Corporate team building is designed to improve the morale of staff members, not make them groan and roll their eyes. Yet many activities designed to rally the troops together result in few improvements in overall productivity and job satisfaction. How can business leaders make practices designed to build camaraderie and cohesiveness more effectively?
Successful team-building efforts make staff members more personally dedicated to an organization’s mission. Additionally, such activities allow coworkers to see each other as individual human beings instead of just seeing the job title on their name badge.
Balancing recreation with corporate strategy can result in a happier and more productive workforce, so consider the factors below when you’re planning the next gathering of the office tribe.
1. Plan (Genuinely) Fun Activities
The first key to successful team building involves selecting activities intended to entertain as well as to share ideas and encourage interoffice collaboration. This step proves particularly critical when you’re planning to get the tribe together after hours.
Team building activities need not drain corporate budgets. While popular tourist attractions often feature catered events for businesses with plenty in the expense account, in-office activities allow for mixing and mingling without the price tag.
Strive to make such activities inclusive for those with disabilities as well. While exercises such as gathering a corporate team to run a marathon together do improve interpersonal relations among athletic employees, staff members suffering from chronic ailments may feel left out. Balance out such activities with those held in indoor recreational facilities that allow everyone to join in the fun.
2. Listen to the Team
The best team leaders know that listening to the needs and wants of others results in more pleasant interactions overall. Simply asking what the office squad wants lets them know their opinions deserve merit, which improves job satisfaction and productivity.
Design a simple employee survey about activities workers would enjoy, and make completing it into a friendly competition by rewarding the first staff members to respond with a small prize, like a coffee shop gift card. Use online survey tools to reassure skeptical employees that their responses remain confidential.
3. Make It Educational
How much can anyone know about how the various cogs of an organization turn without asking those responsible for keeping them spinning? Those in managerial positions may be aware that their job entails evaluating the performance of others, yet how can they do so objectively without even knowing the secret sauce Iris the receptionist uses to transform the office coffee from mud to magical bean water?
Improve team-building efforts continually by regularly allowing employee speakers to share details about their positions in team meetings.
Doing so increases staff engagement during the remainder of the session, as team members no longer feel lectured into compliance. Those in leadership roles who regularly see the big picture may find themselves shocked at how little workers under them know about how the entire corporate machine works.
4. Donate Time to Help Others
Businesses have long partnered with charities when it comes to making donations, but far fewer organizations utilize partnerships with non-profit organizations as opportunities to boost team morale. Combine team-building efforts with helping others by organizing events that showcase staff talent in a way that helps others.
Dental offices can offer free clinics for those lacking coverage or adequate funds to seek care. Contractors can devote time for staff members to assist in community revitalization efforts. Whatever the specialized skills team members possess, helping others makes them feel good — and more connected to the people they work with daily.
5. Celebrate Happy Hour
Mingling with coworkers after hours at any location where alcohol is served divides career experts, but most agree that occasional gatherings over happy hour improve team spirit. This plan need not mean letting Bob in marketing photocopy body parts best left unseen outside of intimate encounters after one too many martinis. Yet one or two adult beverages can go far in convincing the team that a colleague they deem standoffish is, in reality, simply introverted and shy.
When you’re planning team events such as holiday parties, exercise caution in declaring a full open bar unless sketchy behavior raises few eyebrows, such as in industries like entertainment. But as a reasonable amount of fermented goodness invites greater camaraderie, consider giving party-going staff punch tickets usable for one or two cocktails. Be sure to offer non-alcoholic beverages for designated drivers and those who prefer to abstain.
6. Limit After-hours Requirements
Assembling a team that works together like a high-tech synth blend in a luxury vehicle takes a lot of effort, and requiring too much mandatory overtime can make the most well-oiled crew begin to rust. Employees have lives, families, and recreational needs too. Even solo high-achievers require time to run to the market and mop their floors.
Reserve the majority of overtime hours for when overwhelming workloads require them. Reserve after-hour team activities to once per quarter or less. Consider offering incentives to attend versus docking a staff member’s pay.
7. Recognize Their Efforts and Empathize with Their Sorrows
Many times, those in management look only at performance stats and call poor performers in for a talking-to about their lack of effort and the consequences of failing to improve. And when an employee has only worked at an organization for a short time, supervisors may begin to wonder if they’re not up to the task and possibly should be terminated.
But employees have lives outside of the workplace, and unless a manager has questioned the employee about other factors possibly contributing to a sudden drop in performance metrics, she may be shooting herself in the foot by going directly to the handbook discipline policy rather than listening, especially if the staff member in question previously performed well.
For example, an employee may be going through a divorce and facing the proposition of losing their home and children as well as their spouse. Maybe a worker has an ailing mother to care for and lives in a constant state of tension over going home from the office only to find she passed alone. Maybe a staff member is facing losing their home due to their spouse losing a job or because one of their side hustles didn’t work out as well as hoped.
Before making any firing or disciplinary decisions, take time to speak with the employee about what may be affecting their performance. It may turn out that instead of losing a valuable work that costs money to replace, simply allowing the staff member a bit of time off to grieve or deal with other personal matters may get them back up to speed for team-building.
Building a Team, Not Hiring Minions
The highest achieving organizations know how to honor the contributions of all staff members for team-building. They also foster positive relationships between coworkers while respecting employee needs off the clock. Managers and supervisors can increase productivity by instituting team-building endeavors that make workers smile, not frown and shake their heads.