The team is a company’s most important asset: Every leader and HR specialist has probably heard this phrase before. However, building a successful, strong, effective and motivated team is a lot of hard work. So much so, that employers often feel overwhelmed by the thought of working on team dynamics. So how can you best streamline this process?
The answer from many professionals (us included) is: regular team building. Hold on, don’t start rolling your eyes just yet. When you hear the word team building, we know you are thinking about never-ending games, awkward workshops and another additional expense that doesn’t yield long-term results. Yes, these types of team building events do exist. However, this isn’t the true essence of the phrase. Team building is all about people coming together to work on a joint goal. Communication, collaboration, problem-solving and, most importantly, enjoyment are the focus of team building activities.
Let’s look at the definition of team building and find out how the whole thing works. You’ll notice the difference between team bonding and team building, as well as how to use them in order for your team to succeed. Need some hands-on examples? We got you: We prepared some of our favorite team building activities in the latter part of the article. After reading this article, you will no longer think about team building as a compilation of pointless and boring games, but as a means to strengthen your team long-term.
TL;DR: Team building definition
You’re short on time? Then let’s jump straight into the definition and essence of team building. Simply put, the goal of team building activities is to unify a group (e.g. colleagues, students, project groups) and help them work better together in order to reach their common goals. In the process, employees will learn more about each other’s skills and functions within the team, which makes the group much more cohesive. Finding a common ground fosters communication, as well as a sense of respect and trust in each other’s abilities. Therefore, team members will have stronger bonds. Colleagues enjoy (or at least tolerate) working with each other, and the company reaches its desired objectives. Everybody wins!
Is team building possible for remote teams as well? Of course! Especially over the last three years, remote work has become an integral part of everyday work for many companies. Working from home is now the main objective of many effective team building offers (ours included). Read more on how to manage virtual teams.
Team building vs. team bonding
These terms are often used as synonyms. However, team building is not the same as team bonding. In order to pick activities that will actually benefit your team, you should be aware of the difference here. Both experiences are equally important, and can be combined. Good team building exercises always have to involve some degree of team bonding as well, for example.
Why is team building important?
So team building basically comes down to a whole lot of collaboration, cooperation and communication. As many other leaders, you may be thinking: Sounds easy enough, I don’t need expensive team building measures to achieve that with my employees. Well, maybe that’s true. However, actively working on team dynamics between the myriad of other tasks included in everyday work will get tricky and, eventually, unsustainable. So, before you embark on your team building mission all by yourself, let us look into the importance of team building led by professionals.
1. Trust and respect
These two little words can make or break the success of your whole company. As a leader, you hopefully trust and respect any member of your team anyway. However, between colleagues this may be a different story. Trust needs to be earned over time, and, unfortunately, can never be a quick fix. Especially when a new team is forming, colleagues need time to realize that everyone involved is working in the best interest of reaching the common goal. This also runs true for respect. Showing respect for each other’s work makes employees feel safe and enables them to find enjoyment in their tasks. Working on issues like this goes far beyond the scope of a basic team event.
2. Getting to know each other
This is a straight forward calculation. Having friends at work increases happiness, collaboration and people’s overall relationship to their workplace. This is especially true for remote companies, where employees may not interact with each other on an everyday basis. Even if no deep relationships form between colleagues, liking and knowing each other can make the experience of working together skyrocket. Regular bonding experiences promote interaction between colleagues and unites them as a workforce.
3. Improves teamwork
Struggling to drive along a major project? Or does your team have a hard time cooperating? Then you’re not alone, many companies struggle with issues like that. Strategic team building that focuses on the issues of your group has a positive impact on developing teamwork skills and collaboration. People get to know their colleagues, their strengths, weaknesses and values. These aspects are vital for determining responsibilities and the best fit for a certain task. This way, projects are driven forward, the outcome is higher quality and the company becomes more efficient.
