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Teambuilding – does it work?

Trust falls, overly corporate boardroom activities, raft building, awkward ice breaker activities – we’ve all seen our fair share of team development activities done badly. We get forced into uncomfortable scenarios and are made to complete cliché activities, all in the name of ‘teambuilding’. But what is teambuilding, and does it actually work?

Teambuilding is defined as:

‘A management technique used for improving the productivity and performance of the workforce through various activities. The activities usually involve skills, analysis and observation, for forming strong and capable teams. With the motivation being to achieve the organisations vision and objectives.’

Sounds great doesn’t it? But then again, like most definitions, this is a ‘perfect world’ scenario, when in reality, a large number of teambuilding activities don’t even come close to achieving any of this.

This raises the question, are teambuilding activities worth it and do they actually work? Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer, as it depends on the company, the team, the budget, the culture and of course…the activity.

Anything that has the goal of developing a team in any way, whether it be an event, a strategy, or a longer term commitment, MUST be a purposeful journey with clear intentions highlighted from the outset. Simply deciding to send your team on a teambuilding day, rope climbing and paintballing, isn’t going to provide much organisational value, especially if there have been no outcome metrics put in place from the outset.

I promise this article isn’t just about shitting on teambuilding activities, because they can be incredibly valuable, providing certain considerations are made and a thorough and well thought out strategy has been implemented, encompassing the activities themselves.

There are 5 simple considerations to think about to ensure teambuilding activities have tangible benefits to both the individuals taking part, and the wider business as a whole:

- Defining your objectives

- Choosing your metrics

- Analysing the data

- Communicating the results

- Following up

Defining the objectives of the teambuilding activities you do with your team should be a priority. It is important that you have a clear idea of what you want the team (and the company) to achieve as a result of the event taking place, as well as the metrics you intend to use to measure it.

Once you have your outcomes you need to establish how these outcomes will positively impact any success indicators you have set. Some common objectives of teambuilding activities include more creative thinking, better team cohesion and better communication skills, and whilst these are all great objectives, you still need to highlight what reaching these objectives means for your business, and make sure that they align with overall organisational objectives which will then inform what activities are best suited to achieve that result.

Once you have outlined your objectives, you can begin to look at the metrics you want to use to help you efficiently evaluate the impact of the event on your success indicators. Everyone’s success indicators are different, which means the metrics will be different as well. The metrics will serve as easily quantifiable indicators that should highlight the success (or failure…I’m looking at you raft builders) of your teambuilding attempts.

The metrics you use can be separated to make them easier to analyse, first we have process metrics, which are things such as the functionality of the team, task engagement, office cohesion and communication, then there are outcome metrics, which are the tangible results of the work that the team does, so things such as quality of work, customer satisfaction levels, revenue and task efficiency. There are many metrics that you can use, so you need to ensure you pick the ones that are relevant to the needs of your team and your business, and of course, make sure they are measurable and realistic.

If you succeeded in getting your metrics right, there should be a good amount of data to analyse in the follow up to the event or activity taking place. It is wise to use a combination of different methods and tools to capture the true value of the activity. You need to focus on collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, so that you get a full picture of how things went. Things like questionnaires and surveys are a simple and effective way of gathering feedback from the team members that took part, along with other stakeholders. Then there are focus groups and interviews which provide much more detailed analysis, albeit more time consuming.

Data can also be collected passively through observation and assessment, which are more direct and objective, giving incredibly valuable data and insight, and a great way of measuring both behaviour and performance. Once the data has been collected it can then be analysed using various formats, including graphs, charts, or statistical documents which will help to highlight key findings and summarise the data as a whole. This can then be compared with the pre defined expectations to measure the impact and effectiveness of the activity or event.

Once the data has been analysed, results must then be shared with the team and other relevant stakeholders. The data should be shared in a concise and easy to digest format, producing a compelling justification for the event taking place, highlighting the benefits on productivity, and progress towards other organisational goals. It not only important to highlight the strengths, but also the areas of improvement, so that future events can be more impactful and continue to have a positive impact on the teams taking part.

Presentations and informal team meetings are a great way to share the data, as it gives people the opportunity to discuss the results and provide further insight where required. Following on from the data being shared, you will then be in a good position to implement follow up activities, events and strategies, forming part of a longer term action plan. By assigning roles and responsibilities to team members you can ensure that your teambuilding efforts remain impactful and engaging, in a way that benefits the company and the people within it.

So in a nut shell, have clear objectives, choose metrics that are important to the business, make sure the data is analysed, communicate the findings, have a strategy in place for follow up initiatives to keep the ball rolling, and most importantly…avoid the stuffy corporate box ticking stuff!
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