video presentations for their segments. You don’t need Broadway actors or a huge budget to create something engaging, fun and informative.

The point is, get creative about it. Ask around. Check with those who think differently than you do. They might have some ideas you never would have even thought of. That’s what teamwork and collaboration are all about!

After your successful kickoff, don’t let the momentum lag. Keep remote team productivity high all year long with these best practices for inclusive and engaged remote team meetings.

We’re also offering Whole Brain Thinking virtual team kickoff sessions for 2021. Interested in more information? Click here to learn more!

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