Corporations are currently faced with a challenging question that has long affected education: what is the best way build a collaborative environment, with measurable values and effects of engagement? In education, this pertains to learning, progress and qualifications — while in business, this translates specifically to productivity, morale and business output.
The big difference between the two sectors is that in education, costs are ‘built in’ to salaries and interventions which directly aim for those same progression outcomes — whereas businesses are required to specifically invest capital and/or profit into team-building activities and events, with hope that the investment will be returned.
Though both sectors can qualify the success of team-building efforts in anecdotal ways (“remember the time when…?”), businesses are fast moving into the realm where, like educators, it’s essential to quantify the success of team building efforts in a way that translates into key business performance metrics. This not only enables business managers to recognize what works and what doesn’t, but also reveals opportunities for more effective management in the future.
Translating team-building endeavors into quantifiable measures can include a plethora of possibilities and methods, but all need a starting point: a baseline prior to implementing a calendar or schedule of team-building activities. For yours, consider looking at:
- Absentee rates
- Productivity rates
- Rates of overtime take-up
- Daily/weekly/monthly profit
- Time-and-motion studies can also help identify exactly how time is used by management and a team. This is particularly useful when putting together an overview of the frequency, productivity and purpose of meetings, along with punctuality in relation to staff breaks, pace of work, number of customer complaints, and even staff grievances.
As no two companies will be influenced by the exact same factors and actions, there will be different baseline areas for various types of companies. These examples prove that there are plenty of options to be identified and used, depending on a team, business focus and need.
Building in the bonding
The next action is to introduce newly selected team-building activities. When choosing an exercise, remember that the key aim of team-building activities is to increase productivity — and the main vehicle by which team building events aim to do this is by bonding disparate teams.
It’s worth remembering that such events are about collaboration and not competition, which can often be detrimental to overarching business goals. Be thoughtful in offering creative exercises and activities which include ‘lone’ workers, invite collaboration, and help to define team members’ roles.
Activities should also bring out individuals’ strengths, before empowering staff to take these qualities back into the workplace. Using the services of a team events company to facilitate this can seem expensive depending on the number of people and type of activities involved, but once measuring tools have been defined, measuring and managing the outcome can only be beneficial. It’s reasonable to expect an increase in company knowledge about a team, performance, productivity, and prospects.
Giving teammates a voice
A great team-building activity that often costs less but can still give valuable, measured outcomes is to gather and directly ask the team about various aspects of the company. A session like this can include (but certainly isn’t restricted to) Q&A with teammates on a broad range of topics. Here are a few ideas:
- Work environment: consider asking about desired improvements, problem areas, or even health and safety concerns
- Office hierarchy or management systems: is everyone comfortable where they are? Are there line-management clashes which result in some staff feeling de-valued? Are some staff feeling ‘stuck’ and overlooked?
- Wages and working conditions: although this should come into appraisal or performance management procedures, this is by no means a given with some companies, so staff really should be offered the chance to have their say. This can be a relatively easy fix if the funds are there and will be invaluable in returned loyalty and productivity.
- Schedules: is the company struggling with poor scheduling which means death-by-meeting Thursdays for some staff, or no time for creative thinking for others? Those that are subject to the schedules will know exactly what’s working, or not, so ask them! After, factor their responses into the development of new processes and systems – and measure those outcomes.
How to manage the measuring
Finally, it’s time to re-measure your outcomes. It’s important to recognize that investing in your team in this way, particularly if it’s something your company hasn’t done before, can take time to get right. While improvements may be seen quickly (and that’s great!), there’s no guarantee that there will be an immediately or obvious return on any investment of time or money spent –- in reality, efforts may be something which gradually drip-feed over a span of months or years after action.
The important thing is to retain the focus, as this will also encourage staff engagement – don’t let them think your efforts were a one-off attempt, as that doesn’t encourage loyalty!
If the measures show no improvement, try switching tactics with different team events or activities which closely complement your business goals. Be sure to reflect on both the managing side of measurement as well as acknowledging to your staff that they, as well as your company, are worth your investment.