The past year has truly tested the skills of continuous improvers and process improvers. While we are always ready to tackle a new challenge, but the past 12 months has given us a challenge like none we’ve ever seen before. Many improvers have dealt with geographiccally dispersed teams working across numerous time zones. Now, we’ve added in remote work and our teams are more broadly dispersed than ever before. We’ve had to get innovative in how we engage our teammates and our co-workers when we can rarely be in a room together. We’ve compiled this list of our five favorite ways to drive engagement in a remote world.

1. Cats or Dogs?

With the proliferation of free quizzes like Mentimeter and Poll Everywhere, there’s no excuse not to have a poll and a quiz in nearly every meeting. Most of our CII meetings and our webinars now include at least two polls to get our audience to interact with us and to get their feedback on the topic at hand. It’s a great way to get some quick and fun interaction in an otherwise hum-drum day.

Ice-breakers are often the most hated part of meetings for introverts, but simple polls can show engagement without putting people on the spot. Whenever we’re not sure if we’ve lost the room, we can do a quick quiz to bring back the team’s focus. And we often use fun quizzes like “where do you want to go on vacation?” or “cats or dogs?” It doesn’t always have to be about work.

2. Give me a sign

We love giving people signs, literally! We’ve created a variety of signs to give our teammates a voice and empower them when they on video conferences. We’ve used cute storytelling signs, weeds signs and clock signs to equip each one of our meeting participants with a way for them to drive the meetings. These simple signs can be made with basic office supplies that everyone has at their home.

We love using storytelling signs – if someone is getting off track and starting to tell stories, the other people on the call can wave their storytelling sign. The “getting in the weeds” sign is quite popular because in every meeting it seems like you always have someone is always getting too far into the weeds. Finally, the clock sign can help the entire team manage the time in the meeting and make sure that we’re quickly moving on to the next topic when we’ve concluded each item on the agenda.

3. Embrace Electronic CI Tools

Fortunately, thje clunky old processing mapping tools are a thing of the past. Virtual brainstorming has been made much easier with virtual sticky note tools like Ideaboardz, New technology makes virtual whiteboards easy to use with tools like Mural. Plus, videoconferencing tech includes manmy features for writing on a virtual page.

These creative electronic tools can help us simulate that in-person environment of the group standing in a group together around a flip chart or a whiteboard. These moments are when we spark so much creativity and many new ideas, so we’ve turned to these electronic tools to get us those same results in a virtual world.

The conversations that have happened over the past year have vastly changed how we perceive our employee and employer relationships. We at CII feel like this is making us stronger as a whole.

4. Let’s Get Happy!

Getting to know our teams on a more personal level helps us to produce much better work results. The small talk that otherwise would have happened in the hallway or in the break room can now done via a video conference while enjoying your favorite beverage. We’ve sent out electronic coffee gift cards to invite our co-workers to come together for a virtual cup of coffee. Companies are sending customized snack boxes to their employees so they can have a snack break together. And of course, we’ve all heard about the virtual happy hour where you can bring your alcoholic, or non-alcoholic, beverage of choice. During these meetings it’s always fun to have a little competition, so use a game like a trivia contest to add a little bit more excitement to your virtual lunch or happy hour. (Oh, and be sure to kick it off with a quiz!)

5. Getting Personal

Finally, one of our favorite changes in the last year is that now we are getting personal. Because so many people are working from home, we have invited the workplace into each other’s personal lives. This has actually been really helpful, because it has helped shine the spotlight on how human we are and that we do have life beyond work. This situation has driven a lot of conversations about personal life, personal challenges, work-life integration, parenting challenges and trying to manage all the priorities of work while managing the family as well.

The conversations that have happened over the past year have vastly changed how we perceive our employee and employer relationships. We at CII feel like this is making us stronger as a whole. Getting personal, getting to know your employees on a much more intimate level, will help us all to be more productive. In the end, continuous improvement culture is dependent upon respecting your people. One of the best ways to respect your people is to understand the challenges that they face at home that can create distractions at work.

While we can’t wait to get back to in-person events, we’re grateful for our five favorite things that we learned in the last year that have helped us keep the continuous improvement at the forefront. Challenges are where growth happens. We know that we have all grown this past year and we’re looking forward to seeing how that growth will trigger us to be even more effective in the future.


Photos by Arnaud JaegersCelpax and Moritz Mentges on Unsplash

Author: Allison Greco

Author: Allison Greco

Founder, CII

I created my foundation with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and MBA from the University of Oklahoma. Over the past decade, I have held Continuous and Process Improvement roles for Black Hills Energy, Williams, the US Air Force and BNSF Railway. I’ve started new CI programs and reinvigorated stale ones. Along the way I earned a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and became a licensed Professional Engineer.