Full team ahead

Often dreaded by staff, workplace events are more productive when part of a consistent strategy to create a strong corporate culture, and can have positive financial benefits too. By Ed Drayton.

The words “teambuilding” and “motivation” are guaranteed to invoke a sense of impending doom in even the most dedicated employee, conjuring up mental images of excruciating embarrassment from the television series The Office.

But the fact remains that your workforce is a team, and a team only performs well if everyone is equally committed to the end result. As well as carrying out his or her particular role, each person needs to know why it needs to be done in a certain way, and how it complements the work other people in their team are doing.

Ally this to the fact that companies are becoming increasingly “virtual”, with the majority of internal messages communicated via single-word e-mails, it becomes apparent why businesses rely on motivation and teambuilding events. Love them or loathe them, they can be key to building a strong culture of communication, which in turn can lead to increased business success.

Essential oil
“Teambuilding programmes have proved to be valuable to businesses across the world for years,” says Sledge sales and marketing director Ian Irving. “They are necessary for a variety of reasons, such as rebuilding morale, internal communications, rewards and recognition, or purely as a way of putting fun in the workplace. Whatever the sector or type of company, people collaborating effectively is the means by which productivity is maximised and commercial value added. Teambuilding events lubricate these processes.”

Contented staff who understand their roles, have a sense of place and feel that the company believes in them will perform better and more consistently, and probably stay with the company longer. But, most importantly, they will produce a major bottom-line benefit.

A recent report by interactive events company Crystal Interactive, entitled The Human Touch, backs this up. Based on a survey of over 100 senior managers in leading UK companies, it suggests feeling part of a team comes ahead of pay, bonuses and flexible working in terms of its impact on employee morale.

The report goes on to state that companies which create a good sense of team spirit by talking to and listening to their staff are more profitable, generate far more new ideas from their employees and can cut their staff churn rate by almost half. The last two alone add up to a saving of almost £1,000 per employee each year.

Grass Roots event services director Mark Taylor echoes this: “High-performing teams produce superior results. Teambuilding and other motivational events help individuals get a more rounded view of their colleagues. Good teambuilding events open people’s eyes as to what can be achieved when they work together, and, conversely, how difficult it is to be successful when there is disunity or discord.”

Hidden treasure
The short-term benefits of these events can be as simple as morale boosting and a general rise in energy levels. But, in the longer term, they can help identify future leaders, pinpoint people who might work well together on certain projects, and unlock skills and ambitions that can be realised in differ- ent parts of the business. The ultimate return is in higher levels of productivity and staff loyalty.

T-Mobile head of organisation development and change management Sandy Taylor believes well-designed events are vital morale- boosting tools that can help improve team effectiveness. “Motivational events allow companies to develop a sense of clarity around how teams are working, what is being done and with what support. Only by taking a step back to look at these processes can companies develop more effective and efficient team practices,” she says. “The best events have a clear purpose and are designed to involve the participants – as well as providing a fun environment, they have a strong business context.”

Getting the event right is the single most important way of beating what some see as the “cringe” factor, and this is all down to careful planning, understanding • objectives and understanding audiences.

“To get the most out of teambuilding events, it is vital staff members are involved in the original ‘design’ of the event – to show that their opinions are valuable to the company, as well as increasing the chance that they will use the event for their own personal benefit as well as the company’s,” says Taylor.

After effects
For Imagination client services director Mike Macleod, planning a successful event is about understanding what you want to get out of it. “When tailoring an event to meet specific needs, it’s important to first understand what success will look and feel like once the intervention has taken place,” he says.

“What does the leadership of the business want people to think and do differently beyond the event? With this as your starting point, a commitment to make changes and an identified budget, you are equipped to create the most inspired, relevant and effective event.”

The best events are often when internal experts work with external specialists. “The internal team brings knowledge of the organisation,” says Macleod. “The external team can and should challenge the norm, by providing a breadth of experience gained from other clients and other sectors. It can be difficult to break the mould from within, whereas the external agency is given more artistic freedom to push the organisation.”

However, simply holding the odd motivation and teambuilding event is not going to be enough, warns Crystal Interactive director Chris Elmitt. “Such events have their place, but companies should take a much closer look at how they interact with staff on an ongoing basis. If you host a one-off event, but neglect to actually treat your staff like part of the team the rest of the time – by responding to their e-mails, sharing information, seeking their opinions – they will quickly see the event as the gimmick it obviously is.”

Whether you’re planning an adrenaline-fuelled action day, offering tickets to a sporting event, or setting up an extravagant party, if you really want to improve the motivation and team spirit within your company, and get all the bottom-line benefits that come with this, the occasion needs to be part of an overall motivational programme which covers all your regular events. By doing this you are showing your staff you are serious, and giving them the opportunity to feel listened to and valued. If their concerns, issues and ideas are allowed to come out into the open, the end result will be a more cohesive, better-motivated workforce.

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