Known to help improve productivity and retention, team-building continues to be a popular tool to maintain relationships in the workplace. Jade Burke speaks to some experts in the industry to gain their thoughts on how companies can make the most of the process
Team-building is a great way to maintain morale in the workplace – why should companies choose to hold these exercises?
Naomi White (NW): I think for my company it’s really great to offer team-building because we’re a software consultancy, so we have a lot of developers that are quite shy and very focussed during the day. Team-building activities allows them to come out of their shell.
Yvette Pearson (YP): Where I work we have about 30 people on-site and around 30 on another up in Leicestershire, so when we have team-building we try and incorporate both offices where we can get everyone together in one place. This helps to build relationships and the communication between staff gets strengthened by seeing people face-to-face and by putting a face to a name – it makes a massive difference.
How often should companies offer these types of exercises throughout the working year?
NW: We tend to hold team-building events quarterly so people meet each other more often. We are having an off-site every year now as well at our other office, which is based in Portugal.
Lorraine Bow (LB): It all depends on the company – I have worked with teams where they have something new every month, but it comes down to the size of the team. I have also worked with small teams who do monthly events. I think it has an effect because people who have something every month seem really strong as a team, and if you’re an employer looking at retention it’s something to bear in mind.
“Teams who have something every month seem really strong, and if you’re an employer looking at retention it’s something to bear in mind.”
Lorraine Bow, Musivate
How does your company support team-building activities?
YP: We usually have events where we have the whole company involved and the CEO is quite a big advocate of that. He likes to get people together in a room, whether that is to chat to each other about work or whether it’s to have dinner together, he’s very keen on that. The only thing you have to worry about is physical time out of the office away from doing work and the budget.
NW: I think we are really supportive of team-building as it’s essential that we meet each other at different points. You can discover people’s skills that you wouldn’t necessarily have known before, for example we took part in a tile-making class and we saw lots of different people, that I wouldn’t have thought, be really creative and they were amazing at making different patterns.
Lorraine Bow, you offer ukulele lessons as a form of team-building. How does this work?
LB: It can vary from ten people to 100 – we held one last year at the Kensington Roof Gardens and it was lovely. For each session I’ll come in and explain you don’t need to have any prior musical experience; I’m dyspraxic which means I have severe coordination issues so people always have this preconception that you have to be musical or that you have to have certain experiences, when actually it’s as easy as painting by numbers. And within an hour everyone is playing a well-known song and singing.
Can you give me some examples of where you have taken part in team-building exercises and seen their added benefit?
YP: One that we did included these big boxes that had a puzzle on the outside and you had to solve the puzzle to get into the box. Inside the box was lots of different puzzles and you received money for completing these tasks. In the end, it was the team with the most money that won and everyone just got ridiculously competitive.
We had split the teams up into groups of people who don’t normally work with each other, to try and see how people would interact with different people and to make sure there wasn’t one shy person with a group of loud people. It was absolutely brilliant and the next day you could see people ringing each other up instead of sending an email. It was as instant as that.
NW: In the past I have done axe throwing, which felt very daunting holding an axe in your hand. We have taken part in white water rafting as well. Last year I also took part in the Crystal Maze which was fantastic.
“Team-building is popular with management because I think they can see the improvement on productivity.”
Yvette Pearson, ESF Capital
What sort of advice would you give those who are shy and find team-building exercises daunting?
YP: It’s partly the responsibility of the person organising to make sure as many people as possible can be a part of it. I would go as far as to say if there is somebody who is particularly shy or quiet, get them involved in the organising of the event. That way, even if they still feel a bit shy they can feel proud that they helped contribute and that can sometimes boost someone’s confidence and really help them.
NW: It’s important to be aware of those people and to involve them and make them feel like they’re appreciated too. They will gradually feel a bit more confident and take part in more conversations around them as well.
LB: It’s choosing the activities where everyone has the chance to contribute, because some activities lean towards extroverts and some include everybody. It’s important to choose something that’s inclusive of everybody.
What’s the appeal of team-building? Why does it continue to be so popular within the workplace?
YP: It’s popular with management because I think they can see the improvement on productivity when people do things like this. They can see the benefits, especially the communication between departments and offices when people get to know each other. It makes such a big difference in the workplace.
In summary: It’s clear team-building is still a popular tool many businesses incorporate into their annual budget, which many assistants and office managers are tasked with handling. Plus, with so many alternative methods to gain trust and networking between colleagues, from playing the ukulele to even learning to walk on fire, getting the team together to build relationships is a positive way to keep up morale and retention in the workforce.