Team building. To many, it’s a corporate-y buzzword that elicits eye rolls. To business leaders, it’s usually the first internal event to get cut in an effort to “save resources.” And that’s a shame because team building events work. That is, if they are run properly.
Why Are Team Building Events Important?
The purpose of a team building event is to improve communication and increase collaboration and motivation between teams and departments that work together on projects. Increased communication and collaboration are invaluable and can turn mediocre production levels into positive growth outcomes.
Businesses pay consultants big money to increase efficiencies, even by just <1% sometimes! What’s comical is that often these trivial gains come from consultants spending days or even months trying to understand your business, its processes and workarounds. And while you can certainly gain insights digging into processes and workarounds, at the end of the day, your business is really made up of PEOPLE. And, in order for your company to thrive, all of these PEOPLE need to share a common goal and work cohesively.
When colleagues don’t work well together, it doesn’t matter how much whiteboarding your consultants did, the results will always be the same: lackluster earnings reported.
For this reason, team-building exercises are ideal for your next sales conferences.
What Can Team Building Do for Your Company?
Let’s talk about why companies should allocate some of their budget to team building activities:
According to an MIT study, a team’s success hinges on one main thing, and that is their ability to communicate. “With remarkable consistency, the data confirmed that communication indeed plays a critical role in building successful teams. In fact, we’ve found patterns of communication to be the most important predictor of a team’s success.” Team building creates an environment where employees can learn to engage with one another effectively and feel free to share ideas and solutions.
The American Psychological Association found that team building makes employees feel valued. When employees feel valued, they become more motivated to produce better work. Additionally, when employees feel camaraderie with their teammates, they are far more likely to pitch in and help when help is needed.
Better collaboration among your team members means more brains working toward coming up with strategic solutions. Cohesion leads to creativity and innovation.
Team Building Brings Entire Departments Together
Your customer success team should be speaking with your sales team. Your marketing team should be speaking with your R&D team. When insights are shared across departments, better decisions can be made, leading to better business outcomes.
When Should You Host a Team Building Event?
As you have likely guessed, although a successful team building event will lead to a positive ROI, there is a limit to when and where you should host one. For instance, can you imagine doing a team building event every day, even if just for 20 minutes in the morning? Beyond the financial implications, things could get competitive and before you know it, you’ve got elementary school dodgeball all over again.
For a team-building specific event, the ideal time could be whenever you have your team or extended team present. After all, the main goal of team building is to increase ROI through all of the indirect reasons we’ve discussed.
If you are considering flying together with the entire team for an Appalachian Trail hike that could get VERY pricey. And while results would likely be very positive, the ROI might not be as high.
So consider smaller team-building events to get the most bang for the buck… At least to start.
Tips for Developing a Successful Team Building Event
Identify the WHY
Team building includes a variety of exercises, but each has a specific goal and /or outcome. Before you plan your event it’s important to identify WHY you’re team building in the first place. What’s your ultimate goal? How, specifically, do you want to see your team strengthened?
A study by Small Group Research analyzed studies conducted between 1950 and 2007 and found that team building offers positive, measurable effects on performance, but only when the activities support the desired outcome. In our experience, when we’ve sat down with clients who have tried team building events on their own, they often didn’t succeed because the leaders didn’t know they WHY.
So, take some time to think about what challenges your teams are currently facing and what outcomes you’d like to see. Are there conflicts between some employees? Is communication not-so-hot? Is everyone on the same page? Once you know what needs improvement you can plan activities that specifically address those deficiencies.
Watch Out for Too Much Competitiveness
The goal of team building is to bring people together. So many organizations rely on activities that pit team members against each other. This can seem innocent enough, but the competition really fights what you are trying to do. Choose activities (and we’ll get to some suggestions in just a little bit) that give your employees the ability to support one another, not undermine one another. Going back to our dodgeball reference, come Monday morning, you don’t want Sheila ignoring Brian’s emails because he threw the dodgeball a little too hard on Friday!
To build teams, choose activities that make your employees work together and require problem-solving strategies and clear communication.
Don’t Confuse Team Building with a Shared Experience
You obviously want your employees to have fun during your team building event, or it will be hard to get people to sign up for the next one! But while many activities may be a fun, shared experience, they don’t do anything to help build teams. Zip-lining is fun, but your team members stand in a line waiting for their turn, they don’t work together to achieve goals and leverage their individual strengths. The fact that your employees had fun last week won’t help you next week when one of your major clients is threatening to go elsewhere or when you need to find a solution to your data recovery issues.
The rule of thumb when planning team building events is to select exercises that provide actionable skills that apply to the job.
Team Building Criteria
There are no hard and fast rules to team building events. Having said that, there are some criteria that will help you select the right activities:
- The main goal should be to foster a sense of understanding and cohesiveness between team members
- Employees should like each other more after the event than before
- Think common goals, not competing goals
- The event should offer specific lessons that apply to the work you do
- The activities should reward team members who work together
And, as a reminder, be sure to brainstorm what your specific ultimate goals are before planning your event. What is your WHY for the event? If it’s better communication, then select activities that rely on clear communication. If you want to develop creativity and innovation, then select creative games.
Team Building Event Ideas
- Scavenger Hunt
- What’s My Name?
- Sneak a Peek
- Board Game Tournament
- Office Trivia
- Improv Workshop
- Two Truths and a Lie
- Karaoke Night
- The “Suddenly” Story
- Concentration (Marketing Edition)
- Professional Development Workshop
- Room Escape Games
- Catch Phrase
- Mystery Dinner
- Trampoline Park
- Something Touristy
- Painting Class
- Cooking Class
- Explore a New Place
All of these are terrific ideas, and I’m sure you’ve likely done a few before.
Depending on your team members, some might be more possible than others, and you should always err on the side of pleasing everyone versus going for something extreme. Again, the goal is TEAM building, so the wider the audience you can please, the better!
But let’s focus on number 14 for a moment.
Have you ever considered combining team building and community outreach?
Consider this: At the tail end of your event you get your employees together to do something nice for the community that they just stayed in for an internal Conference, Convention, or Trade Show.
Not only do you get all of the positive effects that team building brings, but:
- You build a positive relationship with the venue and the city
- Employees see your business as a family who gives back
- Employees become more loyal
- It likely won’t cost anything
- It makes for great PR
- Tax benefits? (Discuss with your Controller)
When I say it won’t cost anything, keep in mind all of your employees are already gathered in town for your event. Possibly a large Trade Show, a Sales Kick-Off, or a team retreat. And, because your team is volunteering, most organizations will cater to you (not charging you a thing).
Potential ideas for team building + community outreach:
- Put together backpacks for children in need of school supplies
- Assembling Bicycles
- Shopping for groceries for the poor (and then delivering)
These are just a few ideas that are almost guaranteed to be possible at your destination.
To conclude, unless you have time or demographic constraints for a proper team building exercise, consider it mandatory as a part of your next Event planning phase.
There is a low risk of failure, but if done correctly, the results could be phenomenally positive.
If you’d like J.Shay Event Solutions to help with the planning or execution of your next team building event, please contact us here!
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