3

I work at an IT services company. It has about 10 departments of mostly IT consultants. Most of these departments stand on their own and there is little interaction between them.

In the past few years most of the projects we've done have been "in house" so all of the colleagues were always together for the most part of the day. In last year or two a lot has changed. A lot of people left, a lot of new people joined and, most importantly, the projects we do are now usually performed at the client's office. When we're at the client it is usually solo.

As was to be expected, most of our (new) colleagues don't feel like they are part of a team and so company morale is quite low.

I've been working on improving this and my efforts have been noticed and so I've been promoted to "community manager".

I've tried to organise knowledge sharing sessions (that we stream so that colleagues at other locations can follow as well) and after-hour drinks but I feel it is still not enough.

I've thought about organising events for two departments at a time to get to know each other but I've not had very positive feedback on that.

So my question is this: What should I do (or propose to the management to do) to get the community going again?

Edit: There is budget available to organise events but it is not easy to come by. Each department has about 100 people.

Edit2: We are allowed to take up billable time to organise events; but management feels that the commitment should come from both sides. This means that part of the time can be billable, the other part would be personal time. Such as an event in the afternoon or early evening.

We do have quite a few large meeting rooms or cantines; there is enough room to host a bunch of people. The standard infrastructure is available; projection equipment, sandwiches and beverages when needed, ...

closed as too broad by Masked Man, gnat, Xavier J, Rory Alsop, Chris E Nov 16 '16 at 15:38

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Do you have a budget to organise events ? How many people are there in a department ? – Thalantas Nov 15 '16 at 9:11
  • It is not as much the morale of the consultants but they just don't really feel part of the team. Most of them are at the client's for months on end (perhaps years) and unless there is an event or something they'll never be at the office. – ElGringoMagnifico Nov 15 '16 at 9:25
  • Are your company interested in initiatives or event that take up these consultants billable time? – Nathan Cooper Nov 15 '16 at 12:28
  • Have you started asking People what they would want to do and when? Do you have an cantine that could fit alot of People? – Raoul Mensink Nov 15 '16 at 13:16
  • My manager has asked me not to poke around too much yet because he doesn't want to get hopes up in areas where we might not be able to deliver. – ElGringoMagnifico Nov 15 '16 at 14:48
1

I used to work at a company like this (~2500 employees). Pure consultancy and always at the client's office. Sometimes with other colleagues, mostly alone working on the project for the client.

I have never felt as if I wasn't part of the company, as your colleagues are now experiencing. Of course there had to be some investment from my part as well.

Here's what we/the company did:

Company wide/Department meetings Of course we had these, but they're used to discuss numbers and results. Sometimes updates on projects. Discussed in other answers. These meetings did not really contribute to my feelings of being part of a team.

Team meetings Dinner with all colleagues of the same manager (~40 people under one manager). Dinner is paid by the company, but travel time & dinner time were invested by me.

Meetings on one specific subject of interest These were actually organized by employees themselves. We had some people (~15) that like usability, so we got together once a month in one of the offices and worked on creating usability services for our company. (So actually trying to create work for our company that we liked, rather than depending on what the sales managers brought in). These were held during the evening, dinner was provided by the office.

Training / courses Training of colleagues by colleagues. As IT consultant I did a course in Project management where one of our senior Project managers was the trainer. I had an exam at the end and I got a certificate. (Similar to your knowledge sharing sessions?) Also during the evening where dinner was provided by the office.

Newsletters for specific networks In my case we had a 'Young Professional Network' (aka everyone under 30 years old). A team organized events and sent out a newsletter. The event ranged from inviting a suit making company to intake/job interview training. The newsletter contained information on subjects our young professionals were interested in. Again, part own time, part company time/money.

These meetings / events always required me to put effort in next to what the company provided. Due to taking part in these events I felt like I was part of the company. I met a lot of different colleagues at the courses and knowledge meetings.

Managers One thing that I really valued above all else: when my clients sales manager would be at the clients office, he would drop by and have some small talk with me. My manager would visit me at the clients office at least once every two months to talk about how things were going (work related or personal). This made me feel like I wasn't forgotten by 'the people at the office'.

