It’s pretty well understood by now that the most successful companies are those with a strong identity and a sense of culture. Businesses need a strong vision and mandate to forge their identity and culture. But they also require a sense of community and shared purpose.
Achieving these things requires effective team-building. Of course, even the term “team-building” is enough to make employees’ eyes roll. That’s usually because company leadership settles for tired old exercises or uninspired venues. Or sometimes they forget to connect the dots between team-building events and the company’s mission: like bringing people together and inspiring new ideas and ways of thinking.
Let’s look at the value that quarterly team-building events can bring to your organization. Then, we’ll try to get the gears turning on some memorable and productive events you can put together for your own company or nonprofit.
What Does Team-Building Accomplish?
It’s important to remember that workplace demographics are shifting rapidly. By 2025, millennials will represent around three-quarters of the worldwide workforce. This changing of the guard also means a shift in cultural priorities.
More so than previous generations, millennials are motivated to do their best work for organizations with strong values, a clear mission, and a sense of ethical responsibility. Polling says a probable majority of millennials would take a pay cut if it meant finding employment at a company that has these things.
However, most workplaces are still diverse today, generationally speaking. And you needn’t be a millennial to reap the benefits of team-building events. The right team-building events can:
- Help bring people together within an organization no matter their seniority or role
- Provide a venue for employees to reflect on company values and ratify new ones
- Offer a fresh environment that helps bring forth creative new ideas and company goals
- Break down communication barriers that stifled productivity or efficiency
- Create an improved team-wide and even company-wide rapport
The problem with company culture, synergy, creativity, teamwork, and morale is that many managers and CEOs just expect these things to develop by themselves — or to materialize overnight. Team synergy must be developed and the company culture must be cultivated.
One-off team-building events every year make for excellent photo ops, but they’re not the same as investing in your culture year-round with ongoing team-building events. Companies that do this well have a lot to gain from what can be a very modest investment.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the practical benefits of building a strong culture through team-building.
What Are the Benefits of a Strong Workplace Culture?
Most of us spend a huge number of our waking hours in the workplace. These places can’t be fun all the time, of course, but they do have to be comfortable, engaging, and exciting for everybody involved.
Regular team-building events help put team members at ease with one another, give them something to look forward to that punctuates the work routine, and reinforce the idea that the company is invested in them as people and comrades rather than just assets.
There are lots of ways that a strong sense of community and culture benefits companies and other organizations. Here’s a look at several of them:
- Improves employee retention: With team-building a regular part of vibrant company culture, employees will come to feel more at home in the workplace, be more invested in the company’s success, and be more willing to give their best efforts over the long haul.
- Attracts fresh talent: One of the newest and most effective PR exercises sees companies promoting their cultures as a way to attract new customers and job applicants alike. Companies with incredible work environments, regular recreational outings and volunteer opportunities for employees, and other employee benefits worth bragging about will have no trouble filling job vacancies and currying goodwill with customers.
- Improves working relationships: Companies cannot succeed if they do not promote peer support. Workplaces must be collaborative and friendly above all. Effective team-building makes employees more approachable and more aware of each other’s strengths and potential weaknesses, and makes it more likely that employees reach out to one another in times of need.
- Good social relationships = better health: Workplaces are where we develop some of our most important social relationships. And yet, without a healthy and strong sense of culture and community, even our physical health can suffer. “Poor social relationships” are known to contribute to early death and many other less-severe health conditions.
For a lot of companies, “company culture” means posting some core values around the workplace and bleating about “innovation.” Core values and innovation are important parts of any organization’s culture. But they’re also living, breathing ideas that can and should, be revisited regularly.
What better way to do this than with a team-building event where employees can cut loose with one another a little, enjoy some professionally catered foods and spirits, speak like human beings, and hammer out a set of values that’s compelling and makes sense inside the workplace or outside of it? This is just one form a team-building event might take.
Ideas for Out-of-the-Box Team-Building Events
For the best team-building results, organizations should include employees as much as possible in choosing the venue, the time, and the nature of the event. Even so, there are some best practices to keep in mind and some ideas that tend to resonate better than others.
One survey by Nulab sought to uncover which types of team-building events are most widely enjoyed and which are most successful in cultivating stronger workplace engagement. Here’s what they found:
- Quarterly team-building events were more favorable than any other time interval.
- The most enjoyable work-sponsored and/or team-building events involve enjoying alcohol with co-workers in a comfortable, low-pressure setting.
- Employees rated company retreats, volunteer opportunities, and food-related events as the most “effective” at improving morale, offering bonding opportunities, and boosting the organization’s sense of community.
- The least favorable team-bonding events involved “ice-breaker” questions and personality tests.
There are several misconceptions around team-building events — including that they must be rigorously structured or that they have to culminate in some kind of “deliverable.” They don’t have to do either of these things.
Have you ever been told not to bring your work to the dinner table? People naturally want to talk about the interesting problems they’re helping to solve at work or get people’s feedback on potential new projects. Providing the means for employees to engage with one another naturally, outside the confines of the office, helps people let their guard down and get to know the “real” people they work with. It creates opportunities for working relationships to blossom and fresh new ideas to percolate.
We’re not talking about letting your hair down and dancing on tables. No matter the venue you choose, minimum levels of decorum are still expected at work-sponsored events. Nevertheless, these quarterly outings are a great way to “break the ice” without all the forced little rituals and games — and make sure it stays “broken.”
So what kinds of events and venues work best? There are all kinds of options, and you’re limited only by your imagination. If you choose something active, make sure it’s safe and inclusive. Laser tag and go-karting are both fun, exciting, and accessible without being overly competitive. Don’t choose anything that might intimidate people from attending.
Some companies use visiting speakers or hands-on workshops to turn team-building events into collaborative learning experiences. Events like these promote creativity and even help spark new subject matter interest and cross-training potential among employees.
Of course, as we’ve mentioned, some of the events that enjoy the best reception from employees are little more than safe, fun nights out at a local happy hour or First Friday. Volunteer days away from the office are also some of the best-received and most-talked-about events employees report taking part in. They’re also great PR opportunities and excellent ways to give back.
Take Culture to the Next Level With Team-Building
Team-building can be as structured or as unstructured as you like. And when you have another event every quarter instead of annually, you get to switch up the format and the location much more frequently for more well-rounded employee experience. There’s a lot to gain and a few ways to get it wrong, which makes this the perfect time to dive in and give it a shot.