Why In-Person Meetings Still Matter

Serge Poldi, CIO of Consilio, works to find ways to connect people face to face: “Team members can accomplish much more in a half-day together than two days of online meetings.”
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In this post-pandemic hybrid work world, technology chief Serge Poldi strives to get the most from his team by finding ways to connect them.

Poldi, CIO of Consilio, a Washington, D.C.-based global company that provides e-discovery and other legal services, spoke with StrategicCIO360 about why connection matters more than ever, “informal” coaching and why he values meetings that don’t discuss work.

Given the dynamic nature of the Covid-19 virus and its variants, how are you managing international travel and the need for human connection in a global organization?

Many organizations have seen a desire to connect in person once again and companies across the world are beginning to open their doors and bring back travel both domestically and internationally. For an international organization, the concept of traveling across borders, after many years apart, has clear business benefits. Further, it has provided a morale boost for employees who now have the chance to reconnect with colleagues.

Consilio takes a very personalized approach to travel, as Covid-19 is still very real and conditions change day to day. Once we assess the risk and decide to approve a team to meet their international colleagues, we routinely see direct results in terms of productivity and personal connection. Team members can accomplish much more in a half-day together than two days of online meetings; in addition, they build and strengthen professional bonds. The resurgence of in-person engagements for global organizations is certainly, from my point of view, helping our teams be more effective and better aligned. 

How are you bridging the gap on “informal” coaching that would take place when you were strictly working in an office environment?

“Informal” coaching was such an integral part of our professional world before we had to adapt to the virtual environment. Once we went online, there was no longer the ultimate ease of walking up to someone’s desk or into an office to discuss a project or provide feedback. The virtual world has forced a formality to professional interactions that we should look to shift into the more informal methods we use in an office.

It seems so simple, but a phone call goes a long way in the world of IM chats and endless email chains. Getting on the phone with someone to speak about how to work through a challenge or discuss feedback creates the personal connection you miss in a written message. 

When appropriate, my approach has always been direct and informal to emulate the environment we experienced in person. Frequently there is no need to book an official meeting time when you can casually connect with a colleague through a quick phone call to discuss what could be improved or changed moving forward. 

What human connection strategies have worked well for different personality types as you try to bridge the gap between being in an office and being remote?

Some team members actively seek out connection with others in-person, while others prefer their home office and to connect through video chat. Understanding how team members best operate and connect can help bridge the gap created by the hybrid work environment so that we can all continue to deliver our best work.

One of the connection methods I utilize is a “random catch-up” for 30-minutes on a video call. There is no need to discuss work or the office. There is no agenda, just free time to chat. Especially on large teams with 30 to 40 people, I make a point to connect individually to simply catch up. Through these meetings, I have had conversations about kids, pets, vacations, new homes, hobbies and more. We have a vibrant employee base at Consilio, with unique backgrounds and experiences, that alone enhances the work we do daily.  

How do you see informal networks evolving now that we are in a hybrid work environment?

Unfortunately, after several years of the virtual environment, I have seen these informal networks deteriorate. Colleagues I once saw every day in the office I now only see three times a year in a formal setting. The days of catching up at the coffee machine or water cooler or popping into a colleague’s office are seemingly lost in a virtual work world. During these informal run-ins, we were able to talk about our families, lives outside of work and more.

Now, the formal settings are some of the only opportunities to connect in person with our extensive informal networks, especially those we don’t work with regularly. At Consilio, I aim to be a driver for continuing the informal networks by creating those coffee machine or water cooler conversations once again.

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