Many organizations have begun to realize the importance of team building as a way of creating community and commitment among their employees. Gone are the days of the workplace being just a place to show up, punch a clock and complete menial tasks that may move the business forward but don’t mean anything or bring enjoyment to the individual worker.

The workplace has changed, and supervisors and business owners have started to look at their employees as members of a family – albeit one that will help their business succeed and make lots of money. They are asking more of their employees – more time away from family and personal lives, more travel and more involvement in the company culture as a whole.

That doesn’t happen overnight, and in fact, it takes a lot of work to create that culture.

What Is Team Building?

If you’re a large organization, there are going to be lots of people involved who need to be able to not only get along, but work closely and create ideas together. If employees in the sales department, for instance, have never met those in the marketing department, how will they be able to effectively work together to promote and sell your products?

Some would say that an arranged night out over a couple beers or a meal at a restaurant might do the trick. The problem with this, however, is the inevitable formation of cliques that don’t get anything accomplished.

Remember that the purpose is to build teamwork. A commitment exercise might be exactly what your employees need.

Team building is defined as a process in which a group of individuals (your employees) are transformed into a cohesive and high-functioning bunch of people. A team is a group of people organized together interdependently and cooperatively to accomplish an agreed-upon goal.

The trick to organizing games that teach commitment and build teamwork is to not make it seem like work. That’s why many team-building experts recommend games and fun activities that bring together people who may not have worked together on their own and encourage them to solve problems together.

The results can range from improved communication and bonding to more collaboration and problem-solving – and ultimately, happier and more committed workers.

Set Goals and Objectives for the Exercises

Perhaps you’ve participated in a company-wide team-building commitment exercise in which you and your co-workers stand around awkwardly listening to a moderator lead “icebreakers” that are designed to teach you something. In all likelihood, you felt it was a waste of time. You had a lot of work to do and this was taking you away from it.

You didn’t really know what the purpose of the meeting was, you likely had no part in planning it and you couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Now that you’re the boss, it’s time to literally change the game. If you’re going to introduce games that teach commitment to your organization as a way of building teamwork, you need to set goals and objectives.

Why, exactly, are you doing this? Has it become clear to you that employees on one side of the building have never met those on the other side? Then, maybe icebreakers and introductory games that have a lighter side could be the way to get conversations going.

Allow your employees to be part of the process of creating goals and objectives for your upcoming commitment exercises, coming up with ideas for games and activities.

Pass around a unanimous questionnaire, create an online survey or leave a suggestion box in the break room asking people for their ideas.

Perhaps the crew just wants to bond more, or they’d like to learn how to solve problems together or personality conflicts need to be worked out. The answers you get from your workers will help you design activities that they will get the most out of.

Consider Physical Limitations

Many organizations are taking part in team-building exercises that involve things such as escape rooms. These require teams of people to solve puzzles and riddles together to solve a crime or earn the key out of someplace.

Others conduct scavenger hunts in the city or ropes courses outdoor. These games are great ways to build camaraderie outside of the office while also teaching commitment.

You do need to take into consideration who will be taking part in your commitment exercise and what their needs might be. Not everyone is going to feel comfortable speaking up and making a fuss if they don’t feel comfortable taking part in activities that might be beyond their physical limitations.

Be sure to ask everyone if they are comfortable and give them a say in how the day’s activities are planned.

Small Group Exercises

Exercises designed for smaller groups are excellent for bonding or building good relationships among team members – in a small sales team or physician’s office, for instance. The idea is to build games that teach commitment and allow each member a sufficient role in the game, as the ultimate goal is to solve a problem together – a task that requires communication, reliance on others and other skills that help build trust.

The “human knot” is a classic example of this sort of commitment exercise. People get close on this one, so it forces them to get comfortable with each other.

Everyone stands in a circle facing each other, shoulder-to-shoulder, then puts their right arm out and grabs a random hand. The purpose of the game is to untangle the knot of arms without releasing hands within a set time limit.

If holding hands with co-workers and awkwardly trying to step through holes made from physical connections between those co-workers doesn't get them talking, not much else will.

Cross-Functional Team Exercises

These types of games that teach commitment are best for collaborations between groups that perhaps have different roles in the company, or between people with conflicting personalities. In these cases, the groups of people may have a hard time understanding each other or working together, and that’s not a good thing when you are trying to work together as a team to achieve business goals.

One idea – especially if the group contains multiple ages or generations – is to get people into a room and have a good, friendly game of generational trivia, in which teams of different ages are asked questions about the others. It makes for a lot of fun when baby boomers try to answer questions about the types of music that millennials listen to.

Another example of commitment activities is complex board games such as Clue or Risk. These are strategy-based games that require team members to think things through and ponder each move as a group, which can help them understand each other’s motivations and uncover intelligence and personality traits that maybe the others didn’t realize were there.

Organizational Team Exercises

Organizational team exercises include some well-known examples, like when you break out the rope and have a company-wide tug-of-war or get the CEO to sit in the dunk tank and let the pitchers in your company have a shot at getting the boss wet.

The idea with this sort of activity is to get everyone in the organization together and let them relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors with each other, while having some friendly competition.

Anything that brings out the mild competition in each other is likely to create camaraderie and good, old-fashioned fun. At the same time, you’re looking to focus less on individual achievements and focus more on the organization’s goals as a whole.

Examples of these types of games that teach commitment include employee appreciation days, where the boss throws a big party to show off the successes of the company and give thanks for the work that has been put in throughout the year. It’s a time where staff members and entire teams are recognized for their roles in the success.

You could have a company-wide field day with games like a water-balloon or egg toss, a group juggle or potato sack races. Try a fun game of work Jeopardy, or do a battle of the air bands karaoke contest in which teams get together and do their best impressions of songs while playing air instruments and lip-synching. Don’t forget to provide props and costumes as part of the deal.

Everyone likes food, so why not have a potluck lunch, where everyone brings a favorite dish? A themed potluck such as Mexican or Italian usually works, or just have everyone bring in a dessert. The idea is for everyone to come together, enjoy themselves and foster a positive atmosphere in the place they work and between the people they work with daily.

The collaboration (it won’t even feel forced) will make for great water cooler conversation and may even start some office traditions.

Community Service Days

There are many organizations that are turning to community service to introduce commitment activities into the workplace, not only as a way of building teamwork, camaraderie and commitment among their employees, but also as a way of giving back to the greater community in which they work.

There is no shortage of organizations that are more than happy to accept the volunteer help, and it makes a great day away from the office for your employees. It will make them feel good to know they helped someone out, and if you treat them to a nice lunch or ice cream social afterwards, it will show them that you appreciate their efforts.

There are many organizations that could use your employees’ help, and many of them employ people whose sole job it is to recruit corporate volunteers and organize their day of community service.

You could try organizing a cleanup crew for the local playground, or help build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Your local school might welcome some employees from your organization to speak on career day or read some books to the kids. The residents at the local senior center might appreciate some cheering up with some holiday songs, or you could work the polls on Election Day as a way of showing civic responsibility.

Whatever your organization chooses, remember that it is about creating a “community” feel among your employees. Many people feel like they would like to participate in community service efforts, but do not have the time. By giving them the opportunity to participate in commitment activities, you not only are giving back to the community you do business in but providing your employees the opportunity to do something positive to help others - together - with a shared sense of purpose.