Change in the corporate environment never stops and there are many types of change presenting challenges for managements.
Advances in technology challenge previous levels of staff performance, while mergers and restructuring can create a tumultuous environment in which employees are still expected to perform at optimum levels. Transitional periods of uncertainty can affect employees negatively.
While some staff may become so alienated that they choose to leave, which in turn creates recruitment and training problems, others may stay and become more destructive to a productive workplace. They may become apathetic or even actively resist change.
Either way, they are transformed from an asset into a liability.
To counteract these divisive and disruptive tendencies, more companies are turning toward programmes and activities that help improve internal staff communication and raise employees’ understanding of their company’s business strategy and philosophy.
Incorporating successful teambuilding exercises into corporate events is a job for professionals. Creative teambuilding provides the required educational content with the added bonus of colour and movement.
David Simpson, director of Hong Kong-based Team Building Asia, believes the benefits of a structured teambuilding programme are demonstrable and says that the use of a reputable and creative teambuilding company is mandatory.
“The real benefit in teambuilding is to create an experience where participants see the value of working more effectively together and that the activity has a strong and meaningful back-to-work application,” says Simpson.
“Teambuilding companies need to understand each client’s business model of performance and how they can add value to this with customised teambuilding programmes. For example, if a company needs all employees to understand and ‘live’ the company values, then a teambuilding programme must include activities that give life to these values and allow participants to understand them in the context of themselves, the team and the organisation. This will enable them to assimilate the values more readily and make them part of their work-related behaviour.”
The need for this approach becomes obvious when, according to Chris Gay from US-based Right Management Consultants, about two-thirds of employees do not know or understand their employer’s business strategy and are not engaged in their jobs.
Gay points out that this leads to lower productivity and product quality, more customer complaints and higher staff turnover. Management’s effective communication of the business vision to employees is one of the key differences between creating engaged and
Engagement is accelerated by a true sense of belonging and confirmation of an individual’s worth and contribution as an effective team member.
GET PARTICIPANT BUY-IN
A strong team in which the individual experiences a personal gain is invaluable. Employees need to feel as though they are personally and positively impacted by the new order as the organisation develops and pursues its path of change and development. Often, change can bring new and exciting opportunities for the individual’s career and personal growth. Maximising those opportunities to produce the desired positive outcome requires a multi-level strategy.
One plank in such a strategy is to build and maximise the positive dynamic qualities of the team.
The beneficial effects of teambuilding play a significant role in maintaining an employee’s buy-in and ongoing engagement.
Positive effects of teambuilding are not limited to tackling the challenges of disengaged employees presented by a changing corporate environment.
Other important strategies to employ during this process focus on stress-management initiatives, which allow individuals to manage the internal conflict that can accumulate during moments of change. These skills help the overall efficiency of the company and combat possible negative effects.
In terms of corporate development, teambuilding exercises are considered vital not only for the immediate novelty factor of the activity experience but also for the nourishment of group skills, communication and bonding that develops as a result of the exercise.
The activity is merely the means to the end: a high-impact learning experience. The activity is a demonstration of what is possible in the real world but on a small scale. Well-structured team-building programmes provide meaningful experiences that empower individuals to contribute to common goals of their immediate group or the organisation in general. The success of most organisations depends on the ability of individuals to build functional teams.
If a teambuilding exercise does nothing more than open the eyes of the participant to the possibility of employing its outcome on a broader scale at work, then it has served its purpose.
Clearly, the main goals of teambuilding are to improve productivity and motivation. Taking employees out of the office helps groups break down political and personal barriers, eliminates the inherent distractions of the office, and releases the individual from the handcuffs of corporate protocol.
Programmes provide upbeat and powerful shared experiences that allow companies to compete effectively by enabling staff at all corporate levels to work as true team players.
But within a veil of lightheartedness, scientifically structured and traditional educational concepts are built in to contemporary teambuilding exercises to produce long-term benefits.
FUN AND EDUCATIONAL
Andrew Grant, managing director of Tirian, explains: “Teambuilding programmes have continued to increase in popularity, but the type of team programme that’s now popular has changed. Basic games that focus on the ‘feel good’ factor can be perceived as childish and aren’t as appropriate now as programmes that are more intelligent in their approach. Companies have to justify the outcomes and see results so programmes that develop teams using solid educational methods – where the teambuilding is a vehicle for dealing with pertinent issues, are becoming very popular.”
Grant goes on to explain the types of teambuilding programmes his company designs and delivers: “At Tirian, we design all our own programmes and offer something for clients who have already experienced more standard programmes. We combine adventure and cerebral learning – the most creative being our ‘Cultural Adventures’, where participants immerse themselves in a different culture, then use the experience as a basis for discovering more about themselves and their own company culture.
“These active programmes encourage individuals and teams to see challenging issues from new perspectives. We utilise original cultural themes to provide memorable impact,” he adds.
The company’s most popular cultural adventure is called “Kampung Village Celebrations: Building the Corporate Village” in Bali. The participants build an entire Balinese village and in the process explore some management secrets to long-term community survival.
This programme provides a blend of the latest management ideas coupled with traditional community values.
