Although for many years team building was mainly limited to behavioural experiments and to the field of sports, this concept has become an integral part of our modern business practices. The history of team building can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century, when researchers began to define the key variables that affect human interaction.
As the years went by, large corporations like General Motors, Xerox, and Volvo conducted experiments that established the links between improved productivity and team building work. Nowadays, the common understanding is that team building can help employees achieve their objectives faster and more efficiently. Team building is also essential when it comes to problem-solving and conflict management.
Companies can benefit from training their employees into team building techniques as these skills can enhance organisational productivity, give a company a competitive edge, and the confidence that highly motivated workers will produce outstanding results. More importantly, corporate growth and development can be severely limited until a company discovers the true potential of its workforce.
Finding effective team building activities
When should a company consider running team building events? Many managers still see team building as a remedial activity, when in fact it should be considered as a preventative tool. Therefore, there is no need to wait until a problem arises, as in these cases team building exercises could be counter-productive.
Before arranging a team building session at work, managers must communicate with staff and make sure they understand how these sessions can benefit them, both at an individual and at a collective level. Without the active participation of the staff involved, team building sessions are doomed to fail.
Some common exercises include:
- Workshops that require the staff to solve a problem (preferably non-work related) or to brainstorm.
- Games that promote cooperation and communication and that can be adapted to business settings, like "mine fields", "tug of war", "egg drop", or "toxic waste". Worst-case scenario and survival games are also appropriate.
- Social outings and events. These may include everything from cooking classes to bowling, including family activities or group lunches.
- Implementation of new practices, like job swapping for a day or open door policies.
For a team building activity to be effective, it must have a specific objective that is discussed as a follow-up activity. Some workers may consider team building activities a waste of time, and this is often the consequence of not establishing clear goals beforehand. Another important consideration concerns the individual personalities of the staff, as team building exercises should never make participants feel uncomfortable.
Choosing a professional team building training provider
When large numbers of employees require team building training, using the services of professional trainers who specialise in the corporate world may be useful. For reliable advice, managers can contact their local university or business school and ask for the corporate development department. Most universities will have at least one expert on team building, and they may even organise a bespoke event in-company. If the local university does not offer such services, why not send staff on a day or weekend trip to another city where team building activities are on offer? Alternatively, the local Chamber of Commerce might offer short courses and certifications in team building.
Team building can be an invaluable tool for those who want to help turn their workforce into a high-performance team. However, team building activities must be carefully selected taking into consideration the characteristics of the staff and the specific objectives that need to be reached. This will contribute to making team building skills an essential corporate asset.