The joys of teambuilding

SLOVAK firms are warming up to teambuilding, which uses activities indirectly related to their employees’ work to improve quality and lift morale.

SLOVAK firms are warming up to teambuilding, which uses activities indirectly related to their employees’ work to improve quality and lift morale.

Teambuilding has two primary purposes and methods. The first is a more general approach that takes relatively well-oiled teams and provides them with an opportunity to strengthen both personal relationships and team interaction skills, Steven Kelly, partner and founder of KNO, told The Slovak Spectator.

“The best of these approaches provides for a kind of ‘laboratory’ of different problem-solving exercises which are different from normal work,” Kelly said. “The teams are put on these exercises as small projects, solve the issues and implement solutions. Then there is a critique of the action based on specific criteria for team success, and planning to improve performance.”

The second form of teambuilding is applied when there is a more problematic situation in the team.
“Here it is useful to collect data about the team’s performance, through surveys or interviews, and facilitate the team discussions that analyse the problem areas and suggest recommendations for improvement,” Kelly said. “This works best when there are organisational or process problems, as this will not solve personality conflicts.”

Teambuilding, especially an offsite event with an overnight stay, helps identify the key skills required for group success and establishes criteria to measure performance, Kelly said.

It also practices individual skills in simulated team projects with immediate feedback on performance and action planning to improve future results, he added.

According to Kelly, teambuilding also lowers stress and allows time to strengthen personal relationships and understand team members’ motivation.

As well as reinvigorating team spirit, it offers space to consider important, though not urgent, issues that can be analysed and discussed, with the result being actions that improve the area of consideration.

The question that companies tend to ask is whether it is possible to use teambuilding to repair damaged work relationships.

Kelly does not believe that a large amount of tension can be repaired through traditional teambuilding.

“These are often better addressed through negotiation, counselling and more personal approaches,”

Kelly said. “However, in the case where you have two teams that do not know each other well, and have some coordination conflicts, a well-planned workshop can be very helpful.”

Teambuilding is most helpful for normal teams that are performing below full capacity due to communication and relationship issues, as well as newly formed teams, which can benefit by learning to form relationships, set expectations, and build staff toward a common mission, according to Kelly.

While most Slovak firms, according to Kelly, know how to use teambuilding effectively, many still draw on it as a form of recognition or social activity to get people out of the office.

“This has some effect, as people do get to know each other better, but often people still mostly group within their existing cliques,” Kelly told The Slovak Spectator. “While sports and other activity is energizing, a much bigger result can be gained by well planned and structured workshops with goals like what’s mentioned above.”

HR professionals agree that the activities chosen for teambuilding must be selected based on the goal of the training, the available budget and the make-up of the team.

Teambuilding activities should be selected in order to strengthen the teams. They should point out existing problems and indicate the way to a solution, Miloš Zágoršek, director of the Quinta Essentia, said as quoted by the Trend weekly.

However, Zágoršek said that only feedback or an assessment of performed activities will decide whether rafting down a river or climbing down a steep slope is simply for fun or results in a better performance and qualities for the collective.

The feedback pushes the people attending the teambuilding to consider their experiences and analyse their behaviour, Zágoršek said.

Sometimes simple activities, if properly implemented with effective feedback, can attain quite powerful results. At the same time, some very extreme activities, while very challenging, may not yield much for workplace performance, according to Kelly.

The success of these activities often depends on the planning and design before anyone even attends the event.

“Depending on the client’s needs, each workshop structure can be different, although the most successful teambuilding activities use some combination of simulated team exercise with critique and actual workplace problem-solving to bridge the gap between the workshop experience and applying the new knowledge and skills on the job,” Kelly concluded.

But not all teambuilding bears fruit. Sometimes it seems like the investment was wasted. In the worse cases, low-quality teambuilding can lead to a break up, Trend wrote. For example, if employees got insufficient feedback and did not comprehend the reason for some tasks and, therefore, none of the information or skills stuck with them. Another scenario is if a team is sensitive to conflict, the wrong kind of activity can upset the balance.

The Trend weekly cited one company’s teambuilding project, which aimed to improve the cooperation between its Polish and Slovak branches, yet ended in a total breakdown.

The organisers’ goal was to tone down the influence informal leaders had gained by exposing them to official authority. The organisers did not want to suppress anyone’s ambitions, and believed that the informal leaders would continue to motivate colleagues to a better performance, Trend wrote.
But it had the opposite effect.

“The formal leaders failed to exercise their positions and conflicts escalated,” it wrote.

Two months after the teambuilding, almost 20 employees, which was almost two-fifths of the original collective, left their jobs. Three months after that, only seven people were left. The Slovak branch office completely folded, Trend wrote.

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