6 Ways to Help Employees Bond
For any business, employee bonding may be a critically important element of workplace productivity. In an environment where employees actively feel part of a team, morale will likely be higher and the quality of work better than in an atmosphere of "everyone for themselves." But simply throwing a group of people together in a large work area does not constitute employee bonding.
Bonding is difficult to quantify—often you simply know when employees are working together as a team and when they're not. So how can you get employees to bond as a team? Here are six inventive suggestions you can implement right away in your organization:
1. Get People Excited About the Mission
"In my experience, the most impactful thing a leader can do to enhance teamwork and bonding is to listen to the team members—and to involve them in defining the team's mission and goals," notes James Ware, author of Making Meetings Matter. Ware urges leaders to ask employees questions and "take their answers seriously." To get employees to bond as a team and with the team's mission, he adds, "make sure they have meaningful input to not only the mission/vision itself, but to planning and experiencing the activities needed to accomplish those goals."
2. Seek Opportunities to Socialize Outside the Workplace
Whether it's taking everyone out to lunch or a bowling alley, planning a social outing away from the workplace is a proven method for helping employees bond. "When people talk about their personal lives, they identify things in common and build bonds based on them," says Phil Buckley of Change with Confidence. "These bonds lead to trust and respect, which lead to a willingness to collaborate and perform well together." An informal setting offers people the opportunity to relax and talk to each other about something other than work.
3. Spruce-Up the Work Environment
Your employees likely have some ideas on how to improve the physical environment in which they work every day. Think about sponsoring a "mini-office-makeover," where employees can suggest cosmetic alterations that 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.
4. Embark On an Adventure
If your budget permits, consider a more ambitious team outing, where you and your employees take a few days away from the office and engage in activities utterly different than what happens in their daily lives. Once a year, Ron Yates of Yates & Co. Jewelers takes his team on a genuine adventure. "Some of the past adventures included taking the team to the High Sierras, putting them in cabins and taking them on a horse ride for the day; river rafting excursions; a country hoe-down with a mechanical bull, barbecue and horse rides—all of course, paid for by my company." The time and expense are worth it, he adds. "Having everyone on the team cohesive and united helps create better productivity, more employee happiness, and better results (such as sales)."
5. 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 employee who would work best as part of the team. "Getting your employees involved in that decision is huge!" says Jen Salamandick of the digital marketing agency, Kick Point. "It cuts to the core of where the team feels help is needed, gives people a safe space to talk about where they're struggling and provides a chance to address a direction they want to grow in."
6. Bond with Employees Yourself
The first thing Sebastien Dupéré of Dupray (a specialized steam cleaning company) does every morning is greet his employees, talking to each of them for two to five minutes, catching up on both their personal and work lives. "Yes, it takes me 45 minutes to finally sit down in my office, but guess what? The fact that I care about my employees and their lives has probably been the best team-building thing we've done for our business. Leaders who show they care about their employees help foster an excellent team bond between the two."
As these examples illustrate, the opportunities to help your employees bond as a team are limited only by your imagination (and your budget). The return on investment—in terms of a harmonious and productive workforce—is well worth it.