4. Fostering the team spirit
How to build team morale? Make your employees feel special! A united team is a good team and, guess what, you’ll need an awful lot of team spirit for that. Your journey isn’t always going to be smooth sailing, so your team needs to have a strong foundation to overcome hardships. This can look like many different things. You might want to organize an in-depth workshop or just a fun games-night where everyone can let loose and enjoy each other’s company. Ultimately, it comes down to the quality time, team members spend with each other to spurn on the team spirit.
5. Innovation and creativity
Coming up with innovative and new ideas is what will really make your business prosper and succeed on the market. To achieve that, you need some creative heads within your team. However, the wrong work environment can really easily nip creativity in the bud. Being comfortable around colleagues is vital when trying to work on innovation. If team members fear that their opinion is not valued or respected, they are less likely to share them with the group.
Team events can provide a space to either specifically work on new ideas outside everyday work, or to strengthen the team dynamics in order to achieve more creative freedom in the day-to-day.
6. Company culture
Company culture can (and will) form naturally, even if you don’t actively work on it. But chances are, that you’ll not be too pleased with the outcome that way. Regular team building activities work on values and makes them clear and visible for each employee.
This is not only vital for your company as is, but also for future top talent. Nowadays, a company’s reputation as an employer is of upmost importance. Almost half of the current jobseekers reconsider working at companies that do not have a great company culture. Culture needs to be worked on a regular basis, which team buildings are a great opportunity to do.
Employees work hard, and just looking at never-ending deadlines and meetings can get tiring. Fun team building events give your employees something to look forward to. Schedule them as soon as your last team building is over, so the anticipation is constant. Planning something nice for your employees shows them that their good work is valued. During everyday work, great accomplishments can get lost, so having these specific events is an important sign of appreciation.
8. Improving leadership
Not only employees should continuously work on becoming better, but management as well. Even though many CEOs don’t like to hear it, but company leaders are not perfect. Especially when it comes to building trust in teams, many executives struggle. Regular workshops can guide leadership through possible issues and helps to overcome them.
However, not only existing managers can benefit from team building. Many team exercises are a great way to establish whether a person within your team has leadership qualities or not. Mentoring programs help foster the skills of potential new leaders within the team.
9. Changing the group dynamic
Let’s face it, group dynamics at the workplace can sometimes be really stiff and awkward. Especially when structures are very hierarchical, employees may feel uptight when interacting with their superiors.
If you are looking for fun activities, team buildings experiences make team members step away from these everyday situations and places them in a unique environment. Ideally, managers also take part in team building exercises and work as equal coworkers with the rest of the team. Let loose, enjoy yourself, and get to know the individuals in your team on a whole different level: It’s truly a win-win situation.
Oh yes, this is a big one. Good communication has almost become a buzzword in the business world at this point. Everyone knows it’s important, yet so many companies struggle to truly achieve it. Every single one of your work processes comes down to communication. If it’s not working, your whole team dynamic and, consequently, efficiency will suffer.
We’ll be completely honest here: Even we at teamazing, who pride ourselves on having a really strong and open communication, struggle with this aspects now and again. Great news is, healthy communication can be learned. Either internally, or with the help of external communication team building activities. When going down the second route, employees will have to communicate to solve the team building exercises. Doing fun, exercises first gives your team a basic line of communication, which you can then build on during more serious workshops.
These 8 team building games without materials and prep time are a perfect start!
How do team building activities work?
Sounds good? We agree, but team building effectiveness is still a vague notion for many people. How the hell does it work in reality?
First things first: Your team building purpose is just as unique as your team. Not every activity works for every group of people. In fact, choosing the wrong methods could do more harm than good. So, before randomly booking an event, be clear about the goals you want to achieve or the issues that exist within your company. Does your team have communicative problems that need to be resolved? Then you probably don’t need a full day of get-to-know games, but a communication workshop, for example. Is your goal to bring people together? Then an in-depth problem-solving session is probably the wrong choice. But don’t be concerned: Whichever issue your team is struggling with, there will be a team building option that is the right fit for you.
