Love them or hate them, team building activities are a part of the modern corporate landscape. But as you and your colleagues outstretch your arms to catch Jackie from accounting for yet another trust fall, part of you might start to wonder: what’s the point?
Team building exercises, particularly ones which are somewhat left-of-centre, are swiftly gaining in popularity. Increasingly, companies are holding team building exercises alongside conferences or business expos, as this list of team building ideas in Chicago, all within traveling distance of a popular Chicago conference venue, makes clear.
The team building-averse may be disappointed to hear it, but there is a large body of research that suggests team building is worthwhile, and there are many practical reasons business leaders still use it.
Team building works even if it doesn’t
If you don’t like team building exercises, you may have wondered what’s the point. But if you really don’t like them, you may have wondered what evil mad scientist invented this. The second question actually has a concrete answer: an organizational theorist named Elton Mayo. We shouldn’t call him evil or mad; Mayo’s experiments gave us a lot of what we know about office-based productivity and teamwork. As HR Review tells it, Mayo’s studies at the Hawthorne Works factory produced the so-called “Hawthorne Effect”.
It happened like this: Mayo observed two groups of workers. The first group had the lights turned up brighter in their office, the second group didn’t. Productivity was higher in the first group. The key finding was what happened when the lights were turned back down. The first group remained more productive. Mayo concluded that the boosts in productivity before were not due specifically to the changes he had made to the working environment.
Instead, the workers became more productive simply because their employer was paying attention to how they were getting on, and attempting to help them increase productivity. This experiment proved conclusively that no matter how pointless or ineffective the actual team building activity itself is, the very fact that the boss is attempting to boost team morale is enough to improve productivity.
Team building to build morale and leadership skills
An alternative to traditional team building exercises—trust falls included—could be just to train up employees, and pay attention to the day-to-day development of the team. There are, however, advantages that team building activities offer for their own sake.
What team building provides that traditional training exercises do not is fun, or at the very least, a level of informality. Putting employees together in a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere can work wonders for a team. According to Corporate Challenge Events, team building shows that “significant results can actually be achieved when fun is involved.” This is an advantage which should not be overlooked. It’s all well and good having a highly skilled workforce. But if they don’t have fun doing what they do, they won’t enjoy their jobs. This could lead to anything from reduced productivity to low employee retention.
Aside from the oft-needed morale boost, team building exercises often allow team members to exhibit and develop leadership skills. Most team activities will allow certain people to take certain roles, and because there are no financial consequences, they are a great chance to see how the more junior members of the team cope in positions of responsibility.
Doing this is the least threatening, least stressful way for business heads to both train and scout for future leaders among their staff.
Team building has high ROI
Signing up a group to a team building exercise will cost a business money, and it is very difficult to measure its return. However, experts argue that it can be the “most important investment” that a business leader makes. Especially when they really go the extra mile, and put real money behind a team building experience.
Brian Scudamore at Forbes recalls the trip he and his team took to a NASCAR racetrack, where employees could drive a car at 145 miles per hour. When they got back to the office, the momentum kept going, and productivity increased.
As Elton Mayo’s experiments showed us decades ago, bosses paying attention to employee development has benefits no matter what. Team building exercises are a fun and exciting way to do this, whilst also boost morale and encouraging the team to try out new things. Though you may not be able to track it specifically, the business benefits of corporate team building make it more than worthwhile. That, in the end, is the point.