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Decades ago, someone came up with the idea to create activities where people who worked together were encouraged to interact in a way that allowed them to get to know each other better and create improved working relationships. They called it team building and unfortunately, corporate team building activities have become something of a cliche when the activities include falling backwards into your teammates’ arms or solving riddles that involve various sized buckets of water. Few things have people fake a headache or roll their eyes like an impromptu team building exercise.
Fortunately, there are a lot of team building games that aren’t a cliche. They actually bring team members closer together and help them get to know each others’ preferred styles of communication and interaction helping to create a more positive and successful workplace no matter what that workplace specializes in.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of team building events that include white water rafting, zip-lining and standing atop impossibly high poles. These all seem like fun and exciting ways for team members to get to know each other, but not everyone wants to be involved in intense sports or activities and truthfully, it’s not necessary to look to the death defying in order to have a positive outcome from team building exercises for work.
The point of corporate team building activities is to help people work better together. While including a healthy dose of fun into whatever activities are chosen is the best way to create a memorable and lasting experience, HR teams and managers looking for their next team building event need to stay focused on the prime objective – building relationships that create a better workplace and happier employees.
1. Fundraising that involves activity.
Not everyone loves asking friends and neighbours for money for the latest office cause, but with a few parameters, the right fundraising activity can be fun for everyone.
First, HR departments need to ensure there aren’t too many fundraisers going on throughout the year. If employees take things on as their own cause, obviously that’s fine, but when it comes to corporate or department supported activities, keep them to one or two a year to avoid fundraising burnout.
Second, get buy-in from the majority of employees on the causes to support. If more than 75 per cent of the group are animal lovers, helping the local animal shelter may be the right option. Or, the local children’s hospital may be the right cause if the majority have young children or grandchildren. There may also be something that a popular employee has gone through that others will want to get behind. No matter what is chosen, it’s essential that the greater part of the team supports the cause.
Keep fundraising requirements to a minimum and build in rewards for those who earn more. No one likes the pressure of “having to” raise $250 or more just to be part of the team. Start the requirement low, say $50, and then find small gifts for those who get to the next level. This could be a Starbucks or Indigo card for hitting $150 or a company T Shirt for reaching $300. The team should help choose these options.
Finally, ensure the fundraising has an activity at the end to participate in and celebrate. This can be a BBQ, taking part in a walk/run or even, in the above suggestion of the SPCA, a special visit with animals over an afternoon at work.
2. Building something together.
This activity can have an element of fundraising to it or could just be for fun. Some groups gather up donated bike parts and old bikes, clean them up and build brand new bikes for kids. This engages a variety of different skill sets in cleaning, painting, building and even the marketing side of things. Challenge team members to try something new and put aside the pressure during these kinds of team building exercises.
Other ideas might include building boats or rafts from recyclable materials like milk jugs or plastic water bottles; building bird houses and flower boxes for local seniors; or creating a soap box racer.
3. Volunteer together.
On the theme of kids, seniors and animals, many organizations find team building success in taking on a larger, long-term project. This might be helping to build a home, taking on the planning and managing of afternoon activities at a local youth centre or reading, cooking and playing board games at a seniors centre.
4. Drawing and creation.
Create smaller teams (3 to 6) of people who either have challenges working together or who don’t normally work together and need to develop a better working relationship. One team member is the “artist” and either uses a flip chart and markers or clay (or another material) to create what the other team members describe. Team members can’t name the object and can only give details on how it looks, what its features are and other specifics in order to help the artist draw or create the item.
This activity is done best in a big space where teams can spread out and their shouting/laughing won’t be too disruptive to the other teams. Because the artist is blindfolded, it eliminates the concern for “artistic talent” and keeps things from getting too serious.
5. Escape rooms or solving problems.
There are many escape rooms around in city-centres to take advantage of and why these work so well for team building games is because the group is working to solve a problem together. The good ones are designed for a number of different ways of thinking to reach the solution. HR teams and managers may prefer to go to an existing escape room or another team building provider that offers problem-solving activities but there are many options that can be done in-house without too much effort.
Some of these include things like solving a crime (usually a murder of course!) or racing against the clock to find an answer or craft a solution. No matter what is chosen, it’s best to keep teams at three people or more to ensure groups are learning new ways to work together. It’s easier for smaller groups of two or three to establish a working relationship than it is for larger groups, so aim for larger if your department size is large and needs people to learn to communicate and collaborate better.
Corporate team building activities don’t need to cause eye-rolling and embarrassment for anyone and they certainly don’t need to push individuals to the farthest reaches of their skills or comfort zone. Taking everyone’s skills and preferences into account will go a long way toward building a better corporate culture by way of team building events.