Effective team building often revolves around special events (i.e. games, community service projects, brainstorming sessions). The goals may include opening new lines of communication within the company, strengthening the bonds employees make with one another (which, ideally, lead to increased productivity and higher morale), and keeping the workplace culture upbeat and forward-looking. That's a lot of expectations to place on a single activity, so it's probably not a surprise to hear that experts agree such events should be well-planned, ongoing, and reflective of the culture in which they take place.
Here are suggestions to help ensure that the team building events you sponsor garner the best possible ROI:
Tailor the Event to Match Your Employees’ Interests
Mandating a certain type of event based on what the business owner wants generally isn't the best approach to getting the desired results from that event. Often, a more effective approach incorporates the interests and habits of the team. "Do you have a group that likes to be outdoors and do something active?" asks Michael Murphy of the Hyatt Corporation. "Does your group want to relax and spend leisurely time with one another? Are they more adventurous or reserved?"
Ensure that all members of the team can participate; zip lining through the Redwoods isn't for everyone. Be sure your event planners know what the intended audience (your employees) might feel most comfortable with.
Look at Events as Part of a Long-term Process
Holding an event once a year or when the impulse strikes isn't likely to produce the kind of bonding results you're looking for. Instead, plan a series of team building activities that take place on a regular, scheduled basis, and share that information with your team. This sends the message that (a) strengthening the team through events is a top company priority; and (b) you're excited about these events and hope that enthusiasm stays high among employees, too.
Enlist Employees as Group Leaders
Too many team building events are led either by outside activity planners or those higher up in the organization. A certain degree of this involvement is wise, particularly when those leading the activities have specific experience in getting the most out of the events. However, enlisting your employees as leaders or facilitators is an implicit vote of confidence in their own leadership abilities.
Avoid Activities That Most People Dread
Sometimes leaders think the goal of a team building event is to push the envelope and/or take employees out of their comfort zones. Marketing strategist Gregory Ciotti contends this is not an effective approach. A better strategy is to "keep things normal, and to avoid situations that feel invasive, awkward, or forced." Don't get your team together "and ask everyone to share their greatest fear--a huge majority of the people involved won't appreciate this forced mix of their work life and personal feelings."
Following an Event, Share Lessons Learned
Without a debriefing of some kind, theirs is a chance that what happened at the team building event will be forgotten within a few days. To prevent this, publish stories about the event in your company newsletter, blog, social media platforms, and so on. Talk about the "lessons learned" from the group event and how employees can leverage their experiences into better serving customers and/or enhancing the company culture. It's important to keep the conversation going so your best team building efforts result in long-term success.
Having a strong team of employees is a key competitive advantage in today's marketplace. When you plan and execute the right kind of team building event, you help increase the odds that employees will feel more productive, positive, and inclined to stay longer with your company.