CIOs Look For Ways To Get The Band Back Together

Annual gatherings provide an opportunity to get the team together
Annual gatherings provide an opportunity to get the team together
Image Credit: Aundray

CIOs are struggling. Their team was sent home during the pandemic and they still have not come back to the office. In fact, it’s looking like many of them may never come back to the office. What this means for CIOs is that they have lost something very valuable: interactions. Workers will no longer run into each other, exchange ideas, and have flashes of inspiration. CIOs who would like to see if they could once again cause that to happen are starting to look in a new old direction: the annual corporate gathering.

The Off-Site Takes On New Importance

Hey CIO, can you remember having off-site meetings? For some CIOs, those traditional company gatherings at hotels, spas and other exotic locations are pointing the way to a new, innovative model for getting their employees back to working in person. Nearly two years after the pandemic sent many IT professionals home, CIOs are eager to reconvene with their employees, hoping that in-person interactions will spark some new ideas and help to lessen feelings of isolation and Zoom fatigue as the Covid-19 pandemic drags on. Now the challenge is trying to figure out where and how to gather. Some CIOs have ditched offices in recent months, or loosened policies to allow their staffers to move away from company locations.

That has many CIOs rethinking the notion of their annual corporate gathering. For years, off-sites were largely a way to get entire departments or teams together to mark milestones such as a sales kickoff, an end-of-year celebration or a product-strategy summit. However, as more companies embrace hybrid work models and fully remote teams, increasingly the concept of the off-site – gathering your employees every so often – is starting to look like a way to strengthen company culture and perhaps even foster better connections among team members.

The fear of losing these kinds of valuable connections and the benefits that in-person work can bring is spurring CIOs to look at nontraditional ways that they can go about making this happen. In the early stages of using off-sites as the new on-site, some CIOs are considering short gatherings in which staffers meet at hotels, restaurants, Airbnb mansions – or even, gasp, in the office – and collaborating on work while also reconnecting socially. They are starting to feel out just exactly how often to meet: Many CIOs say it may be enough for their remote employees to now come together in person right now once a month, and perhaps quarterly in the future.

The Challenge Of Setting Up An Off-Site

Some CIOs already see a need for new technologies to help with more complicated off-site meeting arrangements. There has been talk about firms developing an internal tool that could help managers plan off-sites and team gatherings. It turns out that this task can be tricky when your employees are spread across multiple cities. Ideally, such software would perhaps suggest a city and place and a week that would best fit most employees’ calendars.

What CIOs are going to have to realize is that they need to not over-pack the agenda for their off-site meeting. This is because there’s so much good stuff to discuss. We are going to have to learn how to leave time for employees to enjoy spending time with each other and building trust with each other. If CIOs want to, they can have their company offices morph into venues for team off-sites, weekly team meetings and similar gatherings.

The biggest problem that CIOs are currently facing is having their people become disengaged in the culture of the company. One way to prevent this from happening is for CIOs to set a commitment to meet face-to-face once a quarter. These kinds of agreements also help to give employees some long-term certainty about how they will both work and gather. Chances to gather outside an office, in venues that give employees a chance to go on a walk or to enjoy a picnic, can help to forge connections even while work discussions go on. Some CIOs have begun allocating funding to individual teams, meaning just 2 to 15 people might get together at a ranch, a high-end restaurant or a wellness spot. CIOs have to realize that they can do a lot of business over Zoom; however, what can’t be done is to create is those personal connections.

What All Of This Means For You

The Covid-19 pandemic changed everything for CIOs. Not only were we suddenly responsible for making sure that everyone in the company who had been sent home was able to securely continue working, but also our team was sent packing also. What this means is that we no longer have the opportunity for team members to run into each other in the hall and have a breakthrough idea. No longer can groups of people come together dynamically in order to solve problems that pop up. We’re missing what we used to have and we’d really like to be able to get it back.

The good news for us is that there may be a way that we can safely permit the members of our team to interact with each other face-to-face. The off-site meeting which used to be a clever way to reward teams for accomplishing objectives might be something that we should be bringing back. These types of meeting could allow work to be accomplished while at the same time allowing the people who work for you to interact socially. Such meetings can be difficult to set up and we may need new software tools to coordinate everyone’s schedules. We also have to be careful to not over pack these meetings – there has to be time for socialization.

We are familiar with off-site meetings. They used to hold a place in our annual activities. The pandemic changed everything and has resulted in people not interacting as much as they used to. If we can schedule and set up off-site meetings, then perhaps we can allow our people to once again build personal connections that allow them to become more productive.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How many off-site meetings do you think that you should hold each year?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Once upon a time, CIOs knew who worked in the IT department. I mean, the CIO once was one of them. We all knew the basic personality types that we employed. However, then things changed. That pandemic thing swept through everyone’s workplace and all of sudden the people who had been working side-by-side spent a year (or more) working from home. It turns out that this has changed the makeup of our IT departments. If CIOs want to continue to do a good job of leading the IT department, then we’re going to have to take the time to reacquaint ourselves with just exactly who we have working in our departments.