When you hear the phrase “team building exercise,” do you roll your eyes? Do you imagine corporate sanctioned bonding exercises been forced upon you and your coworkers? For many people, bad team building experiences seem to create a lasting, haunting memory. So what is the point of team building? And can it actually be… fun?
It may be cheesy to say, but proper team building improves the camaraderie of the participants. Company outings create a relaxed and comfortable environment for employees to communicate in. It gives them a chance to talk about their life outside of work, their interests, and hobbies. By creating this experience, employees are better able to communicate with each other in the future. If they participate in a purposed team building activity (rather than just an outing), employees gain a better understanding of each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests. This helps them appreciate each other’s contributions and sets the tone for positive collaboration at work. You can also expect higher rates of creativity from bonded teams, since they are comfortable with one another and unafraid to pitch their imaginative ideas.
Team building days are a fantastic way to enhance your company’s culture. Your culture is the values, norms, and personality of your company. Many job seekers look for positions with companies that have a compatible culture. If you’re not feeling any company pride in the atmosphere, that’s a sign that you need to foster a proper culture. Be mindful, however, that employee cultures may not line up with management culture and you may need to find a way to bridge the gap.
At the end of the day, team building is an investment a company makes in their employees. Happier, more communicative people are more productive, take better care of customers, and are less prone to misunderstandings. Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of O2E Brands, describes his teambuilding investment:
“A few years ago, we took our top-performing franchise partners NASCAR racing. It wasn’t a fortune at $350 per person, but it was still a sizeable chunk of change for a growing company. At the end of the day, it was a totally worthwhile investment. The team felt appreciated. The experience - screeching around a track at more than 145 miles per hour - was absolutely unforgettable and we all felt like champions.”
Despite all the ideals of team building, often the effort just falls flat. This is usually due to over-structuring. If the team building exercise feels more like a classroom with a lesson to learn about leadership, no one is going to find it fun. Oftentimes, the lingering management-employee structure remains. For instance, a manager may stand to the side and cheer on the employees who are actually participating. The comfort and relaxation just isn’t there – instead it seems everyone is forced to “perform teamwork” so management can check it off their list. The best remedy for this is to just have fun! Don’t shoehorn in a lesson or purpose, simply choose something fun and go do it! Let the bonding flow organically.
Another reason team building fails is lack of consistency. The company may host a fun trip or event, and then never schedule another one. Or maybe it knows no one liked the last team building exercise, so they drop team building altogether. This only works to demotivate employees and show that “fun things just don’t work here.” Try to have regularly scheduled events so people have something to look forward to. Encourage suggestions for your annual summer event, or monthly get-togethers.
When done wrong, team building can be a miserable experience. When done right, you can unlock loads of potential from your employees. It’s worth giving it a shot to strengthen bonds, motivate teams, and improve your culture. Stay tuned this month for more tips and insights about team building!
By Aubrey Dion
Aubrey Dion is proud to be back working for the family business she grew up in. Over the years, she has performed a wide variety of jobs in both the office and factory, becoming a true "jack of all trades." Aubrey credits her quick learning ability to her strong theatre background, where memorization and attention to detail are vital. Working in the marketing department allows her to stay creative and work on exciting new projects for the company.