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Creating a Virtual Team-Building Event: How Njevity Took Their Annual In-Person Team Event Online
What is Njevity Team Week?
Working from home and virtual team experiences are not new for Njevity – a company whose team members span across the continental US. However, once a year, the entire company gathers in Denver, CO at HQ for Team Week. This annual tradition has typically involved a full week of in-person camaraderie which gave the company an opportunity to get to know their team members more personally while also sharing company news and initiatives across departments – but it quickly became clear that we needed to shift it to become a virtual team building event.
Concerns With Going Virtual
This year, Njevity believed it was necessary to take this annual event to a virtual platform. In an era where work-life and home-life blend more easily and our brains are experiencing more screen burn than ever before, the initial worry was how we were going to translate a warm, in-person event into a distant, virtual realm and still achieve the level of team building we were used to experiencing during Team Week. Well, we did it – and we daresay it was our best Team Week yet!
Here is a full blueprint of our Team Week. We hope that by sharing the details of what we did and how we did it, that you can use the information to bring additional any team initiatives you may be wanting to achieve in a pandemic world.
Setting a theme was more than just a fun way of structuring the feel of the week. It was also an important pinpoint our biggest goal. This was to be the central concept our company was going to rally behind to set the right tone for the coming year. We like conquering challenges and being thought leaders. With all of the changes this year has brought Njevity, our customers, and our community, we wanted our theme to be Togetherness, because even though we were not all together in the same location, we could still come together in a new, unique way.
We also added to the theme with a bit of fun. “Gather Around the Virtual Campfire.” Since HQ is in Colorado, we wanted to share the feeling of what it is like to come together around a campfire – so our structured theme was camping.
Our timing also shifted a bit. Instead of an entire week where spouses were welcome on the weekend, we instead packed three workdays and invited spouses to join us during our final campout party that ended the event (more about that below.)
What did our event look like? Here’s a breakdown of the content we put together.
Readying the Team:
Communication: We had email announcements about what the expectations were for the week and included all of the need-to-know information, and the tasks assigned to them. This was a time for all of us to come together – so all meetings were canceled. Moments were slotted where one team might be in a team session when another wasn’t to help accommodate any service requests that came through for us. Otherwise, we were fully dedicated to our teammates. Out of the office verbiage was also provided should they want to use it.
Expenses: All lunches could be expensed, and each team member was allowed up to $100 in expenses for beverages (alcoholic or otherwise) for our nightly Wind Down events.
Party Package: Each team member was shipped a party packet that contained items that added to the theme and festivities for the week. Some items included were: mini s’mores roasting kits, lots of snacks, Njevity branded camp mugs, hot chocolate mix, pancake mix, an Njevity branded blanket, bandanas, and more. The company we used is listed below in the Resources.
How was each day structured?
Bugle Call: To keep to the theme, each day began with a Bugle Call, or an informal way to start the day together.
First Day: Chris Dobkins, our President & CEO, started the week with a phenomenal welcome address.
Second Day: One of these was a yoga session that anyone could come join to center themselves for the day or even just pick up a few movements they could add to their regular workday.
Third Day: Another Bugle Call was a video slideshow of pictures sent in by each of the team members showcasing their families and doing what they love to do outside of work. Many of the team members gathered in a Teams Meeting to watch the video together. Or they pulled it up to enjoy on their own over coffee as they started the final day of Team Week.
Team Learning: Whether it was a new feature in our PowerGP Online software or a new initiative like our OnBoarding or Concierge program, team members took the lead to present what has been relentlessly worked on over the last year to help better our customer and partner experience. There were even a few “how-to” sessions where team members got to learn and ask questions about how to use some of our internal processes.
Team Building: Before Team Week, every single team member at Njevity has had one-on-one sessions with Lisa Foster of Parillume. Lisa is a corporate coach who has brought great insight with her unique blend of tools. During Team Week, we leveraged her knowledge further by coordinating team sessions with her and another for the company as a whole. Her insights about how we each might prefer to work and communicate or what strengths we have that could be leaned upon were both exciting and validating. I dare to say that each of us were empowered by the sessions with Lisa.
