Cooking classes, rock climbing or escape rooms—team-building activities have become an integral part of human resource management. These activities help bring teams together, but to be worth it, they must be well thought out and their results analyzed.
A good team spirit at work is indispensable. “It’s a competitive advantage,” explains Geneviève Lemay, a specialist in team development at Team Building Agency, which offers training in team development and improvement as well as team-building activities. “A cohesive team makes the best decisions. Employees also enjoy their work more, which is an important factor in employee retention and productivity.”
These types of activities reinforce the bond between team members, thanks to their shared experiences as a group. “Trust is at the root of any great team. Cohesion happens when every member of the team knows that they can be honest and transparent without risk: admitting their errors, recognizing that another idea is better than their own, asking for help. Team building speeds up the process of gaining trust,” says Geneviève Lemay.
Another advantage: These activities can help improve a team’s operation by allowing “understanding through experience, and an understanding of oneself and others. Thus, we can better comprehend our own reactions as well as those of our colleagues in a work context,” adds Geneviève Lemay. Team-building activities can help get people talking and allow discussions about issues among the team, reinforce trust, reveal internal dysfunction, etc.
Team-building activities are generally organized outside of the work environment so that employees can be seen in another light. Taking part in an activity with colleagues outside of work in a more informal setting allows other personality traits and skill sets to shine through.
These activities are designed and chosen based on the team leader’s goal: “Increase employee empowerment, innovation, engagement, resolve a problem, etc.,” says Geneviève Lemay. This is a simple way to strengthen ties or challenge your team to join forces and work together; the activities are “useful for developing collective skills, offering your team a positive experience or helping people get to know each other,” explains Louise Charette, a specialist in team building.
Team building is appropriate at any time in a team’s life: In the beginning, when members do not know each other, when a new employee joins the team, to increase team spirit, to work on dysfunction, etc. Therefore, the frequency of these activities depends on each team’s situation.
For the exercise to be useful, you must analyze the team and make a diagnosis. “It’s a mistake to think that one fun activity will solve all your problems,” warns Louise Charrette. “Think of it more like a catalyst. If you do nothing afterward and it’s not part of a more global plan, then there was no point in the initial activity. You have to have a goal in mind, and the results of the exercise should be analyzed so that what you learn can be applied to the workplace.” The activity itself reveals how the team operates, personality traits, strengths and sometimes weaknesses. “Do a follow up to bring the lessons learned into the workplace,” says Geneviève Lemay.
The exercise should be effective and suitable for your team. “First, figure out your goal and then understand who your team is. If they are introverted IT specialists, having them take an improv class would not necessarily be helpful,” explains Geneviève Lemay. Pushing your employees too far outside of their comfort zone risks making them feel incompetent.
The list of proposed activities will change over time. Each has its own function, moment and audience. Here are some examples:
When they are well chosen, carried out in a global framework and analyzed for reinvested in the workplace, team-building activities should be a success. In this digital age where virtual contact often outnumbers face-to-face interactions, these activities allow for improved communication within the team, a greater sense of community, a higher level of engagement and enhance collective results. A strong and united team means better results for the company.
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