Team building is not a quick fix. One team event a year will unlikely help your team to progress in the long run. Consistency is key here. In order to reap the full benefit, conducting regular team building events is the way to go.
Types of team building
We understand that boring, one-time company team building activities where groups go wine tasting or do lengthy scavenger hunts has become a bit of a cliché. But team building can take place in many different forms. Noteworthy: No matter what team building theme you choose, all of them can be carried out offline as well as online.
“Natural” team building
How better to improve the work of your team than, well, at work. Team building does not begin the moment you start a workshop or do teamwork exercises, but during everyday work. Here, dynamics and values within your team are already established, which is important for finding problem-solving solutions. Not sure how internal team building could look like? In many companies, management or HR is well versed in team dynamics and is qualified to fulfill this role. They organize regular get-togethers, monitor how employees collaborate every day, and support team members when conflicts arise. However, this type of team building is very unmonitored and, therefore, may not reap the benefits you desire.
“Formal” team building
The method above is not enough for your team, but you don’t want to get external help? Good news is, you maybe already have employees that are qualified in taking over this role, for example someone on the management or HR team.
They can organize set times when the team comes together and works through issues, as well as foster collaboration and trust. Depending on the skills of the facilitator, the topic can range from light-hearted get-to-know games to in-depth workshops. The challenge is, that facilitators are part of your team, so they cannot fully take a step back and look at your group in a neutral way.
When time, resources and budget allow it, external facilitation done by a professional can really up your team building game. Here, events are closely monitored by a professional who specifically targets the areas of concern. These events can range from fun-focused team buildings, to specific workshops. Critical thinking, decision-making and collaboration are usually the focus here.
External team events are a great way to make your company events more interesting, fun or informative. When on a company celebration or retreat, team building exercises can be a great supporting program.
Advantages of regular team building
Team building techniques are constantly evolving. As our everyday work changes, new problems arise that need to be solved. Professional team trainers continuously develop new solutions to help groups work better together. However, one thing stays the same throughout this process: The undeniable benefits of regular team building.
- Engaged employees: Let’s be real, work can get pretty boring and monotonous. Working within a great team increases motivation. Consequently, employees will work harder on the quality of their output and problem solving gets easier. Fun team building also gives employees something to look forward to that mixes up the regular workday.
- Combine vision: During everyday work, the mission and objectives of the team can easily get lost. Regular team building reinforces these goals, so they are always on the forefront of employee’s minds.
- Clear responsibilities: Who does what, when and why? The less hierarchical your organization is structured, the harder this question can be answered. Sometimes responsibilities are unclear, which negatively impacts the efficiency of your company. When working closely together during specific team buildings or workshops, these issues can be resolved.
- Skill development: Team buildings are a great opportunity to further develop your employee’s skills outside of work. During everyday work, things need to run smoothly and efficiently. Therefore, people merely focus on the things they are already good at, rather than take time to explore others. Having employees with a diverse skill set should be in the company’s best interest. Team events are a great place for skill development.
- Get to know your team: You think you know your team? Then you’ve already gone wrong! Even when you know the individuals within your team, this does not necessarily represent how they act as a group. Team building gives you a chance to understand behavioral patterns, which makes it easier to manage and bond with your team.
- Conflict management: Conflicts are hard to avoid. Especially when colleagues are newly working with each other, differences may be hard to navigate. However, conflicts can also be positive: When they arise, problems within your organization become visible. Team building is helpful for successful conflict management, which aids your team in working through tough times.
How to benefit from team building
You are probably bored with us saying this by now: Team building experiences are just as unique as your team. Finding the right activities is vital. In order to do that, you need to know what your team needs. Before booking, think about the following aspects:
- Age, gender and heritage of your team: This is important! During team development activities, no member should be left out. Therefore, the activity needs to be doable for everyone. Pushing comfort zones is great, but the experience should still be enjoyable. If your group is diverse, find something that is doable for everyone.
