The perils of not supporting effective team working

A survey reported in HRzone has shown that almost 50% of employees feel that the companies they work for do not foster team working practices – with over 33% of staff preferring to work alone rather than share ideas and work cohesively with others as part of a team. This could have a detrimental effect on productivity, as organizational performance is linked to team cohesion and performance – and employees need training and support from their team leaders to improve teamwork. In fact, team leaders make a vital contribution in creating teams that function effectively – they can give staff clarity about their roles and ensure that the members know where they feature in the aims of the team.

Team working and social events are useful tools for team leaders to create the right conditions for their teams to flourish – and a great way of combining a meeting with social activity is to hold an event. The exact type of event, of course, depends on many factors: budget, the size of the team and the ability to get everyone together at the same time; then there are other things to consider, such as the interests of the team in choosing the perfect event.

What it’s all about and what it’s not

 Further supporting information comes from a major Toronto-based management consulting firm that has organized successful teambuilding events for a glittering list of clients. They have shared some of their wisdom on what ingredients of events should – and shouldn’t – be included.

The company recommends an integral set of nine teambuilding tips and adds that team events that fail to “build” anything have usually violated several or most of them. They are, in order of priority: 

 Never confuse teambuilding with team entertainment or recreation

  1. Always set realistic time windows (with sufficient wiggle room) to achieve objectives
  2. Budget realistically
  3. Plan the event well in advance – last-minute planning usually fails
  4. Don’t fix dates and venue until a teambuilding supplier has been selected
  5. Make sure the team or activity supplier is fully informed about the team context of the upcoming event
  6. Be clear about overall team objectives
  7. Make sure that all team initiatives are spearheaded by senior management
  8. Get your priorities right – a spectacular and expensive venue is nowhere near as important as a skilled and experienced facilitator.

The whole point about teambuilding, is building

On a more practical level, a coal-face approach to this includes at least the following constituent parts of any programme:

  1. Great team events require outstanding planning and innovative communication. The experience begins with the first touch – the invitation – and continues right through the event and into the workplace.
  2. Inventive and effective pre-event communications and engagement is key and helps to increase buy-in.
  3. Ensure that delegates are involved in the development of the programme; this also helps to increase buy-in.
  4. Every piece of information that touches a delegate should add to the experience. Communication must be delivered in a style that fits the theme running throughout the entire event.
  5. Create a vision of the event theme, colour palette, photo/images, type style, graphic elements etc., so that these elements can be leveraged across all communications.
  6. Delegates often learn by imitation and repetition – every event therefore must have both elements of learning built in.
  7. Add techniques for cementing the correct habit back in the workplace because, when delegates understand what they are meant to be doing (and the context in which they are meant to be doing it) then you have a well-run ship and few misunderstandings.
  8. Build an event registration site, which allows each delegate to register their details for the programme and then to retrieve full information on the programme, such as: venue, agenda, workshops / activities, follow-up distance learning quizzes and much more.
  9. Set up to measure ROI and ensure that a benchmark is established.
  10. Ensure the event communication continues post-event. Learning should have a long tail and be relevant to what is happening day to day.

The planned outcome is: improved staff morale, productivity, quality, creativity and motivation.

It isn’t the playing, it’s the learning that counts

Team building (not to be confused with team recreation) is an important factor in any environment. Its focus is to bring out the best in a team to ensure self-development, positive communication, leadership skills and the ability to work closely together as a team to problem solve.

A poll published in 2013, revealed that only 5% of the people surveyed say team-building programmes are effective. Furthermore: psychologist Campbell Thompson considers team events a waste of time if they’re poorly planned with no clear organizational outcome in mind. There’s little value, he says, in events motivated by “…. got to do an annual away day” or those that fail to consider the team’s specific needs.

Actually, team development is the desired outcome, and this can be achieved by using carefully targeted programmes designed to be experienced by the participants as authentic, relevant and educational.

Educational team exercises are required to raise awareness of organizational and team needs and build knowledge (and new ways of learning) about new concepts.

However, the picture will be incomplete without developmental team-building exercises designed to improve inter- and intrapersonal relationships and increase positive, functional behaviour.

Ensuring teams share project work is important to the process; day-to-day business prevents internal knowledge and expertise being informally communicated in spite of a multitude of channels of communication being available. Team events provide an opportunity to network across the organization through coffee breaks and round table exercises focused on, for example, developing different markets and regions for products, nationally and internationally. Additionally, fun interactive energizers are employed to keep the audience engaged and uplifted.

Strategic ‘team development’ must be the target but it also must be focused, content driven, engaging, relevant and yes, fun too. All work and no play…..

Team dynamic – or not so dynamic?

Before throwing 6 people together and letting them ‘get on with it’, it may prove beneficial to consider the overall dynamic of the team. Each team will require:

·         clear goals for achievement

·         action oriented, open minded individuals

·         members who are able to give and receive feedback

·         open and focused communicators

·         an effective team leader or team members able to share leadership

·         a company culture of team behaviour.

A unique tool that can further support this group dynamic is Motivational Maps. It is a self-perception inventory (not a psychometric test), which highlights the level of motivation and the key motivators, which drive individual and team performance.

Put simply, the overall goal is to improve how the team works together – the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The outcome is a team which is:

  • more flexible and productive
  • focused on group goals
  • understanding of the fact that they may work individually, but need to work together
  • collaborative, communicative and creative
  • a cohesive unit which understands the importance to the company of such activity

There is an i in team – INVESTMENT

Many organizers believe that all team building activities / events should be focused on delivering incremental business. Additionally, building loyalty and embedding values, as well as sparking the creativity of employees and increases in standards are important.

However, it is difficult to measure the return on such activity – these suggestions are proffered:

Examine the facts

  • Identify specific situations (e.g. increased costs, delays etc) that could have been avoided / handled more effectively. What was the adverse impact on business and results?
  • Identify what it cost the company in terms of time, money, opportunity, salaries etc
  • Add in (if possible) the indirect cost e.g. the negative impact on morale, turnover and productivity.

Set clear objectives

  • Establish whether this is a short or long term team and what the timescales are
  • Identify opportunities that can be generated by more cohesive team work and their value
  • Highlight the amount that would be saved or generated, if the team had been able to work together more cohesively.

To invest or not to invest

Use figures from the above examination to:

  • determine time and budget requirements
  • determine what it would be worthwhile to invest in team building
  • compare cost and time benefits to proposed investment.