HR Corner

Are your company’s team-building exercises wasting your money and everyone’s time?

Your company might be organizing team-building activities in or outside of the office. Every organization does. But are those activities helping build stronger teams? Or do those activities only end up generating energy and fun? Let’s find out what the real purpose of team building activities must be.

“Most corporate team-building is a waste of time and money,” says Carlos Valdes-Dapena in an article in the Harvard Business Review. He explains that events like off-site trips, games, and other such activities may make employees feel closer for a little while, but they do not hold up under the day-to-day pressures of work.

The essence of team building activities is more nuanced than bringing the teams together and engaging them in activities. These activities must be thought through with a clear focus on stirring essential factors. So, what would be some factors that help build stronger teams? Let’s have a look.

Individual motivation

Valdes-Dapena points at individual motivation as the key to collaboration within a team. When team members work on a project or assignment, each member must exhibit equal levels of energy and commitment to complete their duties. If one or two members demonstrate low morale, it can decrease the productivity of the entire team. 

When thinking about activities for your teams, think of activities that would allow you and the other team members to gauge others’ levels of motivation. Not just gauge, you must also engage every team member to discuss it.

Familiarity

It is psychologically proven that we humans are more attracted to or comfortable with people that we are familiar with. Research has shown that teams generally do better as their members become familiar with each other. The research showed, at the Bangalore Wipro office; a 50% increase in team familiarity was followed by a 19% decrease in defects and a 30% decrease in deviation from budgets.

Your team building activities must allow members for deeper self-disclosure, help each other understand and be familiar with these disclosures. Check out these 36 points/questions by psychologist Arthur Aaron that can help build interpersonal closeness between team members.

Trust

In today’s times of job volatility and rise of unemployment, professionals look to their teams, employers and organizations for building trustworthy relationships. Similarly, trust within team members is also essential for several reasons:

• The team forms the basis of interactions with other departments within organizations.

• Team dynamics play a huge role in making or breaking employee trust.

• Trust increases loyalty, engagement, and commitment at work.

Bring in activities that require members to work in pairs, where members are interdependent. 

Now, let’s look at some innovative and unique ways in which HR and team leaders tackle team-building activities.

Tammie Plouffe, a professional organizational development consultant, brings in photographs, minus the icebreakers. She emphasizes the need for team members being connected. And that’s why photographs. Photographs, she says, “instantly ignite emotions and associations”. 

Here’s what she does:

1. Select 10 photographs per team member.

2. Display the photos around the room.

3. Let the team members look at the photographs.

4. Now, get the team to discuss a focus topic, for example, understanding the team’s shared purpose.

5. Have the team members select one or two photos that resonate with them and the topic in discussion. 

6. Let them share insights about their chosen photos and how they interpret the focus theme in it.

7. Then, discuss the commonalities in each team members’ chosen photos.

8. From these insights, ask the teams to jot down common actionable commitments, ways in which they can effectively collaborate and work together.

The Go Game, a company that combines technology with real-life and real locations for team building exercises, has helped companies like Uber, Facebook and Salesforce engage in team-building exercises. Wonder what they do? They left the company Lyft’s employees on an island to race their way to different challenges. 

From music video competitions to karaoke rickshaws spy games, companies are now looking for intelligent, thought through, effective and meaningful activities that make a difference to team members and teams. What is your organization doing to build strong teams?