So part is something you can organize, some part other people will have to do. Good luck on getting your community going, I think it creates loyal and engaged employees.

5

With so many distributed/isolated employees, I would suggest starting with some form of group messaging (e.g. Slack) to let people stay connected. This can be applied to work topics and also more informal discussions to help people feel like they are part of something.

As far as activities, 1000 people may be too large a set of diverse interests to serve as a whole. Instead, maybe try a number of different events that might appeal to different groups: sports related, museums, working families,... If you want this to grow, it needs to be based on non-work interests that let them create connections. Grouping by department is somewhat arbitrary in terms of common interests.

3

Organise an event for each department.

I've thought about organising events for two departments at a time. As you have 10 departments, for each department to meet with the others, you would need 55 meetings. Each department being 100 people, each meeting would be 200 people. Overall, you are looking at 11,000 invitations. Even with one of these events per week, you would need a whole year. This is probably why your feedback has been rather negative: from a pure logistics point on view, this seems rather complicated.

I think you should start with creating a department community. Having 100 colleagues you feel close to is enough to not feel isolated or lonely at work, even when most of them are working at the client's. This solution is 1,000 invitations in 10 meetings, so the pure logistics is more realistic.

If you can have access to some budget, suggest a team-building seminar to the direction, for each of the departments. If the budget is not high enough, you can also go with department afterworks. For both solutions, you want to make sure you build a real engagement before the event : teaser, nice invitations, and so on. Offer the possibility to the employees to help you organise the event of their department, so that it becomes an event by the department, for the department.

  • That's true, but that was also sort of the point. This way the entire company would be active the year round; I thought it would help me create a bit of a buzz. You are right though, it would be too much for me to handle. Especially considering that I can only devote a few days a week to this; I'm still an active consultant for the most part. – ElGringoMagnifico Nov 16 '16 at 7:52
3

One thing which I quickly came to realize at my old job is that while community events are appreciated, very few people want to get involved with planning them. It seems to go double for you.

You're facing organizing events for about 1000 people. There's no way you'll be able to do it all yourself. If I were you, I would first approach the heads of each department, outline what you're trying to accomplish, and ask them to allow you to recruit help from each department.

I would then organize two types of events: departmental, and company wide.

Departmental

These events may occur more often, and require a smaller budget.

For example, karaoke nights at a local pub, after work drinks, starting some online community (a forum) where people can share information about their hobbies (you might ask for volunteers in each department to manage those online forums), movie nights (in the lunch rooms with pizza) etc. .

Ideally you will get the ball rolling on these, and then allow each department to largely do their own thing, because there's no way that one person can keep track of and organize events for 10 departments unless it's your full time job.

Company-wide

These events can be a larger affairs, and require help from more people to organize.

Off the top of my mind, you might organize a baseball, ping-pong, or bowling league for your coworkers. Departments might each field teams and compete for a "company cup".

Christmas parties might also fall under this category.

Other

There's other, more professional types of events which you can also organize at either the department of company levels. Lunch and learns, coding challenges, hackathons, or maybe bring in an outside expert to discuss a topic over a short presentation (even online).

I remember that my previous employer brought in a financial expert and ran a series of lunch and learns about managing your finances, getting rid of debt, investing, etc. It was very informative, and people were talking about it for weeks afterward.

Don't be afraid to think outside the box, and more importantly, ask for help.

1

Oranize a "getting to know you series", where you create teams crossing various departments. The goal is that each member of the team connect with another on a personal level.

A contact must be a half-hour connection with the person, a Q&A session with fifteen minutes each, having them take turns to ask questions and get answers.

In the end, the team with the most contacts gets a cash reward. You can extend that to 2nd and third place.

You can come up with your own questions or supply a few ice-breakers such as...

!)what is a talent that you have that few people know about you.

2)What is something unusual about you?

3)What was your first job?

4)Have you ever worked for other industries? etc

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.