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Employee team building is important in offices as the work roles and social roles are less defined than in building sites, factories, hospitals or in the Police, etc. In a typical office everyone just stares at a computer screen all day - they could be zombies or robots. Bonding has to take place at the water cooler, the coffee machine, the kitchen etc. So management get involved to improve team formation and team productivity.
This is management intervening to enhance productivity, perhaps in subtle ways, and monitor individual employees in team situations. It is applied social psychology and can take many forms. Team building incentives might have to be given to help motivate staff. Often these team days are seen as a day off work, or patronising, or even insulting, so care has to be taken.
It is a way of making people work better together, make them more productive and reduce stress - perhaps even making work enjoyable rather than an ordeal of boredom and alarm. Sometimes team building is used on production lines, and factories, teams and quality circles (team-minded checking of outputs) are seen as beneficial.
Team building also reduces staff turnover or churn rate, if done properly.
Team building is used by:
Team building can be anything from games sessions, day events, to retreats over several days. Team assessment is where someone, usually from HR (Human Resources) or a consultant, will attempt to measure any changes in team cohesion or individual performance.
Obviously consultancy can cover almost anything, and so many companies offer services in this area, with a wide range of quality. One famous company in London had experience in round the world yachting - so set up a management advisory service. The glamour and celebrity associations work well when companies are selecting a consultancy.
This can be a difficult area for beginners, and rather than alienate staff, it is better to train human resources and personel staff. What might seem like a good idea - a visit to a brwery - might cause disatser. See Risks below.
Team building courses are available for HR and personnel staff. This will give them plenty of team building ideas and also provide a framework for analytics, reporting and measurement of any changes in team and staff productivity and morale.
Team building is only used in times of expanding, or at least stable, workforce numbers. In a recession people are being fired, teams are being removed or downsized, so the psychological interventions are more to do with making the people still surviving work harder for less reward. This means the management can go back to old-fashioned threats.
One of the aims of team building is to encourage team members to spend some relaxed time together. This means they might resolve any issues in an easy way and avoid confrontation. The simple act of breaking bread (or having a drink) can mean that strangers become friends or at least tolerate each other a bit better. So it is a win-win situation for management. See Risks below.
Size of Company
This is why social activities are more organised and useful at larger companies; they have better HR departments.
Small companies often don't even have anyone responsible for staff affairs, they just recruit when they are need someone.
This is why it is easy to grow a company from new to 20 or so employees, then things get difficult.
People in new companies are excited by the new ideas and challenge of starting out. So teams will form naturally. However this will not last very long.
Later on teams don't naturally form, and some management has to be done to keep the staff running smoothly. Small friendship circles will naturally form into groups, but you might get cliques which is also bad. People will not naturally interact with people from other departments or job types, so simple social team building can be used to get people to do this.
Above: 'Offline' staff party in relaxed setting can help group bonding - even kids can come along
Games provide group bonding sessions. Company sponsored fun activities to get to know team members (sometimes intending also to inspire creativity). This can be quite serious, such as football or hockey teams competing with other companie sin a league. Or it could be an intra company league.
Team Building and group bonding covers a very wide range of activities, from games to quizzes, or even competitions, which are all aimed at improving team performance. Some are more work-orientated such as specific tasks that are monitored and almost like tests.
Above: police acting as a team, which needs plenty of training. The rioters are also acting as a team - they will be bonded by this activity. Mock conflict situations or challenges are very good team building activities
Personal development activities - individual programs given to groups (sometimes physically challenging). These are blending a bit with training but are a lot more relaxed.
Team development exercises - this is an ambiguous area as it is common to have actual physical exercises in the day schedule. This is a great idea as this will warm up the staff and also make for bonding. Very popular in Asia, where the schools also have this from an early age ('mass dancing'). People usually love this, even overweight and body-shy individuals.
Exercises might also be group tests and training sessions.
Problem Solving and Decision Making Exercises
These are very common as they match the kind of thinking the employers want.
Can be abstract - brain teasers and puzzles that have to be solved by a team - or challenges - sometimes outdoors. Build a cabin from bits and pieces, etc.
One example might be - make up a new corporate slogan and brand - this will get everyone thinking positively about the current mission statement of the company, and get the ideas going in the right direction.
Sports are often a simple and free way to build a team. Softball in the park, football, tennis tournaments, ping pong, all can be used to make people happy. Unless they hate sports of course.
Perhaps an art gallery visit is a good idea, if you have any design or art related activities. Otherwise trips to the seaside, parks, etc, can be fun.
In team building, the individuals will usually have to swap roles, change roles, so they do not choose roles in their comfort zone. The idea is to have a bit of stress to provide a challenge and get people to think outside the box.
This is more difficult as unless every breakfast and lunch time is a mass exercise session (which does happen in mnodern companies such as B&Q and Homebase) it is hard to keep up the pace.
Sports are generally free or low costs. Trips to bars and restaurants are not. Quizzes, contests, etc are free.
They also have better group bonding effects. Restaurants can be a bit daunting for some people if they do not usually eat out.
Careful observation by experts is needed, in a non-obtrusive way. Video is common.
Then a psychological analysis of team roles, and how different people adapt to roles, can be provided.
Social activities - such as meals out, or drinks sessions down the pub or club - can work well but have high risk as they are free-form. Imagine the Christmas Party but every month - lust, violence, competition, gossip - can be risky.
Or when drunk, even slightly, people start to attack their work arrangements or bosses. This can be contained if they are only moaning to their line manager, but can risk escalation. Any particularly aggressive characters have to be monitored... if possible.
There is also a risk from disaffected people who might see imposed from above team building as a confidence trick to ensure compliance.
This is primarily a problem of recruitment, as disruptive people are basically in the wrong job. A large organisation can move people around, but low paying jobs do not inspire much loyalty.
See also Team Building Directory