How to take your remote team building beyond Zoom happy hours

By Robert Fenton

January 30, 2022

How to take your remote team building beyond Zoom happy hours

When I tell other business leaders that flamenco is a part of what has enabled our all remote, global team to build strong bonds and balance work and life despite the instability of the last two pandemic years, they laugh. And rightly so—what does the Spanish art form have to do with our values, mission, and vision? The answer is: everything.



“Always curious” is one of the core values we share at Qualio, the software company I founded.

It is a value we measure as part of our hiring and review processes. But curiosity is something you have to stoke, and sitting at a desk in your own home all day can be a natural born killer to innate curiosity.

That is why our team invested in hiring a people experience manager (PXM) this year, and began building a culture and engagement vertical within our organization. We created this new vertical within our people operations function because of the potential gaps in community, connection, and curiosity that we knew might occur as our global team grew without an in-office coffee station or in-person all-hands each month.


Defining a new role in a remote world

A PXM enhances the typical human resources department by focusing on elevating and enhancing a mission-driven culture infused with the core values and goals of the company. It doesn’t have to be a completely separate leadership role if you’re running a lean organization, but it does need to be a distinct function with clear criteria and specific, measurable goals.

In addition to must-have skill sets, like event planning experience and exceptional organizational skills, PXMs have to delight in bringing people closer together. The manager needs to be finely attuned to identifying the little everyday frustrations and roadblocks that can quickly build up into burnout. And they must then use active listening and compassionate emotional intelligence to find solutions that work for all parties.

Ultimately, our PXM’s goal is to make sure that our employees remember Qualio as an engaging and fun place to work, even after moving on to their next opportunity. With an employee net promoter score hovering around 70, we feel like our people-first strategy has been critical to our success.


Developing an enriching people experience

Leaders cannot afford to wait until company culture is in disarray to start addressing people experience issues. Once employees feel disconnected, overwhelmed, or overworked, it can be too late to bring them back into a positive mindset. 

In the midst of a stressful and chaotic pandemic, workers are paradoxically more likely to leave their jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reinforced this fact, reporting that 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November of 2021 alone. Previously released data also shows additional notable trends including that mid-career employees are most likely to make a switch and resignation rates among the 30- to 45-year-old bracket increased by an average of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021.

Attracting and retaining employees has to be about more than just providing a goodie bag with branded swag on day one. Whether remote or in person, companies should always be onboarding. Business leaders can do this by providing resources to help employees navigate their current roles, as well as opportunities for personal development and connection and professional development. The PXM is ideally suited to create these engaging experiences and continually collect feedback from all members of the team.


Stepping away from the day-to-day

While 2021 was the first year in which we established our PXM role and culture engagement vertical, the response has been very positive from those that have attended the events. Our goal from day one has not been to get each employee to attend every single event. We knew that was unrealistic. Instead, our focus has been on creating a variety of engaging events that delight and connect all different types of people within our organization.

Our team members have expressed delight with these initiatives, because they are given the opportunity to take a step away from their work to bond with other Qualians they might not see during the work week. Qualians are also given the opportunity to decide what level of engagement they have with each experience, such as being a peer critic during the in-house talent show or bringing their children to pie-baking night. 

To adopt a focused people experience approach within your own organization, consider designing fun and meaningful events for team members to indulge their intellectual curiosity in topics that have nothing to do with their day-to-day roles, such as learning about gourmet coffee, participating in a talent show, or practicing relaxation techniques with their peers.


For example, our flamenco session highlighted Hispanic Heritage month. A flamenco composer streamed live from Madrid, Spain. He also used a combination of performance and slides to educate our Qualians on the history of flamenco. This experience allowed our team to take in history and music while continuing to work or while taking a break to more fully engage with the content from the flamenco composer.

Try to incorporate a diverse, inclusive, and global perspective into these learning opportunities, especially if your company spans international borders. It’s very easy to think of the home office as the center of the corporate universe, but a truly virtual and/or hybrid company should make sure that no one feels as if they’re on the outside looking in. Even something as simple as keeping multiple time zones and local holidays in mind when scheduling events can foster inclusivity and ensure that everyone has a chance to benefit equally from company initiatives.

Today, new hires are choosing our company as their place of employment because of the normal opportunities: career growth, potential for human impact, competitive pay and benefits, flexible work schedule, and more. Given the intense hiring and poaching landscape, those mainstay employee offerings remain mission critical, but more is still needed as hires are receiving highly competitive packages. And that is precisely why flamenco-like experiences, which seek to acknowledge the need for connection and curiosity, are a worthwhile investment.


Through the efforts of our PXM and our extended people operations teams, new hires and current employees feel seen, heard, and appreciated for who they are.

With curiosity, connection, and maybe even a little flamenco, executives can embrace and optimize hybrid and remote work environments in the year ahead that prioritize both people experience and business expansion.

Robert Fenton is the CEO and founder of Qualio.




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