Getting the most out of teambuilding

How can HR avoid cliched teambuilding activities, and still ensure maximum ROI from them? HRM discusses

A good teambuilding session doesn’t just make a team today. “It can also have a strong impact on individual perspectives in terms of how staff pursue their daily tasks, and how they can add further value, not only to the organisation, but to their own lives as well,” says Benson Lim, Chief Trainer, Awetones, provider of Singapore’s first ukulele team-building programme.

Experiential team activities are especially impactful when developed for and presented to multinational teams from around the region or world, says Francoise Lourdes, programme manager of Asia Ability. “They are a highly effective way of breaking down silos across country offices or functions, and create higher levels of trust, communication and collaboration.”
Ensuring maximum ROI
Teambuilding activities don’t have to be purely for fun. “Before embarking into the next teambuilding session, HR should first identify the aims and objectives,” says Lim. “Clear objectives help us to plan the activities.”

While teambuilding activities providers may be the experts in their respective programmes, the clients are the experts in matters related to their people. A survey to the staff can give deep insights. It is also critical for HR to be clear about how the measurement should take place.

For example, if the objective is to increase staff understanding of the company’s goals and values, Awetones will then create an activity that allows staff to express that through song writing. Through the song, the client will be able to see if the alignment of understanding has been achieved.

Sometimes, unexpected information can be gathered. “For example, during a song-writing activity with the theme of ‘recent happenings’, a group of staff in a security firm sang of exhaustion and fatigue,” Lim explains. “While yes, the singing and song-writing are all done in the name of fun, it can sometimes bring significant insights to the management team to look into operation protocols and improve work allocation.”

As well as the actual costs of setting up and managing the event, the client is making a major investment of the time of the delegates to be involved. In order to ensure maximum ROI, it is vital that the teambuilding activities provider works closely with the client from early in the bid process to ensure the objectives are defined and clear, says Lourdes.

“This enables a teambuilding activities provider, such as our professional team consultants and programme managers, to design both the activities and the way these are presented,” she adds.

Asia Ability often conducts evaluations after its team events to get immediate feedback on the activity itself and how it matched expectations and objectives. Some regular clients also engage Asia Ability Consulting (the Training and Development arm of the business) to design and conduct team- or organisation-wide Alignment Surveys.

“To be most effective, these are repeated on a biannual basis and can statistically measure team alignment, thus generating focus areas as well as measuring the impact of specific teambuilding interventions and initiatives,” says Lourdes.

To ensure that the teambuilding activity is a successful one, don’t be afraid to seek help from an external service provider, says Amanda Phan, Director – Client Services, Cookyn Inc. “You also should have an open mind and be willing to be transparent about the profiles and team dynamics with the partner of choice.

“Every bit of information you can share about the profile of participants will help lend context and makes for a better event experience for all,” she adds.

It is also good to create a forum for participants to reflect on the activity past upon their return to the office. “In the forum, have staff generate associations or draw parallels to their work situations,” Phan explains. “When these ideas originate from participants, it makes for a more personal and meaningful experience for them.”
Activities to consider
AweTeam specialises in creating teambuilding experiences through music. “Music, simply put, is a universal language,” says Lim. “Participants can become musicians in a short period of a few hours, performing and singing a song written by their own ‘band’.”

“We believe that we first must impact our participants on a personal basis first, before we engage them as a community,” Lim says. Hence, our activities must first affect the individual’s beliefs and state of mind, making them feel that the impossible is possible. This will open the mind to accept and try the many activities that happen after.”

Depending on the objectives, AweTeam plans out a second activity revolves around forming a band. More activities such as ‘song-writing’, ‘music superstar’, or even composing a ‘company anthem’ are then organised to cater to different needs.

Asia Ability offers a wide range of creative teambuilding events for groups as small as 10, and as large as 3,000 participants. Venues and durations are flexible too.

“Some of the most effective team events are carefully integrated with a client’s conference theme and agenda – including for example, two or three themed energiser activities within the meeting agenda and a half day creative team event – as a powerful finale to the session,” says Lourdes.

Unique Asia Ability creative team events include building F1 cars from flat sheets of cardboard, painting a customised giant team artwork, assembling the complex wooden parts of an amazing giant “Rat Trap”, and exploring cities around the region with the very latest iPad driven events.

For something even more different, there’s Cookyn Inc. Since its inception four years ago, the most sought-after programme (14 - 66 participants on-site) is the Kitchen Challenge activity. “It is a highly energetic and exciting programme for corporate groups,” says Phan. “The programme is run such that it promotes team bonding by using cooking as the interactive tool.”

For teams with a smaller group size, the programme has been adapted for a cosier get-together known as the Cookyn Challenge.

“Ultimately, teambuilding activities can be jazzed up with custom themes and other such methods to not only get the best ROI but also celebrate business milestones and make team bonding truly meaningful,” says Phan.

Top tips for effective teambuilding
  • Be clear on your objectives, time available, possible venues and profile of the participants in the first discussion with teambuilding companies.
  • Activities need to be carefully designed and presented so as to fully engage every delegate and have powerful learning that can be transferred directly back to the organisation.
  • Safety should be a priority during all team activities – whether indoors or outdoors.
  • Use unique, creative activities to avoid the “we have done this before” comments from delegates.
Source: Francoise Lourdes, Programme Manager, Asia Ability


Cooking together to bond
Every Cookyn Inc team bonding event features:
  • Practical hands-on cooking experience for all ages and culinary skill levels
    • Participants are engaged with the use of a tried-and-tested menu that is fun and with practical dishes that can actually be recreated at home.
  • Teamwork through preparation and presentation
    • The preparation of food allows team members to get to know each other better, as it is a natural conversation starter.
    • Set in a neutral environment outside of the workspace, the activity breaks any communication barriers existing at the workplace. All participants are viewed as equal in our kitchen studios, removing the intimidation of workplace social constructs during the activity.
  • Fun team bonding activities during cooking session
    • When teams are involved hands-on in execution, it allows them to communicate and work together to solve problems creatively under time pressure.
  • Communal dining of teams after cooking
    • A team meal is an intimate shared experience that reinforces bonds forged during the team challenge segment.
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