Building a Healthy Team

There’s an old African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

In two short sentences, it perfectly captures the importance of teamwork. As an HR professional, you already know how important teamwork is to company culture and productivity. Teamwork inspires cooperation, brings your people together to pursue a common goal (your organization’s success), and fosters engagement, productivity, and loyalty. 

The importance of team building

Teamwork, though, doesn’t always happen on its own. Sometimes employees need support or the opportunity to form bonds that create stronger teamwork. This is where team building comes in. Team building helps to balance the five core elements of a health team: leadership, roles, goals, policies, procedures, and relationships. Exercises and workshops can help managers and employees strengthen interactive skills and develop more effective communication and collaboration. 

Team building exercises and workshops vary widely, from the tried-and-true (ropes courses and retreats) and the fun (scavenger hunts and sketch comedy) to the absurd (costumed wrestling matches). When you are taking time out of the workday for team building exercises, though, it’s important to ensure your teams and your organization are getting the most value from your investment. How? This article shares some tips to guide selecting and planning team building activities. 

Focus on the team-building mission

The key to success is getting very clear on what you want to achieve with team building. This can help you, your colleagues, and the participants separate true team-building activities from events that are really more about entertainment or “company fun.” 

True team-building events help participants develop skills that improve collaboration or address difficulties that the team may be facing. Effective training includes insights on how to communicate better, manage or resolve conflict, and understand what skills and strengths each team member brings to the group. HR professionals can help by assessing a team’s needs through a diagnostic lens. This clarity can help to guide the selection of an appropriate activity to address real needs. 

Evaluate the team-building vendor

The next step is to select a vendor that will lead the team-building activity. Here it’s important to be discerning, too. Many organizations are sold on the fun aspect of the activity, but the value is in tying the lessons or skills of the event back to the realities of your workplace. Evaluate the facilitator’s skills and experience. Ask for outcomes from other organizations like yours, if available.  

Provide any information the facilitator needs to customize the team building to your team’s specific needs. In addition, it can be effective to ensure leaders and managers champion the activity. Even better, they can participate for a truly powerful shared experience.

Apply lessons to the workplace

A skilled facilitator will be able to guide participants in connecting the skills they develop back to the workplace. By planning ahead, you can augment the strength of these takeaways with some additional steps: 

  • Measure the team building’s effectiveness by tracking outcomes against the goals you and the organization set for the activity
  • Incorporate skills into performance reviews. For example, if the focus was on collaboration, assess whether employees are now bringing more colleagues into planning projects or seeking the expertise of specific departments as input. 

Be realistic about results

A single half-day or full-day session is not going to transform your team, so it’s important to be realistic. Specifics identified during the activity, though, can receive additional support if needed. For example, if employees pinpointed problems with meeting culture, a skilled facilitator can recommend additional coaching or resources to address this need. 

Embracing team building as an important step on the journey to better teamwork can help participants, managers, and leaders get more from it. 

What has your organization learned about planning team building? How have lessons from team-building activities improved your organization? 

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