How important is team building? Viewed as a key driver of employee engagement, there may be no more critical factor in terms of successful long-term retention. It's a challenge many businesses face. In fact, according to the 2018 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey, more than 40 percent of HR professionals surveyed identified retaining their best employees as a top concern.
Team building events can be a way to help build trust among employees, particularly in times of higher turnover. In an environment where employees actively feel part of a team, morale will likely be higher and the quality of work may be better than in an atmosphere where people don't know or trust each other.
Start by considering specific goals for team building events, which might include:
- Opening new lines of communications within the company.
- Strengthening ties between employees.
- Keeping your workplace culture upbeat and forward-looking.
Whatever your goal, it's important that such events be well-planned, ongoing, and reflective of the culture in which they take place. Keep these points in mind:
Match team building activities with employees' interests. Mandating a team-bonding event based on what a business owner wants generally isn't the best approach to getting the desired results from that event. A more effective strategy incorporates the interests and habits of the team. Make sure everyone on the team can take part in whatever you have planned. Your event planners should know what the intended audience (your employees) might feel most comfortable doing. Be sure to consider any accommodations that may be necessary for participants.
Take the long view. Sponsoring a once-a-year activity likely won't produce the results you hope for. Instead, consider planning an ongoing series of activities that occur on a regularly scheduled basis. Let your team know that strengthening bonds is a top corporate priority and that you're excited about the potential for the fun and learning these activities are designed to produce.
How can you get employees to bond as a team? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Get employees excited about the mission
To get employees to bond as a team and with the team's mission, encourage them to help plan the bonding activities. Incorporate their suggestions into your planning. Knowing they have input can help make the subsequent activities more meaningful for them.
Seek opportunities to have fun inside and outside the workplace
Whether it's taking everyone out to lunch or to a bowling alley, planning a social outing away from the workplace can be a great way for helping employees bond. A more informal setting can offer people the opportunity to relax and talk to each other about something other than work.
Janet Justice, Paychex senior HR generalist, looks for fun activities to build teams, including challenges where team members must work together to solve challenges or puzzles. She says that these types of activities can facilitate problem solving and are good for showing how to create a bond among team members.
Paychex HR consultant Kathy Rossi facilitates an activity called "Share the Gratitude." As she explains, "Everyone's name is put into a bowl and each person picks a name (not their own). Then each person gives a work-related example of a time this person helped them accomplish a task or meet a deadline. "
The benefit of this exercise is that afterwards, Rossi notes that "everyone knows they are appreciated and part of the team."
Spruce up the work environment
Your employees likely have some ideas on how to improve the environment in which they work every day. Invite employees to suggest changes that could improve the workplace and — with a budget provided by the business — add plants, artwork, and other minor changes that grow out of a team design effort. People take extra pride in looking around their environment and feeling they had a hand in making things better.
Invite employees to help with hiring decisions
When you consider how "close to the ground" your employees are, it's likely they have some valuable insights into the type of new employee who would work best as part of the team. Solicit employee insights into the types of skills and personalities they feel would best fit your company culture. They'll likely surprise you with ideas you may not have considered yourself.
Give back to the community
"Philanthropy events are a great way to promote teamwork and bring the team together, while also supporting the community," notes Paychex HR generalist Victoria Whittaker.
For example, participating in the United Way's "Day of Caring" event (offering people the chance to volunteer at non-profit agencies throughout the U.S.) is a great way to bring employees together, working toward the same goal and helping to better their communities.
"Helping others makes an individual feel good," Whittaker notes, "so doing this with your work team can bring about positive attitudes and bonds that may have been lacking before."
Look for lessons learned
Don't miss out on opportunities to learn from your team-bonding activities. Without a debrief of some kind, there’s a chance that what happened at the event will be forgotten within a few days.
To prevent this, consider sharing 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. Keep the conversation going so your best team-building efforts can contribute to long-term success.
Now that you’ve learned more about the benefits of effective team bonding, discover other steps to help you keep your employees happy at work.