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Is Teambuilding a Legitimate Training Strategy?

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By Jessica Genereaux

Have you ever told your staff you’re about to take part in a team building program, only to see a few of them rolling their eyes, convulsing in pain or banging their heads against a wall? If so, chances are their last experience probably didn’t go so well. Or maybe they just read another tired tale by a joyless business writer who loathes anything to do with “team building,” and equates her own failed experience with every group event since cavemen teamed up to slay the Mastodon.

What is Team Building?

One thing you never find in anti-team building prose is the writer’s definition for team building. As one recent article would have you believe, team building means “pointless silly games” and “rolling around on the floor.”

Venture Up, a firm established in 1983 and known for innovative team building practices, defines team building simply as “the art of building relationships.” Voluntary participation is crucial to the success of any team building program. “A surefire way to a failed team building event is to require employee participation,” says Mason Lengyel, program director for Venture Up.

Forcing reluctant employees to partake in a team building program is a recipe for disaster. Worse, in my opinion, is when in-house HR staff delivers the team building program, especially if the group is large. It’s too risky. When you are dealing with groups, the herd behavior can work against you. The HR department is part of the corporate family and is too close to fellow staff members to be taken seriously. If the program leader is a flop, or you have a mouthy condescending employee, there goes the program. Down goes the respect for the HR department, as well as the manager who decided to do the program in the first place.

How to Make Your Team Building Event a Success

Outsource. A quality team building experience belongs to the experts. The first step to finding a successful team building provider is to check their client list and call a reference. Can you find a company in your industry? You can also call the firm and ask to talk to someone who experienced a program that interests you. Employees easily engage when activities are innovative and spark curiosity.

Many of today’s games combine technology and learning with measurable results. Gamification in the workplaceFocus Tube Team Building Venture Up has a wide appeal to millennials and continues to gain traction in corporate training. Technology-assisted challenges are disrupting traditional training models and making learning fun. Be aware, however, that some high-tech companies go overboard with tech, failing to realize they are also creating for low-tech staff or employees who can only take tech in low doses. The trend for team-oriented games is leaning toward problem-solving challenges designed to help staff identify problems and improve team performance.

Benefits of Teambuilding

recent Gallup poll reveals that 70 percent of American workers are disengaged. The reason why 75 percent of workers leave their firms is not that they hate their jobs; they flee because they lose motivation. When companies take team building seriously — and have a clear understanding of what team building is in terms of what they want to accomplish — they not only can improve staff relationships but also increase engagement and motivate employees to stay on board. The key is to keep activities fun and innovative, whether teams are in training, meetings or involved in corporate social responsibility events.

Keeping team experiences fresh and new will keep employees’ attention. Scientific American shows a connection between happiness and trying new things:

When you seek novelty, several processes are underway. As you engage in every new activity, you are creating new synaptic connections, which continue to build connections, increasing neural activity, as connections keep building—learning is taking place.

Novelty also triggers dopamine, which not only kicks motivation into high gear but stimulates neurogenesis—the creation of new neurons—and prepares your brain for learning. All you need to do is feed the hunger.

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When the experience is enjoyable on a personal level, managers and the teams become more trusting, allowing barriers to fall. They find stepping out of their comfort zones is not really so uncomfortable. They enjoy relating to each other in new ways and find it easy to be more creative. Trust brings the freedom to communicate openly and share ideas without fearing criticism.

Functional teams are an asset for a company’s optimal success. Research shows 80 percent of team successes result from effective cooperation and communication, while the remaining 20 percent is attributed to the team’s fundamental skills.

Functional teams are the backbone of every successful organization. Building relationships through interactive games will continue to serve forward-thinking firms in an ever-changing diverse workplace. As technology advances at breakneck speed and global companies are shifting the way they do business, the need for human connection has never been greater.