Teamwork across borders

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How do you gather a large group of bright minds and make them into one team? Especially when their workplaces are separated by hundreds – or even thousands – of kilometres? We tried to find a way and – in my view – actually succeeded. It was an exciting process. 

2022 saw the start of a new chapter in the history of Tractebel. We reorganized our energy teams in Germany, Belgium and France: they now work closely together as one international team. The individual teams now differ in terms of specialization only, and no longer in terms of location. This facilitates a shared focus on global project work within one team, operating on an international basis.

Our experts in Renewable Energy in Europe come from four different countries: Germany, Belgium, France and Greece. We are therefore in the enviable position to choose from no less than 80 experts to assemble the most suitable team for a project each time.

This new organisational structure has already had the desired effect of bringing people from different countries together to work collectively on their objectives and build relationships.

The kickoff: Team building in Bonn

Within a few months after the new structure was set up, we continued to bring it to life. Everyone from Renewable Energy and Onshore in Belgium and Germany was invited to Bonn, Germany, where we held a classic team building event. This involved getting to know each other, evening get-togethers and intensive group work the next day. It worked a treat! We quickly found that we were all keen on working with each other. Communication was excellent. Both in group work and in a more private framework in the evening. Participants formed themed groups and worked out objectives to implement in the coming year.

Rain couldn’t put a stop to our Renewable Energy and Onshore team constructing a ball track together in summer 2022.

Now, a year later, there have been some small changes to the groups. We wanted to know: What has become of the topics that we developed in Bonn in 2022? 🤔

Participants from Belgium and Germany at the team building event in Bonn

One year later. Where are we now?

This time, we needed to be even more efficient with our scarce resource of time. As a result, we looked for a new concept for the team building event. We decided on a combination of digital and analog group work and presentations. I was responsible for the organisational part. Our Head of Renewable Energy and Onshore, Dr. Patric Kleineidam, was in charge and kept an overview of everything.

We set ourselves the following tasks:

  • Bring together colleagues from all four countries
  • Bring everyone up-to-date on what the other groups are working on
  • As much interaction as possible
  • Provide everyone with the opportunity for exchange
  • Communication between the different countries
  • Group work in newly constituted teams and breaking up of established structures
  • Involvement of as many individuals as possible working on the same topics
  • Provide the opportunity for each country to contribute
  • Enable exchange between all four countries and more intensive contact in smaller groups
  • Have fun
  • Gain new knowledge

Over the course of several meetings, both with the Belgian team leaders and just between Patric and I, we developed a new concept for coming together.

The concept: Complex, but doable 😊

Our idea was a joint team call involving all international team members. This was to be followed by intensive group work in new groups who had not really gotten to know each other so far. In this case, we selected a mix of the two methods of speed dating and round robin. To obtain more views and ideas, the group leaders were to switch. This meant: The groups stay as they are, and only the moderators change and take their topic with them to the next group. This was to be repeated twice. After this, everyone returned to the large group, where the moderators presented the results.

Group F during the call in Bad Vilbel, Germany.

At the end of our digital team building workshop, there was a get-together in each country. The teams at each location met up for food and drinks together and to talk outside of work. The schedule was as follows:

13:30   Start + Introduction
13:45   Strategy Overview
14:15   Split-up
14:20   Ice-breaking Session
14:35   Round 1
14:55   Round 2
15:15   Round 3
15:45   Presentation of Results
16:25   Concluding Remarks
16:35   End
Get-together

Conclusions: It’s hard to “team build” on your own and technology is great

… but only if it works. 😉 At the preparation stage, we sought to run through all expected situations with eight colleagues.

But, no matter how many improbable scenarios you think up and try out, there are always things that happen that are totally unexpected. For example, once we were ready, the brand-new technical equipment in Belgium crashed and we had to spontaneously work with the “old” system.

We wanted to get into conversation quickly, while avoiding bad jokes – an icebreaker on travel was the perfect solution. We do that a lot in our work as well anyway. So, each group was tasked with writing down (professionally and personally) what countries they have already been to. From Antarctica to Zambia, there were over 110 countries!

 

Map with all countries visited in blue. Created by ‘maploco’.

With a view to optimising the exchange within the groups, participants from each of the countries went to real meeting rooms and the mixed country online groups were assigned to virtual team rooms. In France there was just one person: Luca. It’s hard to build a team on your own, so Luca travelled to Belgium. Similarly, only four of our experts from Greece could take part. The breakdown was very straightforward there.

In Bad Vilbel, Patric presents what we have achieved since last year.

The hybrid meeting was then, fortunately, very uneventful.

In technical terms it worked well, although there were of course occasional difficulties. Some of the colleagues were not yet accustomed to “rooms” in teams and needed a little help sometimes. Overall, though, everything generally went very smoothly. The results of the individual groups were presented with a slight delay and the objectives for 2024 were set. In the get-together, the discussions revolved not just around energy but personal topics as well.

Result: Again, please!

For me, one thing is clear: Both forms of team building – digital and in person – have their place and their benefits. 

Such events often sound like you’re just wasting your time with frivolities. In fact, the opposite is the case. It helped us to improve the way in which we work together, clarify our objectives and build new relationships. Working together effectively requires a solid basis of trust. These events are therefore definitely a valuable investment in the business.

And the best thing about it? It was actually fun! We have received so much positive feedback that we are already planning to repeat team building events in the future. After all, it is the team spirit, trust and cohesion of our team that makes us strong and helps us to achieve our goals.

Would you like to join our team? In our careers page, our career page! We are looking forward to your application!

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