New era of team building needed

by HCA03 Nov 2011

While HR continues to invest in team building exercises, a new study has shown that many programs miss the mark when it comes to improving engagement, workplace relationships, communication and motivation.

In a survey conducted by RedBalloon for Corporate, the workplace consultancy firm found that more than 50% of employees reacted negatively when told of an upcoming team building event.

Matt Geraghty, RedBalloon general manager for corporate, said that team building events do suffer from a range of stereotypes, “and the phrase alone carries a stigma that can provoke a cynical reaction from workers”.

Interestingly, the study found that while 72% of respondents rated their current or previous experiences of team building exercises as average or very poor, 82% said they would be eager to participate in different activities.

When asked to provide insights into the problems with traditional team building exercises, survey participants cited: ‘Badly organised or facilitated’, ‘No clear purpose or intent behind the event’, ‘Cliché format’, ‘Not during work hours’ and ‘Managers not participating’.

Geraghty said the benefits of team building exercises are well documented, and added: “If organisations can be seen to be investing in the workplace environment and making a concerted effort to foster positive morale in the business, workers will be more likely to give their discretionary effort every day.”

The top motivator for employee’s participating in events was ‘bonding with colleagues and getting to know each other better’, followed closely by ‘desire to get out of the office’, and ‘food, beverages and entertainment’.

Geraghty added that the research highlighted some simple lessons for HR, namely that employees are indeed enthusiastic about such events, but are tired of the traditional format.

As a result of the findings, RedBalloon compiled a list of their tips to get the most out of any team building experience:

  1. Set goals, be organised and manage expectations                   
  2. Do your research and set a budget                                 
  3. Communicate a sense of excitement                                             
  4. Get out of the office                                                                             
  5. Get help and consider bringing in the experts
  6. Consult - know your people and what they like
  7. Challenge people
  8. Avoid clichés
  9. Consider a theme to make it memorable
  10. Have fun!

As a result of its survey, RedBalloon has created a competition for businesses to gain recognition for their 2011 success. Reward Your Team allows organisations to share their story, with winners receiving $1500 towards a RedBalloon team building event. Enter at - entries open 1 Nov – 6 Dec.


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  • by Iain Crossing - Inspirational Workplaces Pty Ltd 3/11/2011 5:12:22 PM

    We agree with these findings. Our clients often tell us that team building events help to improve bonding and bring some fun into workplace relationships. They also add that their people are often looking for challenge and 'stretch' and programs that include skills transferable back into their roles and workplace. Fun events obviously have a role alongside programs that provide insight and development.

  • by John Read 3/11/2011 7:32:34 PM

    Team Building is not a substitute for effective Team Leadership and Team Followership.
    Great Team Leadership comprises of:
    1. Team setting their objectives (KRA's and KPI's)in light of organisational context and expectations
    2. Team gathers their own performance feedback against their KPI's
    3. The Team discusses their performance regularly (fortnightly is a great start)
    4. The Team has open communication within their team (i.e. all the team relationship and water cooler issues have been resolved)
    5. There are high levels of within-team trust.

    Great followership on the other hand includes the following:
    1. Understands their role and expectations clearly
    2. Has identified and formed friendships with some team members, is cordial with all of them
    3. Shares positive common values and behaviours with team members and their immediate team leader/manager
    4. Is proactive - in task, process and relationships matters
    5. Balances work and life well; self-disciplined.
    6. Understands how to raise issues and manage upwards effectively

    Placing team building in a larger landscape of organisational, team and self-leadership provides a sound place to evaluate its contribution to individual, team and organisational performance.

    Integration with other programmes and efforts to recognise, address and reward performance and leadership development makes good sense.

    Like all 'training', the three top things that ensure 'training' delivers ROI:
    1. Leadership set clear objectives for the training and define expected outcomes
    2. Leadership communicates their expectations to HR, vendors and employees including management involved
    3. There is follow-up and work contextualisation using such tools as project work, de-briefings, suggestion schemes and feedback mechanisms (focus groups, team meeting reviews and so on). Coaching adds significantly to this mix. A mix that needs to be tailored according to the objectives set...ok, that should do it...

    Have fun...

  • by Ron Pol - 4/11/2011 4:58:13 AM

    Absolutely, and it's great you've distilled some of the key factors. We've also listed 10 factors we found in our experience facilitating workgroup offsites (often called 'retreats' - itself a clue that the team hasn't thought about what they really want to do, 'advance' a sense of cohesion and purpose). Here's our 10 points (in a US in-house lawyers' magazine): Retreating forward - 10 steps for a successful offsite - a template.

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