Mentoring, Training and Team Building in a Brave New World: How Hybrid Is Affecting Team Development and What to Do About It

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As a company focused on team building activities and events, we like to keep up-to-date with the latest in what’s going on in the team development and training world. After all, we want to give our clients the best and most innovative information we have.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that lately we’ve been talking a lot about hybrid teams and how that will affect team development. We’ve also been discussing the concept of trust and how it is so vital and central to teams right now, as they face innumerable challenges and changes.

So it was with some surprise, but mostly excitement, that I came across an article by Ed Zitron in the Atlantic, about mentoring young people in hybrid teams,. It seemed to tie together so succinctly so much of what we’ve been thinking and writing about here.  

Zitron’s article brings up so many good points about workplace culture, leadership, and the necessity of offering active support. So I want to share some points this article raises as it relates to team building (Zitron doesn’t mention team building specifically, but a lot of his conclusions can be easily adapted to it). 

Finally, I’ll end with some optimism, and give you my take on why hybrid teams offer the chance to create better work and team development environments. 

The lack of mentorship and training opportunities on all teams, but especially remote ones 

The crux of Zitron’s argument is that many workers are not getting enough training and mentorship opportunities. He cites a 2018 statistic from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics that found that companies with fewer than 100 workers gave their employees only 12 minutes of training. And that was before the pandemic.

Undoubtedly, the lack of mentorship and training has only gotten worse since the shift to remote work. Indeed, we mentioned training and mentorship specifically in blog posts about resilience and shifting to hybrid work.

Everyone needs opportunities to develop and receive critical feedback and mentorship at work. This is part of what makes team members feel valued, and motivates them to keep giving more of themselves to greater efforts of the team. It also engenders greater trust between individual team members and their superiors, which can lead to higher retention.  

With online work though, there is less of an opportunity ever than before to create spaces for mentoring employees and nurturing their development. This problem is especially acute for younger (and newer) employees, who don’t “know the ropes” or the ins and outs of a team’s culture, things which are difficult to grasp from Zoom meetings. 

 Team building and the need for tangible spaces for trust

Team building, too, has suffered from the shift to remote work. It’s different now, and that is a fact of life. But that doesn’t mean that teams need to give up simply because it’s harder to get everyone together, and it’s harder to bring people closer online.  

Zitron makes a beautiful case for actively creating more opportunities for development and training, writing:

“Human connections are not made simply by being in the same physical space as someone else, nor are they guaranteed because you happen to get paid by the same company. Mentorship and training are not things that happen passively; they are actions to be done deliberately, thoughtfully, and consistently, with the intention of fostering and retaining talent. This has been my core frustration in my writing about management—that so many people disregard it as something that just happens “naturally,” without formalizing and supporting it as a relationship that occurs separate from actual work duties. As a boss, you can’t merely tell someone what to do; you have to put in the work to make sure that they’re thriving.”

The exact same could be said about team building too. Team building has to come about through time, intention and care, and can’t be achieved simply by plunking people down in a room together. or sticking them in a Zoom meeting. It has to be active.

Zitron calls for “tangible spaces of success” to bring teams together. I think it would be better to have “tangible spaces of trust”, which seems to be at the heart of so many of the issues surrounding team building and hybrid teams. 

Team members need to have more opportunities to see and feel the trust that exists on their team–between members, with managers and on their teams as a whole. When team members know that the rest of the team has their back, even online, then they will be able to not just be productive, but will be able to thrive remotely. 

Team building is one of these “spaces of trust”, along with team development in general. It is an environment in which team members can experience and touch trust and support, without fear of failing badly. 

Hybridity and the opportunity for transformation

What do these spaces of trust look like in the context of hybrid teams? That is the central question going forward. We at Invite Japan are definitely exploring this in our team building activities and in our discussions with clients, many of whom are searching for hybrid activities without knowing exactly what to look for.

It’s a question that is going to have to be resolved through trial and error, and experimentation with new practices. Zitron focuses a lot on tools and methodologies, as does this article in Harvard Business Review on remote teams . 

It’s very much true, as we’ve mentioned many times before, that we can’t rely on the same tools or habits. We have to find new ways of doing things that are more compatible with hybrid and remote work styles, even if that means ejecting old methods that simply aren’t effective anymore. 

Just because we used to do things one way in the office doesn’t necessarily mean we have to replicate them in the exact same way online (Zoom meetings that try to mimic office meetings being one example that comes to mind).  

We can also expand this concept out further and talk about team and work culture as a whole. Hybrid teams present a powerful opportunity to transform the way teams operate and function on a fundamental level. And hybridity offers potential changes in structure, power, and dynamics on teams that need to be considered if those changes are to be harnessed into creating something truly better.

But in order to do that, teams have to first look critically inward, at what they have done well and not so well, at the spaces of trust that they have created and the ones they have ignored. Trust is the critical link that will allow teams to bridge the gaps and step boldly into this brave new hybrid world. 

Conclusion

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be exploring more of these issues in our blog–how to adapt to hybrid more effectively, what tools to use to bring about more team development, how to make team cultures more hybrid-adaptable, and more, 

For now though, we recommend regular team building activities as the way to get your team to think about these ideas and explore how to solve them. Team building not only solidifies trust on your team, but also creates openings for creative and bold ideas to flow. And bold ideas will definitely be needed, no matter what happens next. 

About Invite Japan

Invite Japan is committed to designing, creating, and running high quality team building events and activities for all types of teams. We offer a wide range of activities, including 100% online events, indoor games that can be played in your office, and outdoor scavenger hunts.

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

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