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Team building: An expensive way to waste a day?

You’ve got a team; you want them to work better together and improve results. Apart from first calling The HR Dept, you may have gone onto Google and searched for some local team building activities; thinking a day out on the Brecons or tackling one of Britain’s toughest assault courses could be the key to improving your team’s performance. You take your team away for the day, then return. Has anything changed?

Probably not, according to recent research. It suggests that team building days may even achieve the opposite when not done properly. ‘Awkward’, ‘embarrassing’ and ‘waste of time’ were all used to describe team building days to researchers in one study. So is there still room in the modern manager’s budget to support such methods as part of a strategy to improve performance?

Whilst respecting that different employers manage within different company cultures, you can see why so many workers see team building in such a negative light. Let’s say the majority of staff in one business are adrenaline junkies that’d respond best to bungee jumping or white water rafting, what about the minority? Often, activities aren’t inclusive, leaving some feeling left out; they may start to question if you, the employer, really understands them at all.

Some away days, perhaps more so in the past, were seen as an excuse for a party. Some were renowned for being more alcohol fuelled than others, and often those were the ones to create more problems than they’d fix! ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ styled getaways shouldn’t be a priority for a manager looking to boost their team’s performance. An all-expenses paid jolly still has a place though for the manager looking to reward their team for good performance. There is also the added bonus of improving retention and giving you something to showcase when recruiting for talented staff.

The question remains: Should you take your own team away on a team building day?

It depends what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re trying to rebuild a broken team, improve relations between staff, or boost communication, a day paintballing in a waterlogged forest shouldn’t be a priority. There may be changes you could make at work first that could help. Once you’ve done everything you can do to foster the right working environment, you’ll have the foundations upon which to build and reward your team using more ‘extra-curricular’ team building methods.

When you get to that point, if you don’t feel your staff are keen for one of the more adventurous days out on offer, you may find the most effective way to bring a team together is to get them socialising over some good food and drink.

Ask your staff what they think to help you make the best call. However you do this, make sure staff with disabilities are not left on the side-lines. Your employees’ religious beliefs too should be accounted for: for staff that are fasting, engaging in strenuous exercise may not be ideal!

For activities and ideas that work, call The HR Dept.