- Team size: Team building can work for any team size. However, not every activity is the most effective for very large or small teams. If your organization is large, you may choose to carry out team buildings for each department individually. The risk here is, that the interdisciplinary team spirit may suffer. Professional team building experts can find the right fit for your team.
- Fun-oriented or content-oriented: Both are important. A good team building experience ideally has fun as well as content elements. Consider what your team needs most at this particular moment in time. Does it need a bonding experience and opportunity to bring everyone together? Or are there pressing conflicts and struggles the group needs to work through?
- Online or offline: This depends on many aspects like your general preference and convenience. Just because your team operates remotely, does not mean your team building also has to take online. Many companies choose to bring everyone together in-person at least one or twice a year. At the same time, online team building may be a great opportunity for teams that see each other every day at the office.
The Bruce Tuckman Phase Model
Team building is not arbitrary, but rooted in science. Understanding the four team building stages will also help you choose the right activities. They go back to Bruce Tuckman’s model of forming, storming, norming and performing. With these stages, the psychologist mimics the natural stages a group of people goes through when forming a team.
In the forming stage, the main focus of the team members usually lies in getting to know their colleagues, purpose and function within the group. At this stage, team members may feel confronted with many mixed feelings, such as anxiety, excitement or doubt. Especially at this stage, the leader plays a very important role for the new group, and should provide them with a certain level of guidance. Here, team building should create trust and orientation within the group.
When people start settling into their roles, they will test out, question and challenge the established group dynamics. This can give way to conflicts amongst colleagues as well as leadership. Tensions such as this can question management and the goals of the team, which may escalate over time if not dealt with in the appropriate manner.
Eventually, team members will learn how to work with each other’s differences, resolve their conflicts and excel at problem-solving. Hold on to a good leadership style, for people will appreciate your guidance and the strengths of each team member at this stage. This way, collaboration begins to feel more natural, which fosters the team spirit as well as honest feedback.
As the name suggests, at this stage your team will start to perform to the desired rate, which also helps to reach your set goals. The responsibilities become clearer as people completely settle into their roles. The differences of the team members are no longer seen as negative, but as something that makes the group unique. In this stage, your team is already functioning well. Team building can further boost the confidence of the group, loosen it up and maximize the team spirit.
What are team building activities?
We’ve banged on about the theoretical part of team building enough by now, so let’s explore how your team event could look like in reality. The goal of team building games is to strengthen the team spirit and feeling of togetherness amongst a group of people. You can either opt for team building outdoor activities, or hold them online. They are usually carried out in the form of games, but with a clear focus on your team’s challenges, such as communication, collaboration, problem-solving and productivity. As previously discussed, in-depth workshops can also be a part of your team building experience. Most importantly, however, they should focus on fun and bring your team together for a good time.
Fun or focus? You decide!
Generally, team building activities can be put into two main categories:
- Classic, fun team bonding activities:
The main focus here is to have a good time with colleagues. They can either form as an event on their own, or act as a supporting program to Christmas parties or team retreats. Generally, employees really look forward to these events, so make sure they are fun and act as a reward for the great work your team puts in!
- In-depth team building activities: When specific issues need to be worked on in depth, training or coaching activities come into play, usually in the form of a workshop. Here, specific issues are actively worked through and problem-solving encouraged.
Remember the “natural” team building we talked about earlier? Icebreakers count as extremely helpful and simple team building activities that can be incorporated in your everyday work. There are also many examples of specifically virtual icebreakers out there. However, the following can be used in online as well as offline scenarios. We at teamazing never ever hold a lengthy meeting without integrating some fun icebreaker at the beginning to break up any tensions. These are some of our personal favorites:
- Rock Paper Scissors: The classic game almost everyone knows from their childhood is a great icebreaker for the start of a meeting or team building event. No matter if in-person or online with the help of break-out rooms: This game is quick, fun and gets everyone to interact with each other.
