Team-building is not all about fun and games. Well, often it actually is all about fun and games… but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on under the surface.
Though it might look like everyone showed up to team-building day and just laughed and played their way through an exciting scavenger hunt or a Survivor-inspired showdown, there were some very important interpersonal connections forming, a lot of trust and communication taking shape, and hopefully a truckload of dopamine getting released in the brains of every participant.
These under-the-surface effects are the true objectives of team-building exercises like the ones we offer at Firefly Team Events. We want everyone to let loose and have fun, of course, but we also want the benefits of each team-building activity to follow your employees back to the office and make a lasting, positive impression in your workplace.
So, let’s say you’ve shelled out (or you’re planning to soon) for a corporate team-building event. Rather than putting on an event and hoping for the best, let’s talk about the team-building objectives you may have going into it and how you can translate them into a return on your investment.
Browse here for the team-building event that suits your goals, and let us take care of the rest. We’ll even do a post-event debrief to make sure you achieved your objectives.
These 5 team-building objectives can help you improve the dynamics of your workplace.
1. Connection enhancement for your immediate team
What do you really know about the people you work with on a daily basis? Do you chat about your kids, talk about the big game last night, and perhaps even share some personal stories from time to time? Or do you show up to work, largely ignore each other, and speak only about job duties?
The more you know about a person, the more likely you are to act with compassionate empathy when a problem arises. If you hardly know your coworker, Peggy, and she has to take a week off to care for her sick child, you’ll probably grumble and roll your eyes if you have to absorb some of her work that week. You may let some important things slide and go home feeling like they’re not really your problem anyway.
If Peggy is your friend, however, you’ll happily take on a bit extra to help her out, and maybe send her kid a “Get well soon!” balloon. You might even go a bit above and beyond to pick up the slack and make sure Peggy comes back to work to a clean inbox rather than a pile of things waiting to get done.
In other words, compassionate empathy acts like a glue that holds relationships together even when circumstances aren’t perfect. From a work standpoint, that means team members will work together more smoothly, handle bumps in the road with more grace, and avoid some of the strife and pitfalls that prevent a team from achieving optimal performance. These friendships can also provide incentive for employees to stay in their jobs instead of seeking other opportunities.
Team-building activities are a good way to build these connections and get to know coworkers on a deeper level. With enough effort and open-mindedness, coworkers can form some truly lasting bonds that improve their work life significantly.
Enhancing connections with team-building is a suitable objective for small teams that work together closely. If you’re aiming to facilitate connections between employees on a department-wide or a company-wide basis, you may find the next objective on the list a better fit.
2. Cross-department pollination
In a traditional workplace, where everyone works in the same building, there’s a chance for what we in the biz call “water cooler collisions.” This is a fancy way of describing those little conversations that happen between coworkers who meet in the break room, the elevator, or even around a literal water cooler. These people may not see each other as often as coworkers on a smaller team, so these little chances to catch up are often loaded with personal exchanges.
These water cooler collisions can also lead to new, unexpected opportunities and insights into how the rest of the company is working. For example, during the course of these chats, Susan might realize she has more in common with Bob, six cubicles down, than she would have guessed. As it turns out, Bob is working on a cool new project that piques Susan’s interest, and she has several ideas to make Bob’s project work even better. If Susan and Bob have a manager who can see these opportunities for what they are, they could take advantage of their newly forged connection and drive the company toward some new, exciting innovation.
Unfortunately, water cooler collisions happen less and less frequently these days. This is largely if not wholly because remote teammates in the post-pandemic era have to go out of their way to meet up and chat. That’s a problem, because nothing fun ever comes out of staying in your lane. Most great adventures and opportunities start with bumping into someone new or learning some unexpected, interesting information that propels you in a new direction.
The good news is that team-building events can break people out of their immediate comfort zones and encourage them to interact with coworkers they don’t normally work with. Facilitating new and deeper connections is one of the primary benefits of team-building events, and this translates directly to ROI when employees use these connections to spark new life and creativity in their work.
