How not to Waste Money on Team Building

Working together, Collaboration, Team work… It all sounds great and we know we need it, but when it comes to team building events, what is the reality? Are we like this poor guy in an American Airlines advert “Come fly with us”, trying to escape from a nightmare team-building experience? Or do we share the sentiments of a recent Harvard Business Review article by Carlos Valdes-Dapena, rather boldly entitled: “Stop Wasting Money on Team Building”? During his 25+ years of research he has found that most team building exercises do not contribute to building the level of trust and strength of relationships required to create quality collaboration.

Whether we’re on the giving or the receiving end, we can surely all identify with something from these two examples. It’s time the words ‘team building’ stopped sending shivers down the spines, firstly of employees as they contemplate what’s in store for them, and secondly managers seeing dollars potentially going down the drain.

At Global Natives, we have found that the success of any team building exercise hinges on the ability to narrow down exactly what you want to get out of the exercise and creating a platform to make these outcomes a reality. Failing to do so will bring little, or temporary, change.

The goal of Global Natives team building events is to:

  • Help the team to get to know each other in a relaxed environment, disconnected from the workplace, masks off!
  • Take participants through a number of reflective exercises aimed at showing them how their actions impact the team, and the performance of the company as a whole,
  • Identify underlying triggers that cause participants and the team to react, behave and operate in a certain way.

To ensure that your company gets mileage out of a team building event you need to select the right provider and define the role of your HR team and/or directors before and after the exercise.

Selecting the right service provider:

When selecting a provider it’s important to consider the following:

  • Does the provider want to understand your company’s culture, strategic position and your day-to-day challenges, before designing the activities and finalizing the programme?
  • Does the provider help you to channel and incorporate your expectations?
  • Is the focus more on the activities than on enabling participants to reflect on what they experienced, or the behaviour that was exposed, during the activities?
  • Are the activities designed in a way that causes individuals and the team to question their alignment with the company’s values and strategic position?
  • Is an environment created during the activities, personal reflection sessions and team sessions that encourages participants to be themselves, and not to be afraid of their weaknesses being exposed?
  • Is there room to identify realistic actions to be taken after the event, as well as accountability measures on an individual level?
  • Is the provider able to create a relaxed and fun environment, while meaningful learning is occurring surreptitiously?

What is the company’s role in ensuring an effective team building event? 

The success of the event is not solely determined by the provider but requires that the HR team and directors understand their role in making it count.

  • Don’t expect to solve all your company’s challenges in one team-building event. Focus your participants on one aspect by identifying, with your provider, a relevant theme, e.g.: “Resilience & Agility”, “Working in Cross-Functional Teams/Business Units”, “Improving Employee Wellness for Sustainable Performance”, “Problem Solving”, etc.
  • Ensure team building is integrated with the team’s overall training strategy and does not stand alone. Observations made during team building can be used to inform specific areas for training, e.g. conflict resolution, decision-making, productivity coaching, etc.
  • Meet the provider two weeks after the event to discuss the observations made during the activities and how well expectations were met.