The Virtual Environment - Where Everybody Knows Your Name
August 28, 2012 @ 11:12 AM | By Eric Vidal
While the ability to hire talent where it lives has opened up many new possibilities for enterprises, one thing that seems to have been lost in translation is the little impromptu social interactions between employees that help build teams. While formal meetings may be good for conveying information on a broad scale, it’s often the spontaneous conversations as people pass in the hallway or stop at the vending machines for a snack that create the camaraderie needed to turn individuals into cohesive units.
Nothing, however, may be missed more than gathering up a few co-workers to head to the local watering hole after work. Traditionally it’s a place where individuals can let their hair down a little, show their true personalities, and get to know their fellow employees better as human beings. That sort of bonding can help get people on the same page faster and more thoroughly than all the corporate PowerPoint decks and memos put together.
While you can’t exactly fly people in from all over just to socialize, there is another way to drive that interaction. Why not replicate it by creating a bar as part of your virtual environment?
You can give your bar a cute name, such as calling it Jack’s Place after the CEO. You can then use the technology to create any sort of atmosphere you want – sports bar, upscale New York nightclub, cocktail lounge in a hotel, even Rick’s from Casablanca, the cantina on Tatooine from Star Wars or Cheers (complete with your own version of Norm).
If your company is more conservative, you can make the gathering place a coffee bar like the one on Friends, or a juice bar. The point is you want a place where people can get out of “work mode” for a little while and show their real selves to one another.
Within your bar you can have different functions. For example, for a group conversation you can set your bar up in a rectangle or horseshoe so many people can “talk” with one another at once. The “bartender” can be a moderator or subject matter expert.
You can create smaller tables for private conversations. Maybe even add a game. If you want to be able to make the occasional presentation, add a small stage, complete with spotlights and a red velvet curtain in the background.
To complete the atmosphere you can add music, glasses clinking occasionally and/or general murmuring. One or more virtual TVs can run video, news or whatever else you need.
The objective is to get employees out of their work personas in order to interact more freely with one another, and maybe come up with those “cocktail napkin” ideas that lead to great innovations in products, processes and the way the enterprise operates.
This type of bar is also the ideal place for “tribal knowledge” to be transferred. One of the challenges large and mid-size enterprises have is getting information that sort of information passed from the senior staff or subject matter experts to the lower levels of the company. Some try to do it in a formal setting, most never really get to it. The casual conversations in your “bar” will provide an opportunity for the tribal knowledge about the personalities, preferences and culture of the company to be shared between the most and least experienced members of the staff.
Most people hate meetings. They’re the bane of the modern world. But they like going to bars. Building one with an easy-to-use virtual environment technology will give your employees a place to build the relationships that drive success no matter where they’re located. And without having to explain an expense report to the CFO.