Lunch and Activities: While the entire company came together for our Team Learning sessions, we kept our lunches to a max of 9 team members that changed from day to day – so we were able to see faces and talk with teammates we may not usually get to interact with on a day-to-day basis. Each lunch had one activity, and it was simple enough so conversation (and eating) could be done during them.
Lunch Activity Day 1: The first day was “Never Have I Ever”. Each lunch group received the same set of questions, and the number of “Haves” and “Have Nevers” were tallied for each question. Those numbers made for fun insight that we used during our final Campout Party.
Lunch Activity Day 2: The second lunch was Njevity Trivia. Each lunch group created a name for themselves, and there were enough questions so each team member would end up answering at least two questions. It was a fun reminder for the veterans, and a fun way to learn about the company for the new members on the team.
Lunch Activity Day 3: And the third lunch was Picture People – where the people in the Teams meeting made a whole image from their arms and a screenshot was taken.
Nightly Wind Downs: Each day ended with an evening “Wind Down” by the fire where we used the groups from lunch that day to play rounds of JackBox. Once those rounds were spent (ensuring everyone had a turn to play), it was open game.
Final Campout Party: The last evening was a final campout party where we gathered together to share in the collective insights we learned as a team (like how many team members have eaten a pint of ice cream in one sitting or have hit “send” and immediately regretted it) and also heard from our President and CEO who recognized some of our exceptional team members who were nominated the week prior by their peers for our annual Njevity Awards.
If you’d like to know more about our awards, Njevity is built around five core values. Each of those values are well defined, and each are categories for our Njevity Awards – Caring. Courage. Commitment. Community. And Curiosity. We will soon be posting our honored team members if you’d like to know who received these awards for 2020.
Here is some of the content that was built to support our theme and ways we engaged as a team.
PDF of Agenda: Each day had a preplanned agenda. Those agenda items were sent out as meeting invites in our gathering platform (Teams) as well as pdfs for each time zone that our team members could have on-hand. These agendas also had “Don’t Forgets” and tips that would be helpful for that day – like make sure you arrange lunch to be delivered or ready before the lunch hour, so you could be present for the activities.
Daily Emails: Team Members received a daily email that hit their inbox in the early morning hours before the start of the day. They gave a camping statistic, pertinent need-to-know’s for that day’s agenda items, and fun highlights from the day before.
Session Starters: Each meeting has that lull moment where you wait for everyone to get there. So, we asked team members to send in their own baby pictures and pictures of their pets. They were placed in live polls with 5 names from the team. While we waited, people voted to guess who the baby was or who’s pets they were. It was also a great ice breaker to help start the session.
A Team Week Camp themed PowerPoint presentation was created.
Teams Backgrounds were created so that each team member could download and use them in Teams. It was a fun way to make it seem like we were all in tents or at a campsite together. And there was one designated specifically for our Final Campout Party.
A Party Package (as described above) was delivered the weekend before the event.
Of course, we recorded all of the sessions (besides lunches and Wind Downs), so we had them to refer back to and add to our onboarding content for new members that may join us in the coming year.
Bringing It All Together
The last night featured our final agenda item: the Njevity Campout Party. Here, spouses and families were welcome to join so they could see some of what we had accomplished during the week and get to witness the team members (even their own family members) receive love and recognition during our Njevity Awards. It was important for us to get to see and be introduced to the families that support our Njevity Family members. In a virtual world, we often get to see the pets that bounce across the keyboards, have a bark or two added to meetings, and kids who like to pop in now and again to say hi. We know that our worlds are all bigger and smaller at the same time, and it was so much fun to get to all gather around the preverbal campfire and spend time together as the big, hardworking family that we are.
When your team grows by 25% in a single year during a pandemic, it is more important than ever to continue a culture of connection. We were sad that we weren’t able to all be together in the same city, but we had an amazing time connecting and thriving in a virtual setting. And we hope that some of these ideas can be taken back to help your team embrace a virtual team building event as well.
Team Week would not have been such a success without the help and tools of the companies and platforms listed below.
Microsoft Teams: meetings, sessions, lunches, shared files depository, conversation boards of happenings during the week