3. Fix a problem
In a typical business, teams run into (approximately) a bajillion problems at any given time. They may have problems with communication, resort to personal attacks rather than constructive collaboration, or suffer from a lack of vulnerability based trust, just to name a few.
Managers often turn to team-building to solve these problems. This is fine, but we’d like to emphasize that team-building is just one tool in the toolbox for managers trying to handle a team with lots of strife and friction. It can certainly help, and it may even be the deciding factor in your success, but expecting to throw a team that doesn’t get along into a fun activity for an afternoon and have them suddenly all be best friends afterward is not realistic. It can often help to start by speaking with HR and using some of their suggestions to heal the dysfunction before moving on to grander gestures.
With that said, HR departments frequently recommend team-building as a top solution for fixing workplace problems. That’s because a productive team-building event can have lasting positive effects and help to bridge some gaps between coworkers. True healing of emotional wounds will take time and effort from everyone involved, but team-building can facilitate that and help get the process started.
The areas team-building can improve most dramatically include problems with communication, interpersonal conflict, and trust. Trust, in particular, is crucial for a smooth-functioning team. In fact, improving trust is one of the main purposes of team-building activities for employees in any situation, let alone situations where a lack of trust has already caused problems. Without trust, you have nothing.
In terms of ROI: Healing these conflicts can lead to better engagement and a more positive culture, which in turn encourages productivity and innovation.
4. Have fun
Sometimes, managers contact us and say “My team has been working so hard lately, I just want to give them a chance to have fun and let off some steam.” The fact that hosting a team-building event can also check the “productive use of company time” checkbox is certainly a bonus, even if your primary goal is just to let your hair down and kick back with your colleagues.
As we like to say, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little bit of company-sponsored dopamine. In fact, hosting team-building events just to have fun can have huge positive impacts on your company culture and contribute to better employee engagement, lower turnover, and improvements in productivity. Everyone appreciates when a company looks out for their wellbeing and happiness, and they’re likely to repay this kindness with a stronger work ethic and a more positive approach to bumps in the road.
5. Help teammates adjust to big changes
Perhaps you’ve just hired a brand new team, changed leadership within an existing team, or put the finishing touches on a large company merger. When something comes along to upset the status quo, it can make employees feel like they’re scrambling to keep up with the changes.
When large changes happen — and especially when employees are suddenly thrown in with a bunch of people they don’t know — one of the best things a manager can do to ensure these relationships start off on the right foot is to jumpstart things with a team-building exercise.
During a team-building event, we put employees into a situation and ask them to solve problems or achieve a goal, just as they would in the workplace. We just ask them to apply their communication and other skills toward different objectives than their usual work.
Immediately putting new employees into a team-building scenario can show managers on a micro scale how everyone is likely to interact when they get back to the office. Some people naturally take leadership, some may or may not take instruction well, some folks respond to constructive criticism, and others need a different approach.
Knowing these tendencies ahead of time allows managers the opportunity to work with employees on certain areas, choose projects and teammates based on natural strengths and inclinations, and learn how their employees respond to different types of stress and competition. This knowledge can be hugely beneficial in getting a new team off to a strong start.
How do you measure whether you’ve successfully met your team-building goals?
If you host an informal gathering, like a company party, it may or may not help to facilitate bonds, improve communication, or accomplish any of your other goals. The problem is, you won’t know if you’ve successfully met your goals if you don’t measure the state of your team before and after the event. We recommend performing pre- and post-event surveys to see how attitudes have changed due to the team-building exercise.
Firefly Team Events takes your company goals seriously. We offer post-event debriefs that can help you gauge whether your team has actually gotten to know each other better, smoothed over some existing conflicts, or developed a more compassionate attitude toward one another. In other words, we’re happy to help you measure the team-building ROI of each event, so you can be sure you’re getting what you want out of the experience.
Give us a shout and we’ll help you plan the best team-building event to meet your company goals.
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