There are also “The Sultan’s Quest” and “The Ramayana Rescue” which take the action up a notch. By building and racing traditional devices and re-enacting the mythology of different cultures, participants enjoy more of a competitive challenge and experience something completely new.
Tirian also has several other exercises including its signature programme called “On Thin Ice”, where people become involved in a simulated Antarctic expedition and are expected to operate under extreme pressure.
Grant believes this programme is a perfect complement to a conference or event as any room or facility can be themed to the max, providing all the staging that is normally associated with a corporate event.
“We can make them feel that they’re really on an iceberg fighting for survival,” he concludes.
Each set of corporate circumstances requires a different approach which in turn requires a specific programme. As the needs and issues that organisations face require specific strategies and actions, team-building activities and programmes are not part of a cookie-cutter business. They, too, must be specific.
• Be clear in your objectives. Understand your reasons for investing in a team-building event.
• It’s not just fun. There is a serious side to the activity and your primary purpose is to create a cohesive and functional team environment.
• Look for outcomes. Select a teambuilding activity that is going to produce the desired results for you. There are many “off-the-shelf” programmes that purport to be teambuilding activities but are really just games.
• Consult an expert. There are many professional teambuilding organisations throughout the world. Talk to them and investigate their clients. Establish their professional qualifications and track record.
• Be realistic with costs. As with all professional suppliers, teambuilding comes at a cost. It is not just the outlay with the organiser but the less tangible costs of the human capital investment that’s required. Add-on costs, such as venue hire, catering and transport must also be factored in.
• Select the participants carefully. Everybody is at different levels – seniority, fitness, intellect etc. By placing a participant in a challenging team-building activity where he or she is clearly out of their depth can cause more harm than good.
• Agree on expectations. Participant buy-in is vital for the success of teambuilding activities. Ensure each participant is willing to be involved and has a full understanding of the objectives.
• Follow-up. The success for all activities must be carefully measured. By establishing a clear set of objectives in the planning stage, validation is more attainable and accurate.
Specialist: Team Building Asia
Client: Lane Crawford
Outcomes: Team collaboration, innovation and time management
The highly stressed and fast-paced buzz of the newspaper editorial desk came to life in “Making the News” for staff of Hong Kong department store Lane Crawford in April 2008.
“Making the News” was simulated across four divisions on four separate days for Lane Crawford in Hong Kong. The brief was to create a teambuilding experience, which would pull together the plans and ideas for Lane Crawford to become “The Most Talked About Style Destination in Asia”.
“Making the News” was chosen because this format simulates a busy newsroom. Different teams within the organisation had to put forward groundbreaking ideas using the processes of press conferences, deadlines and team work to produce the final front page of news.
This team-building activity kicked off with their editor Richie Roads giving a briefing on how teams would create, capture and deliver their very own front page of a newspaper in less than three hours.
An assortment of features, team facts, exclusive scoops, news flashes, adverts, team crossword, business consultancy and the main article were brought together to give the Lane Crawford edition, known as “The New New”.
Teams divided up roles, with some going to a computer workshop, while others tracked down informants, created news content or attended a cartoon workshop for the comic release. The resident cartoonist Larry Feign, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, South China Morning Post and The Standard, led budding artists to create and refine their drawings into something truly unique for Lane Crawford.
Next came a staged press conference, where selected team members asked the powers that be what they could expect in terms of business growth and direction. This provided the content for the business consultancy section, and in some cases, even sneaked into the main article, if the news was particularly “hot”.
The final moments of collaboration came as the teams met the front page deadline by pulling together all their articles.
All their hard work came together in true living colour as the front pages were mounted onto foam board and displayed on easels for all to see.
To wrap up, the news editor led a debriefing session for teams to readily apply the experiential learning gained in a drive for stronger results back in the workplace.
Alison McLaughlin, head of learning and development from Lane Crawford, was impressed with the results.
“Making the News is an exciting teambuilding product, which keeps teams highly motivated and creates a great deal of satisfaction when you see the results of the completed newspapers before you. An excellent activity to drive team work, business results and innovation.”
Simpson and the team from Team Building Asia also accommodated the cultural and hierarchical sensitivities of a large organisation into the construction of the programme.
“We relied on the skills of the facilitators to ensure everyone felt relaxed and receptive to the programme. Not all participants feel confident speaking up and speaking out in a larger group.”
To alleviate this concern, there were a lot of facilitators on the ground, working directly with smaller teams where participants could happily ask questions and clarify roles in front of a smaller audience.
Also, the main facilitator – the News Editor – would circulate among working teams and check in on their progress in a tactful and relaxed manner.
Simpson explains: “We accounted for hierarchical sensitivities in the press conference section of Making the News. Participants could pose a challenging question to the head of division at the press conference but the twist lay in that they could give this question to another team to ask.
“This kept the author of the question anonymous and allayed any hierarchical sensitivity. The roles were also set up so that everyone had a skill to bring to the ‘Making the News’ project, for example, main article writer, cartoonist, crossword-solver and photo-scoop finder. These were all as important as each other, contributed to the bigger picture and did not therefore depend on hierarchy.”