Most people say they hate team-building exercises. When I’m at a conference or a meeting and I hear there’s going to be some sort of team-building exercise, I run from the room! Perhaps you feel the same way.
Choose the Right Team-Building Exercise
I don’t think the problem is with team-building exercises in general, it’s with trite and embarrassing exercises.
In fact, there’s a great deal of data that supports the positive impact of team-building activities on team performance, but the activities must consider the personalities of the people on the team and be consistent with employee values and ethics. Instead of forced bonding exercises, consider shared outings with team members.
In an interview in US News and World Report, David Ballard of the American Psychological Association identified five team-building activities to consider:
Every June, employees at Google are encouraged to participate in GoogleServe, a day when employees provide a day of service to their community. Google also helps match employees to community needs based on their skillsets. Google also allows employees to use up to 20 hours per year of work time for volunteering.
Sports activities. Company softball, bowling, or other types of teams provide bonding opportunities for the participants and can be a source of pride for employees. Consider sponsoring on-premise yoga classes or other types of fitness classes. Some companies have walking groups, volleyball teams, ski groups, or bicycling groups. Others sponsor groups who train for and enter marathons or other running events.
Every town or city has interesting museums and tours. Consider group visits to nature centers.
Consider sending teams to off-site training as a group. Training activities could include seminars and workshops or even conferences and conventions. In the I.T world, many companies provide day-long demos of their latest products and services. Consider sponsoring Meetups or users groups related to your own products and services or those which your company uses.
I worked for a company who had general staff meetings once per month first thing in the morning. The general manager would go over the company’s performance and we’d hear from various department heads on performance. In addition to providing information about the company, however, on the morning of the meeting, each department would take turns cooking breakfast for the entire staff. Departments would compete to see who could make the best or most creative breakfast. We all came together in the conference room for a shared meal. It created a great sense of bonding within each department and also within the company as a whole.
Also consider encouraging employee groups to go together to different restaurants, trying different cuisines.
It’s important that these activities are driven by employees and not by upper management. Ballard comments, “A team outing shouldn’t just be another opportunity for the leader to demonstrate why he or she is in charge.”
Team-building works, when it’s done appropriately and authentically. Think about supporting volunteer groups of employees, sponsoring fitness activities or employee sports teams, sending employee groups on field trips, certainly providing opportunities for professional development, and shared meals such as team lunches or restaurant outings.