Why "Team-building" Days Don't Work

22 Mar 2012

I repeat below a recent article in the UK's Daily Telegraph on a survey carried out by Vodaphone and YouGov showing what many of us already know - that typical team-building exercises corporates spend vast amounts of money and time on each year don't improve performance at work. Real results-based team development / team coaching work - the teamwork programmes I and others focus on - is a very different type of dayt or days. And works.

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We may pride ourselves on being a nation of good sports, but most employees think that doing more company team-building events would not help improve how they work.
The survey carried out by Vodafone UK and YouGov suggests workers feel that some organised teambuilding activities can be a waste of time, and at worst, are toe-curlingly embarrassing. 

Workers would much prefer being able to communicate with each other better at work rather than being forced to build rapport with their co-workers by sharing adrenaline experiences or performing 'trust' exercises.

The research among more than 1,000 British employees with colleagues uncovered some excruciating examples of awkward and silly teambuilding activities, including enduring bikini-clad 'bed baths' and massages from colleagues, holding lingerie parties, and eating crickets as part of a 'bush tucker trial' style event.

While the majority of workers surveyed (66 per cent) have been made to do some form of teambuilding activity, more than half (54 per cent) don't feel that doing more would help them work better with their colleagues. 

"British companies are spending a huge amount of time and effort in building more effective teams" says Peter Kelly, Enterprise Director at Vodafone UK. "This research confirms that people place more value on open, collaborative and flexible ways of working every day than one-off team-building exercises."

According to the survey, adrenaline experiences like speed-boating and bungee jumping are considered the least effective team-building activities, followed by trust exercises such as being blindfolded and led by colleagues.

Those deemed most effective are social events like going out for a drink or a meal, followed by volunteering and charity work. 

Rather than potentially waste money on frivolous team-building exercises, respondents with a negative view of team-building suggest that companies should instead focus on providing a more supportive atmosphere at work, enabling better team communication and offering tools for flexible working as their top three priorities.

"Many genuine team-building activities can be valuable, but ultimately, to achieve better teamwork businesses need to get the basics right first. Employers need to focus on how their employees work day-to-day, and give staff the tools they need to be able to do their job best. Employees also want to be able to work smarter - and that means easy access to customers, colleagues and information wherever they are," said Mr Kelly. 

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