Does your company get enough out of your team building?
It can be immediately difficult to give a clear answer. When you think back on your last team building, you can hopefully confirm that you had a fun day. Maybe you got the opportunity to experience each other - the colleagues - from a slightly different side than you usually do?
That in itself is a good thing. Especially while the event is on. Still, most companies want to achieve a more long-term effect of team building activities. An effect of team building which is tangible in the daily work.
But can team building at all improve how we work together and the product or service a company provides to its customers?
Is it a realistic expectation of the effect of team building? And how can your company optimize the impact of team building?
The questions you will get answers to in this article.
To become wiser about the real effect of team building, we have appointed Lars Davidsen, associate professor and project manager at the Aarhus Business Academy. He is behind the research report "Teambuilding - What effect?".
“Basically, most companies like to measure and weigh their investments. So if companies spend x number of kroner on team building, for example, they also want to know what the dividend is. The problem is just that team building is about some sizes that are difficult to quantify: the social dimension in the workplace, culture building, a sense of cooperation and the like, ”says Lars Davidsen.
To gather knowledge about team building, Lars Davidsen has, among other things, interviewed managers and employees at Danish companies as well as some of the country's leading team building organizers.
One of the big questions is: What characterizes the team building that has a long-lasting and concrete effect? The team building that actually helps employees to solve everyday work tasks better or more efficiently.
In his research, Lars Davidsen has learned that companies must focus on three aspects in particular if they want to achieve the greatest possible effect of team building:
“The two basic components of team building should be exercises and theory. The exercises must be based on the theory and the theory must be valid. These are the first two things that companies need to be aware of when planning team building. The last point deals with the connection between the exercises and the employees' specific work tasks and challenges that they face in their daily lives, ”says Lars Davidsen.
When theory, practice and concrete work tasks go up in a higher unit, the participants get by far the greatest effect of team building. If successful, companies can largely afford to have a hope that learning is transferred from team building to the right work.
This is the process that Lars Davidsen in his research project calls a “learning transfer” between team building and everyday life. Learning transfer is exactly what companies need to focus on if team building is to have an effect.
However, it is far from a matter of course that team building meets the aforementioned criteria: Theory, practice and specific work tasks.
If you have not agreed otherwise in advance, the team building organizer will often plan fun and popular activities. It is just not necessarily the activities that ensure the greatest learning transfer.
Therefore, the call from Lars Davidsen is that companies must make clear demands on the team building supplier.
“The vendor will often choose an activity that the participants think is fun. The thinking within the industry is probably a bit that if the participants are having fun, then the team building activity is a success. But I think you as a company have to make some demands on the supplier. It is appropriate to ask how an exercise prepares the participants' ability to collaborate, and what theory the exercise is based on, ”says Lars Davidsen.
He points out that the team building market has grown big and the suppliers are very different in their working methods.
Roughly speaking, any primary school teacher or scout leader who likes to be out in nature can start offering team building. Of course I say that a bit in jest, but that's actually the case. Or put another way: Pizza baking or layer cake decorating is probably a lot of fun, but what is the evidence that it can help your business? There must be some theory behind it, ”says Lars Davidsen.
To increase the effect of team building, it is about going methodically to the planning itself.
In his research report “Teambuilding - What an effect” Lars Davidsen recommends a planning model based on six points. He calls the model "The Six P's of Planning":
Lars Davidsen especially emphasizes the importance of follow-up. The insights and methods that the team building exercises bring with them must be implemented in everyday life. This phase requires an ongoing dialogue between management and employees.
Therefore, team building must last beyond the days that the exercises last.
“Many of the team building instructors I have talked to say that when they have to agree on a price with the companies, and the companies think it is a little too expensive, it is usually the follow-up meeting that is cut off. And it's somewhere just too stupid. It will often be at the follow-up meeting that the participants get to talk about what they learned for team building and how they can build a bridge from the exercises to reality, ”says Lars Davidsen.
Teambuilding should be something that employees look forward to. For example, there may be some delicious food on the program. Catering is just one of the things that actually helps you achieve a good result.
Unfortunately, it is far from always the case that we look forward to team building. Some employees do not even like team building, which is detrimental to the team building activities having any positive effect in the long run.
“Teambuilding does not have an unconditionally good reputation. One must keep in mind that when team building began to emerge back in the 80s and 90s, it was, for example, in the form of rabbit killing courses or such some trips out into nature where the participants did not get any food. There was an idea that the harder or more extreme the better. Today, many employees get a stomach ache when they hear the word team building. You instinctively become afraid of falling through, ”explains Lars Davidsen.
In his research work with team building, Lars Davidsen has found that cross-border activities have a counterproductive effect.
Instead, he recommends that organizers provide attendees with plenty of information in advance. Thus, everyone feels safe when they show up and they are ready to actively participate and make the most of the day.
“I have found that you create greater joy and greater commitment around team building if you inform the participants about the course of the day. Avoid many surprises and avoid cross-border experiences. It is simply not the right way forward if you want to achieve the long-term effect of your team building activities, ”says Lars Davidsen, associate professor and project manager at Erhvervsakademi Aarhus.
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