- Team Memory: Great for a crowd that is not familiar with each other yet. Team members introduce themselves with a random fact. After everyone is finished, people try to remember the facts about their colleagues.
- Get-to-know your team: This works for colleagues that do not know each-other well, as well as close-knit teams. Teammates submit three answers to specific questions before the meeting. Then, the other team members need to guess which answer belongs to which person. Possible questions could include
- If you could eat one food for the rest of our life, what would it be?
- Where would you live if it could be anywhere in the world?
- What was the worst dish you’ve ever made?
- What’s your favorite movie?
- Sell it: No matter if your team is working in sales or not, this game will definitely spark your creativity and sales talent. The rules are easy: Tell your coworkers to grab a random item next to them. Then, they have 2 minutes to present their chosen item as if they had to sell it, just like in a TV show.
Different to icebreakers, activators do not necessarily need to take place at the beginning of a meeting. They are a great way to reactivate your team during meetings. Some options could include.
- (Virtual) Dance Party: The meeting is long, and you feel your teammates are getting tired? To reinvigorate your colleagues, a little dance party could be the perfect choice. Choose a song, have one person share their audio, and freestyle together for a few minutes. After that, everyone will be able to focus again!
- Online Meeting Bingo: Long, monotonous meeting ahead? Make it more enjoyable with online meeting bingo! This is how it works: Provide every teammate with a list of things that are typical for every online office meeting. Example: “Someone trying to share their screen but failing”, or “When someone says: can you still hear me?”. The person that has noticed the most bingos at the end of the meeting wins.
- Treasure hunt: If you believe it or not, your home is full of treasures, you just have to find them. Tell your colleagues they have 30 seconds to find an item that is older than themselves, for example. You’ll be amazed at what your teammates will come up with!
Online team building games
As we’ve established, offline team building is very important and popular. In fact, even we at teamazing, who specialize in online team building, make it a priority to meet in person with the whole team at least once a year. You could argue that a remote team is even more in need of regular events than office-based ones. There are many games that work really well in a remote setting. Here are some of our favorite online team building games for virtual teams:
- Online happy hour: You might think this is the total cliché of the past few years, but online happy hours do not need to be awkward and boring. If done right, virtual happy hours are a perfect opportunity for an informal gathering with colleagues. They can take place every week, every month, or even just as a one-time event. Fill it with fun mini-games to keep everyone entertained and engaged.
- Game-night: There is an online version of almost every classic board game by now. Be it Monopoly, Scrabble or UNO: These games are great for bonding with your teammates without thinking or talking about work. An extensive collection of games can be found on playingcards.io, for example.
- PowerPoint Karaoke: Not sure what this is all about? The basis is simple: Someone makes a random PowerPoint presentation, for example, about the lifecycle of fireflies. Divide the team into groups. Every group has to present one slide without ever having seen it before.
Check out our online team building portfolio to get some more inspiration for your next team event!
Congrats, you now know everything there is to know about making your team invincible with the help of regular team building! Taking this information with you in your everyday life is the first step to success. However, you also need to act on it: Take time for your team building objectives and experiences, make them a priority and take control over your success as a group! Never forget the most important question: What does teamwork mean to you and your team?
VIDEO: How to build successful teams
Are team building events mandatory?
For you as a company, it is not mandatory to carry out team building activities. However, a successful team needs bonding experiences and an environment that enables employees to work on conflicts or problems. Without these experiences, misunderstandings within your company will flourish and efficiency suffers.
How does team building support organizational development?
In order to develop your organization, you need to develop the individuals operating within it. Your company is only as strong as the weakest link. There are a myriad of team building activities out there that are the best fit for your team. Team building experiences bring your employees closer together and, consequently, improve the output and efficiency of the whole company.
Why doesn’t team building work for my group?
This may be down to more than one reason. Not every team building activity works for each group of people. Example: If your existing team is struggling with communication and driving a certain project along, then opting for light-hearted get-to-know games is probably not the best fit. Finding out what your team really needs before booking an event is vital.