There’s something about casual clothes, a novel location and a shared activity that can increase connection among colleagues and actually boost workplace engagement. If done well, the corporate off-site or team-building event helps grow a collaborative work culture, improve problem solving and increase meaningful communication among colleagues.
“People often have an office face and a different persona away from the office,” observes Kristie Ferriell Beck, Vice President, Human Resources for Idahoan Foods. “With a more relaxed setting, team-building events allow colleagues to forge new relationships with people they might not otherwise meet and create shared experiences that enhance interaction back at work,” she says.
Together is the thing
The most successful team-building events focus on genuine inclusiveness with activities and settings where everyone can participate and feel comfortable — probably not the typical golf outing of yesteryear.
“How an organization envisions and organizes off-site and team-building events is often seen today as a reflection of how progressive the organization is,” explains Christine Geissler, Chief Human Resources Officer and Regional Vice President for Kerry North America.
“My team was brainstorming ideas recently for potential employee outings that included everything from zip lining to ax throwing,” Ferriell Beck adds. “Regardless of the specific activity being considered, the clear theme was that people were very interested in simply doing something together.”
In evaluating team-building options, ask these critical questions.
What’s our goal for the event? Such as deepening relationships within a business unit, building cross-functional connections or introducing new ways of working.
Is it inclusive: can everyone participate?
Is the focus on bonding rather than competition?
Will it stimulate creative thinking and help recharge and refresh team members?
“Over the course of an off-site, you might learn about a new project you haven’t been involved in but have a beneficial perspective to share,” Ferriell Beck observes. “Or, gain access to mentors or colleagues you wouldn’t normally meet. Those relationships can be incredibly effective at driving cross-functional and inter-departmental collaboration.”
Getting to know someone outside of work and learning about their interests, hobbies and family can also build greater understanding and foster a more inclusive workplace. “When employees build close relationships with colleagues, it can drive engagement, retention and better business results,” Ferriell Beck says.
At Idahoan, team members were recently invited to the premier of the company’s Cheese Across America advertising campaign. “We went to a local movie theater where everyone was treated to popcorn and soda, learned how the commercial was built and saw it before it was rolled out across the country,” Ferriell Beck explains. “We all participated in a unique experience and were able to share a sense of pride and passion about where we work.”
How, when and why
In addition to the what of team-building, savvy planners give a lot of consideration to the how. Although it’s impossible to satisfy everyone every time, offering a range of activities and times can help. Events immediately after work, for example, may not be possible for parents who need to pick up children or ferry them to evening activities.
“At Kerry, we see building choice into the event as a great way for people to connect in ways that work best for them,” Geissler says.
Idahoan sometimes includes family too. “We still accomplish our team-building goals and enhance team member relationships while also taking the pressure off having to get home right away and enabling family members to get to know the colleagues their loved ones are with every day,” Ferriell Beck explains.
Connecting to give back
Both Geissler and Ferriell Beck are big fans of team-building opportunities that make a difference in the local community. Kerry colleagues participate in the United Way Day of Caring that gets hundreds of employees out of the office for a day working together in new ways, such as painting houses, planting gardens and making meals. “We not only work in teams toward a shared goal,” Geissler explains. “We also share the reward of giving back.”
Community service resonates especially well with millennial members, according to Ferriell Beck. “Volunteering is an outstanding way for teams to work together, especially as a food company where we can also donate to food banks and help nourish people in hands-on ways,” Ferriell Beck adds.
Successful team-building events reflect a company’s values, build bridges and deepen work relationships that make individuals and the organization stronger.