The fundamentals of team building are about bringing people together by encouraging teamwork and collaboration through communication. The belief is that by bringing employees out of their usual working environment into a different setting this will allow them to connect in a new way and on another level.

Furthermore, through a series of planned bonding events that are to be considered motivational and fun, the fostering of genuine connections and deeper discussions are designed to facilitate the very most important reason for team building – results.

But do team building events work?

The stigma of the term ‘team building’ often leads to a roll of the eyes as you envision freezing in a remote lake saving a sinking barrel, trying your hand at archery, herding ducks around a field or navigating the use of an over-sized space hopper in the hope you don’t do your back in.

Team building, however, can certainly be fun, motivating, social, inspiring, unique and entertaining.

You can be forgiven for wondering whether part of the problem is that we label an activity as ‘team building’ when in reality what we are doing is simply spending time away from the work place getting to know one another better. But maybe this is exactly what is needed? A study released by the University of Phoenix found that three quarters (70%) of respondents stated that they felt part of a dysfunctional team. Does this really have to be done in the obvious way we are all so used to?

Team building days should be a key consideration for any business that is looking to improve the communication and overall morale of its employees. Officevibe reported that of those employees who have a high engagement level 87% are less likely to leave a company than those with low engagement. Conducting activities off-site creates the ideal opportunity for co-workers to become more motivated as a group. Furthermore, it can even help to break down personal and internal political boundaries that may be established.

Corporate bonding events can generate a new perspective on colleagues as individuals, more than any networking at an internal Corporate Event. It can also provide a clear understanding of the employee’s attitudes as a whole. Strengthening 1:1 relationships is an easily achievable outcome by conducting such an event, but do they truly positively contribute towards team dynamics back in the office? Less than one in five (18%) workers believe that the opportunity to bond outside of work improves their working relationships.

Let’s not forget the aforementioned reason for conducting team building – results. So, this raises the question “are we taking the right approach to achieve our aim?”

Let’s shift our attention to training or development events. Their first step is to identify a specific need for knowledge, skills and/or abilities, from which they then design an education around developing these. After the initial training or session, follow-ups are often made, or it may be a series of events in order to progress knowledge. Why do we not take the same approach with our team building events? Can we really expect a single day or two out the office to change an entire team dynamic with instant and lasting effect?

Arguably it may have some small short-term effects, but research suggests in general it doesn’t do much long term. We all want our team to be more productive, and if research conducted by Gallup is anything to go by on average work groups are 50% less productive and 44% less profitable when team dynamics are poor.

Perhaps instead we need to consider more regular team building events, creating the ‘little and often’ effect to maintain momentum in results.

This doesn’t mean you have to exclusively hire out a venue each quarter and invest in a day of activities culminating in the quarterly off-site egg and spoon race. It can be conducted locally, or even in the offices itself – so long as it’s making a conscious effort and not riding off the back of a previous away day some countless months prior. Choices and variety are there. Fore example, you can stay close to your office in London or branch out to the Home Counties – Essex, Surrey or Kent for example.

Alternatively, instead of a focus on ‘team building’ we could focus on ‘skill building’ or ‘knowledge building’. In other words, away days can focus on live work issues or challenges, which are based around team dynamic and relationships. A lack of collaboration or ineffective communication has been linked to 86 per cent of all workplace failures. Using this as an example issue, your ‘team building’ day would shift into a ‘communication day’ with selected activities designed to increase communication specifically.

Naturally friendships would also develop during these events through natural cause, rather than feeling forced to ‘bond’. Research claiming that having a close friend at work can increase engagement by 50 per cent. Forcing people to participate in activities they don’t like or to be ‘friends’ isn’t team building, it’s coercion, and likely to produce the opposite effect intended.

An event that has real, lasting value will be one that is designed and facilitated well. It will get at what’s really blocking the team from delivering on its full potential – whether those blockers are task-based, strategy-based, process-based, capacity-based or relational; whether they’re interpersonal or external.

The time away from the office will help the team be more than the sum of its parts. It will determine the extent to which ‘teaming’ is necessary to deliver optimal value.

The reality, too, is that any successful intervention will take place over a period of time. It’s generally foolish to expect a meaningful and sustained shift in an individual’s behaviour, mind-set and performance in a single day. Talk to us at Hippo if you are considering holding a Team Building event. We are more than just an end-to-end Event Management agency – our aim is to ensure you get the maximum out of your events as a whole.

To discuss how Hippo can assist with your event organisation, please contact us – we’re here to help. Hippo.