10 Tips for a Better Team-Building Event

As a small business, you can't afford to waste a precious work day on fun and games if it's not going to help the bottom line.
September 17, 2012

A staff with solid working relationships will be a more effective team, have higher job satisfaction and will give your customers better service. Team-building days can be a great way to both reward your employees and help foster closer relationships.

MySocialCloud.com, a 10-employee startup company, hosts regular beach days. “The team goes out to the beach and relaxes, plays games and gets to know each other better. We also have regular pizza parties and sponsor some events, like painting parties, that we ask the whole team to go to in order to have fun outside of the office together,” says Stacey Ferreira, co-founder of MySocialCloud.com

However, without proper planning, team-building activities can dampen morale if it becomes just another work obligation.

Here are 10 tips for hosting an effective team-building day:

1. Set a goal and a budget. Think about what you want your team-building day to accomplish and how much you want to spend. Are you looking to reward your employees for finishing a big project? Do you want them to get to know each other on a more personal basis? Are you looking for your staff to learn how to work together better? Once you have the goal for the day and a general budget, you can schedule an activity that fits the bill.

2. Pick a convenient time. Employees will be most receptive to a team building activity that is during work hours and does not interfere with their personal time. When scheduling the activity, keep your employees' schedules and personal obligations in mind. If you have employees with children in day care or school, make sure that the team-building day does not interfere with their pick-up schedule or require them to plan additional childcare.

3. Put less on their plates. Make sure that you reduce the employees' workload that typically gets done during the scheduled team-building time so that they do not have to work nights or weekends to get their jobs done. You may need to hire a temporary employee to run your store or answer your phones. Consider reducing sales goals for the week or scheduling project deadlines to take into account the time spent on team-building.

 4. Consult a professional. If your time is short and you do not have experience hosting team-building days, consider hiring a team-building trainer. Ben A. Ratje, author of Presentation Latte and the founder/CEO of INFLUENCE7 says that a good team-building trainer can create a unique connection between your staff using exciting games and exercises. “When choosing a trainer, make sure that the person is high-energy and focuses mainly on interesting exercises (and not lecturing)."

5. Consider travel time. While heading to the beach for the day might sound like a great idea, your staff might not enjoy it so much if it takes several hours away from their families to drive to the shore. If the activity involves an out-of-town drive, consider renting a van or providing gas cards for the trip. You want to make the day as easy and fun for your staff as possible.

6. Make it interesting. Fun and unique experiences are the best ways to bring your team closer together. “This can be anything from going wake-boarding to watching a movie together (if you usually don't do it) to taking a short cooking or art class together to visiting a concert,” Ratje says. “Many team-building days are boring, because they never try something completely new.” Think about the interests and fitness levels of your employees when deciding on the activity. A staff mainly consisting of recent college graduates may enjoy a paintball excursion, while more experienced employees might prefer a cooking class. 

7. Feed them. Everyone likes to eat, and providing tasty food can go a long way to keeping your team happy and engaged. Have pastries from the bakery down the street when they arrive, provide snacks throughout the day and serve a delicious lunch. Be sure to also provide coffee and other beverages throughout the activity. Ratje suggests that trying a new food together can also be a great team-building experience. “If you haven't tried a certain food, this is the day to give it a shot. From sushi to Indian to Mongolian to Korean to German,” Ratje says.

8. Leave titles at the door. One of the keys to a successful day is for all employees to feel like they are on equal footing, regardless of their positions back at the office. Stress to your staff that office titles don’t exist today and everyone is on the same level. You could even have each person make a name tag with a title that helps people get to know them on a more personal level, such as “Chief Gardener” or “Yoga Master.” 

9. Challenge them. Having to work together on problems different than those they face in the workplace encourages teamwork. Ratje recommends splitting your group into two teams and having contests or challenges related to the activity. For example, if you go wake-boarding, have team compete to see which can stay standing the longest. “Make sure to prepare some cool prize for the winning team and some small, yet fun, punishment for the others,” Ratje says.

10. Get feedback. After the event, have employees provide anonymous feedback on the team building day. By knowing what your employees liked and disliked about the event, you can better plan team-building activities in the future. If you planned the day for a specific reason, such as increasing productivity, re-evaluate your goal two to three months after the event to see if the activities had any effect. 

Read more advice on how to improve your company culture here.  

Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs via Contently.com.