Does team building really work?

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Paul Ashford, Events Director at specialist event management company Apex.co.uk looks at team building and why businesses must employ a more strategic approach if they want such events to have long-term benefits.

What do you think when you hear the word team building? Do you see people crashing about in 4×4 off-road vehicles, or abseiling down a vertigo-inducing cliff? Or perhaps something gentler, like building the Eiffel Tower out of newspaper and string?

Team building can actually lead to resentment, especially if people have to give up their free time or stay late to complete work to accommodate forced social activity. Despite best intentions, poorly thought-out team building can be devastating, with employees quickly becoming demoralised and demotivated – the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to do!

But team building can be one of the most important investments an employer can make. Yes, it has a ‘bad rap’, but that’s because too many people don’t understand what they want to achieve and how it will affect those involved.

Strategy
If you’re involved in organising a team-building day for your business, it pays to start with a little strategy.

Teams are complex things made of the most diverse components possible – people. To take a group of individuals and persuade them to work as a highly effective team usually takes more than a treasure hunt.

What’s more, there’s a massive difference between a morning on an assault course and day-to-day working with colleagues. While it’s possible to use such activities to highlight similarities between the two environments, there’s a real danger that any benefit will be lost back at t he workplace. Familiar conflicts and barriers to co-operation can quickly resurface.

To ensure successful team building you need a purpose, with defined outcomes.

Team physiology
If you want to give employees a quick boost or a break from daily pressure, then a well-chosen half or full day of activity could do the trick.

But remember that just because you enjoy a particular activity doesn’t mean everyone else does. Start with the awareness that not everyone looks forward to these events. They may not be confident, healthy, or social enough. And while you can use team building to take people out of their comfort zone so they can bond around mutual fears, for some people the pressure will simply be overwhelming.

When considering team-building options it’s always worth canvassing your group to see what they would enjoy. Perhaps activities that bring people together by sharing good times, or challenges that solve tricky problems by pooling knowledge would be more appropriate?

Where team building has more in-depth objectives to achieve, it will need to encompass psychology, training and inspiration too. If this seems daunting, event management companies can help you to bring all the elements together.

Experiential learning
To get the most out of your investment, it’s worth considering work-based exercises.

With experienced facilitators and well thought out integrated packages, such experiences can be hugely rewarding, with employees learning how to understand each other better, share knowledge and navigate past the day-to-day niggles.

You can, of course, also include more social elements, but by allowing people to opt-out if they so choose, you give them the best of both worlds.

Whether your team has worked together for many years, or have been brought together because of reorganisation, making them function better is a benefit. However, if you want to build an efficient and motivated team, you’ll have to do more than pay lip service to the idea of team building.

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    AUTHOR

    Molly Dyson

    Former Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Molly Dyson