When employees work together, it is important that they can effectively communicate, work together and solve conflicts. One of the best ways to speed up this process is through organized team-building activities. Aside from communication, teamwork and conflict resolution, team building can improve employee morale, decrease turnover, teach workers new skills, increase employee creativity and more, all of which can improve productivity in the office.
Team building's main goal is to improve productivity, and it does so by increasing morale, improving problem solving, establishing better communication and teaching new skills.
The Main Team-Building Objectives
A study by C&IT/Center Parcs asked event professionals, "What are your key objectives when booking a team-building activity?" The number one answer, which was given by more than 80 percent of the respondents, was "boosting morale and motivation." In order for a team to be cohesive, every person needs to be motivated to help the group succeed. Team building can help make employees feel a sense of shared purpose that inspires them to take their work to the next level.
The second most popular answer professionals gave to surveyors about why they chose to do team building was that it increases employee retention and engagement. This largely ties in with boosted morale, as increased employee satisfaction can help reduce turnover, which can help you save money when you do not have to train new employees.
Another answer that more than half of the respondents stated is that it can support employee training or development of new skills. Team-building activities are a fun and effective way to train workers and teach them a new skill rather than just sitting them down at a desk for a computer tutorial or making them watch a boring training video. Even if you are not trying to teach a specific task, encouraging employees to improve their problem-solving and flexible-thinking skills is a common and logical team-building objective.
Other team-building goals include: encouraging employee networking and communication to improve productivity in the office; supporting teamwork and trust among the group so everyone can better understand one another's strengths, weaknesses and interests in order to make the team work more efficiently together; fostering innovation and creativity and helping the team feel comfortable sharing their ideas with one another; developing a company strategy and building brand awareness to unify all employees under the organization's overall goals and image; introducing employees to a new manager so a team can more quickly adapt to their new leader's style of feedback and guidance; and building conflict-resolution skills so the individual members of the group can put aside their problems more quickly and get back to working together quicker when conflicts arise.
The Five Stages of Team Development
The team-building philosophy is largely guided by the five stages of team development created by Bruce Wayne Tuckman and Mary Ann Jensen. Tuckman introduced the first four stages in 1965 and then introduced the fifth stage along with Jensen in 1977. The five stages are forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.
Forming occurs when the team first meets. During this stage, they share information about their backgrounds, interests and experience to build first impressions of one another. The group will also learn about the project on which they are working and what their individual roles will be in completing the project. The leader will provide information about team goals, individual responsibilities and how the team should work together.
The storming stage involves team members competing with one another for status or for acceptance of their ideas. Every employee has his own opinions on what should be done and how, which may cause conflict within the team. The team leader must work to help those in the group learn to solve problems together, work on their own and settle into their own responsibilities. Ideally, the team leader should help each member of the team feel he is being listened to and encourage him to listen to his coworkers as well. This will require the manager to push some workers to be more assertive and others to be better listeners. The stage ends when the group as a whole becomes more accepting of each other and learns to better work with one another.
When everyone starts working together effectively, they have entered the norming stage. In this stage, they are focused on the project at hand and not on their own individual goals. They respect one another and begin to appreciate the different viewpoints each member brings to the team. The group has begun to trust one another and actively seek assistance when necessary. As a result of their unity, they start to work together much more efficiently. The manager will not have as much to do during this stage because each employee should be focused on completing his tasks and will know who to approach for help when he needs it. The boss will need to oversee the work and be ready to step in when necessary, particularly if the team seems to get stuck, when occasional conflicts arise or when decisions need to be made. She may start to operate as more of a coach at this point, offering support and encouragement most of the time while always standing ready to guide the team as needed.
Many groups stop progressing at the norming stage, but those that to continue to build their communication and teamwork can reach the performing stage. This stage is defined by the group's ability to work together seamlessly. They work like a well-oiled machine, with each employee knowing when to work alone and when to collaborate. The team can make their own decisions and solve problems quickly without interrupting work. The manager will be able to take an even more hands-off approach and should choose to do so rather than risk getting in the way of the high-functioning team. That being said, while the team does not need the manager to make day-to-day decisions for them, the group leader will still need to make higher-level decisions in most cases. Additionally, the manager should be there to oversee the progress of the team and help them celebrate major milestones.
As the name implies, the adjourning stage happens when the project nears its end. Employees at this stage may be leaving for new companies or departments or the team may stay together to work on a new project. Some teams will never get to the adjourning stage because their work is ongoing and their project is not really something that can be completed. For example, a company working on a video game will reach the adjourning stage when the game is complete and they either start working on a new game or leave the company to find a new position. On the other hand, an accounting department at a Fortune 500 company will never be finished with paying employees and suppliers unless the company closes its doors for good.
When a department does reach the adjourning stage, the leader should help everyone celebrate the success of the project while documenting the team's successes and failures to help streamline future projects. Group members will largely spend this time saying goodbye to one another if they are going separate ways or preparing for their next project if they will continue working together. If the team is breaking up, there will often be feelings of sadness, and the group can help support each other through this emotional period.
It is important to recognize that at any stage, the group may regress to any prior stage. For example, during the performing stage, if a major conflict arises among the team or one employee starts working independently from the others, they will drop back down to the storming stage. Alternatively, if a new member joins the team, they will have to revert back to the forming stage as the new employee finds his place in the group. Of course, at the end of the adjourning stage, the workers will have to return to the forming stage as they start working on a new project.
Team Building for the Five Stages
In the real-world workplace, unless a company or department is just being formed, employees tend to come in at different times as new positions are vacated or opened. This means that the forming stage is the most common stage for office teams. It is also a very important stage, as some employees will have a better connection with others and a better grasp on the project than others, but everyone on the team needs to be on solid footing. Team-building exercises in this stage should focus on encouraging new employees or those who might not socialize with one another to learn about each other. This can also introduce the company, the project and the responsibilities of each team member to new employees while reinforcing these important concepts with existing workers. Team-building activities at this stage should focus on breaking the ice among employees, although basic problem solving can be a great way to get the team used to working with one another while seeing each other's strengths and weaknesses in action.
Team-building exercises for the storming stage can introduce artificial conflicts that build the group's problem-solving skills by encouraging outside-the-box thinking, communication of ideas and teamwork. Escape rooms are a great option for working on the storming stage, as they present a conflict for the whole team and require the group to make the most of their strengths and weaknesses to solve the problem.
When workers are at either the norming or performing stage, company team-building exercises can focus more on fun and morale building than on building communication and skills. Company picnics, outings and parties are great ways to help relieve employee stress, improve morale and reduce turnover to keep things moving smoothly.
The adjourning stage requires a good send-off celebration, which will often mean a launch party, a group dinner at a nice restaurant or another activity where everyone can see each other in a happy, stress-free environment before they move on or begin another project.