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by Laura Bickle
As the industry ponders what reopening will look like, every segment has its own unique challenges. Each week we are reaching out to those sectors to get their insights.
This week, we spoke to Scott Kress, president of Summit Team Building in Toronto.
What is the current operating status of your business?
As with so many companies, we have seen a huge transition in our business. As we rely on team meetings, events and conferences, all our in-person programs ceased mid-March. We quickly pivoted and created a series of virtual team building, training and keynote programs. All our programs are currently virtual. We are not delivering the same volume of programs at this time, but the longer the remote work environment goes on, the more important it will be that leaders help their teams maintain their culture and performance.
How are you working with planners and partners to reschedule postposed events?
We are working with all our clients to reschedule in-person events or to move them to a virtual platform. Currently, most clients have put all their events on hold and have not started to re-book and they will not until there is more clarity as to when we can meet in person and what the restrictions and safety procedures will be.
How have your team-building offerings changed?
Programs are shorter to accommodate the needs and engagement of the online learner and participant. Much of the content is the same: It’s just delivered in a different way. We have worked very hard to make sure the programs are engaging, interactive and valuable to the client. We are starting to rework our in-person programs to be appropriate to our new reality and to help make teams comfortable with meeting in person once again.
We have just released a program called Here’s To You. It’s a 50 minute high energy energizer style program designed to celebrate the work teams have been doing and there is a special celebrity cameo at the end to acknowledge the team.
Clients have responded favourably to the virtual programs. Everyone wishes they could be done live, but they have been surprised at how engaging and valuable a virtual program can be.
I believe that team building is critical to maintain team culture and team performance and this cannot be dropped just because we are not all in the office. Team leaders should be looking for various team building options for their team. A program such as our new Here’s to You is a great way to kick off or end a virtual meeting. You can also do a stand alone team building session such as Play it Forward or The Juggling Act or go for a learning workshop such as Emotional Intelligence or Understanding Conflict. Our keynote options have also been well received as a great and informative break from the daily routine. Leaders need to do the best they can to keep teams engaged and focused on a positive team culture.
How are your employees being prepared to meet the new safety expectations?
As a team-building provider, we are modifying our programs to meet the new safety measures, but until we know exactly what those will be and how we will be allowed to meet in person, we are not able to make any final changes. Our world is evolving every day and until we have some stability, it will be difficult to know how to design a team-building program for our new reality.
What are you doing to ensure attendee safety and confidence?
Not all our team-building programs will be deliverable in their current state and we expect to make significant changes to meet the new safety requirements. However, until we know what those requirements are, we are unable to fully redesign our programs.
What will be the greatest challenges in returning to live events?
Currently the biggest challenge to returning to live events is our inability to know what the future of meetings holds. How many people, how long, where, how far apart are just a few of the questions we do not have the answers to at this time. Until we know more, we will not be able to adapt to the new needs of in-person meetings. Even once we know the requirements presented by the government and medical experts, we will not know how the people will react. Will there be fear and reluctance to meet or will people be anxious to get reacquainted? Nobody knows.
How do you think the pandemic experience will affect your operation in the short and long term?
For the short term, the team-building industry has been devastated, as have so many other businesses in the meeting and events industry. Virtual programs are helping us and our clients, but they cannot replace in-person events. Long-term impact is impossible to tell at this point. I hope that at some point, we are back to the way we were, but I doubt that will be the case. We will have to make permanent adjustments to all our events and programs, but at this point it is hard to tell what those will be. Virtual programs are here to stay and will forever play a role in future team building in one form or another. I do think that remote work and virtual teams will expand greatly as a result of this pandemic. With more people working remotely the daily personal connections will disappear. It will be critical for leaders to provide opportunities for their teams to meet on a regular basis. Leadership, culture, communication and collaboration will be critical and team building will play an important role.
What lessons have you learned from this experience?
Our driving belief at Summit is that relationships are the foundation of all high-performance teams and this pandemic has only reinforced this. Even when we work remotely, relationships are critical to maintaining a positive team culture and team performance. Agility is so important, and many teams have proven they were able to pivot very quickly. The companies that use this downtime to expand their skills and abilities are ones that will have a strong recovery.
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