Building a successful team culture

Once upon a time, corporate team building took place on the golf course or at the bar. Since then, team building exercises have come a long way. These days, bonds are more likely to be forged cooking a five-star dinner, making a music video or assembling bikes for disadvantaged kids.

It all adds up to hours of fun away from the office. But why is team building important?

Research shows that well-designed and executed team building forges connections between team members, improves communication and creates a sense of wellbeing. It also shows employees that you value them and are willing to invest in them, which builds trust within your business and contributes to motivation and productivity.

But before you decide on an activity, take time to identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses. You may like to explore some of the online resources outlining the building blocks for developing, maintaining and leading a high performing team who works well together.

Then devise a plan that builds on your team’s strengths and improves areas of weakness, perhaps with the help of this team effectiveness checklist.

Which activities are right for me?

Activities and events should be matched to what you want to achieve. Social events like pizza nights or salsa classes are a great way for staff to get to know each other, but not so good for specific work-related goals.

Indoor and outdoor challenges are all about co-operation, clear communication and teamwork. If your employees are young and active, you could send them on a city scramble collecting clues and completing challenges along the way. Foodies can test themselves in a cooking challenge inspired by the Masterchef phenomenon, where teams create a meal of a desired quality within a certain time for VIP guests or a charity event.

But don’t downplay the value of fun. Studies show that fun at work boosts creativity and productivity in people of all ages. It also lowers stress, increases the motivation to succeed at work and improves concentration and perseverance.

And then there’s cost. If you engage a facilitator, hire a venue or buy special materials then you need to factor this in. You may also need to cover the cost of having staff out of the office for a day. But team building doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg.

Focus on outcomes

In the two decades that Dwain Richardson has been in the team building business, as managing director of Corporate Challenge Events, he has seen the focus shift from pure recreation to outcome-related events. Especially where the positive outcomes extend to the community.

Richardson says the most popular team building activities out of the 40 he offers are charity-related. Most popular is Bikes for Tykes, where small teams complete challenges to earn pieces of a bicycle, which they assemble and hand over to a child from a local kids’ charity at the end of the day.

Success in Bikes for Tykes depends on skills that can be translated back to the workplace - working under tight deadlines, communicating with team members, discussing how to achieve the most efficient performance - but with the added bonus of contributing to the wider community. 

Richardson designs programs for small groups of 5 or 6, or up to larger groups. For example, he recently developed a program for an event of 870 people. Costs are determined depending on inclusions, not per person, and range from around $1,000 to as much as $30,000. For example, he says Bikes for Tykes for a group of 40 (8 teams of 5 and 8 flatpack bike kits) would cost around $5,000 for four hours. A city scramble for the same number of people might cost $2,500 because there are no inclusions, such as bikes.

A positive team culture produces winners and grinners all round. While there are many options for team building exercise, done well, it’s a win for your business, your employees, customers and communities they serve.

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