Teambuilding activities such as retreats, community service projects, competitive games, and problem-solving challenges can be great tools for companies to strengthen employee relationships, improve communication, break down barriers, re-energize staff, and ultimately improve the work climate and positively impact the bottom line. But those outcomes don’t just happen—they require advanced planning and follow-up. We surveyed four teambuilding professionals for ideas on how to create long-term value from a teambuilding activity. Author and speaker Dave Mitchell owns the organizational consulting firm the Leadership Difference; Jim Willis is president of Executive Edge, which provides teambuilding and organizational change consulting services; Lisa Jennings is chief experience officer at teambuilding company Wildly Different; and Dave Fleming is a humorous motivational speaker and corporate trainer. Here are their tips for extending the value of teambuilding activities.
1. Create a long-term plan. Don’t view a teambuilding activity as a one-time event. “Teams that like each other and get together on a regular basis are more excited about working, because they like the people they work with,” Jennings says. “Do teambuilding on a continuous basis so people know you are committed to it and are committed to them getting to know each other as people, especially in this day and age when we all sit in cubicles and exchange emails and do virtual conferences.”
2. Involve employees as facilitators during the event so they can be the point of contact for continued conversations.
3. Capture the event with photos and videos. “Those pictures and videos are the memories of us bonding together,“ Fleming says. “Relationships are everything at the office. When you have that you can draw back to it.”
4. Schedule a meeting immediately after the event for participants to debrief with one another. Use internal facilitators to lead a discussion driven by questions such as: What was the most interesting or surprising part of this activity? How was the level of cooperation? How will what we learned affect our performance? Are there suggestions for improvement for our next teambuilding activity?
5. Share lessons learned through employee communication channels such as e-newsletters, internal message boards, or bulletin boards. “If you think of the organization as a community, communities have stories. And stories are the things that weave the social fabric of the organization … so you get better results, so that then the organization flourishes and people within the organization flourish,” Willis says.
6. Show that teamwork is important in a variety of ways. “Prioritize teamwork at group meetings and individual performance appraisals. That way you show that building a team is a priority of mine as a leader and that’s always something we discuss. Not just once a year at an all-employee meeting,” Mitchell says.
7. If your teambuilding activity involved competition among groups of employees, consider maintaining those teams throughout the year and encouraging that competition. “People like to win. If you can keep those teams together and get a little friendly rivalry going within your department or company depending on the size, that’s a lot of fun,“ Fleming says. “Sometimes you will need somebody in a tough spot in a business situation and to have that to draw on is really unparalleled for what you can get done.”