Evolving Hybrid events to foster community within your organization

Thriving employee communities focus on an employee-first approach

man and woman speaking virtually on a computer

Last fall we shared an article on the power of virtual events to build community amongst employees. At the time most companies had been working from home (WFH) for 8+ months, and organizational leaders were working hard to engage & connect with remote employees in unique ways.

Fifteen months later and many of our WFH strategies have become common place. Virtual employee events ranging from simple town halls to elaborate awards galas have become key team building events. Today, many workforces are continuing with a hybrid approach to work and this means that engaging with employees virtually must be a long-term strategy – not a stop gap solution.

Companies now need an “employee-centric” approach to engagement, and a shift from executive-lead, informational, “one-size fits all” gatherings to events focused on connection with employee-led, customized solutions.

Here are our top recommendations for building an employee-centric community:

Stop selling leaders. Start selling each other:
 Early in the WFH days the priority for organizations was to ensure
employees felt safe, secure, and informed. This was achieved through
direct access to senior leadership, transparent communication, frequent
information sharing, and demonstrable empathy for the work force. Even
more important now is creating a sense of connection, engagement, and
community. It is time to shift the spotlight to employees:

•Invite employees to host the next virtual event
•Invite employees to submit photos of their passion projects, families, home office and share them throughout virtual gatherings
•Invite employees to share any unique talents, I.e., (host a yoga session or play guitar at the beginning of a meeting) – At Proof Experiences we helped one of our clients host a companywide talent show and it was a huge hit – get creative!
•Create more opportunities for recognition

Provide customized Wellbeing support: According to Monster, almost 70% of employees are experiencing burnout while working from home. Due to a real lack of connection, mental wellbeing is suffering. While we are all living through the pandemic together, individual WFH circumstances vary greatly (some are tackling home schooling, caring for ailing loved ones, or living alone). Looking ahead, employers need to be creating more mental health support options for employees.

•Host support groups for those who wish to talk and listen and / or invite mental health professionals to host a discussion and answer questions
•Instead of virtual happy hours create opportunities for employees to gather and share in an activity – virtual games (Code Names is a favourite for team building), classes and team building exercises focused on positivity (vision boarding)
•Host safe outdoor gatherings – provide employees with an incentive to get outdoors and experience nature such as: a summer virtual scavenger hunt, host a summer social outdoors (live or virtual)
•Book a good old fashioned conference call and encourage people to take the call while going for a walk around the neighbourhood

Customized learning & connection: Virtual events have provided greater opportunity to access great speakers and entertainment from around the world – adding a breath of fresh air into company gatherings. However, these Ted-talk style keynotes or pre-recorded entertainment sessions were primarily “off-the-shelf” products with limited customization for the audience. Now 1.5yrs in we are seeing a much more customized approach to unique speaking, learning and entertainment virtual engagements. Here are a few:

•Live spoken word artist who attends a virtual gathering and summarizes the event in a customized spoken word format.
•Optional activities before and after the main presentation that allows attendees to participate in activities related to their interests
•Educate employees- provide customized learning and training options when and where employees wish to participate

As the fear of the pandemic recedes and employees move towards a new flexible work environment, employers will need to shift their engagement strategies to include a more employee-centric approach including hybrid, virtual and live opportunities to foster community within their teams.

Kelly Power

Senior Vice President, Client Experience


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