Team of workers sitting in a circle talking and smiling

As a former communications professional, I have experience identifying a good public relations opportunity, and team building certainly has one. Although many people get excited when they learn that they will have a chance to connect and collaborate with their colleagues, others hear the same term and have a decidedly different reaction.

They may instead roll their eyes at the thought or start to clam up, worrying that they may be put in an awkward situation. Given the potential for these reactions, I am offering some much-needed reputation rehabilitation to bonding and morale-boosting experiences.

Understanding Team Building

Let’s first establish a common understanding of the term before diving further into the topic. According to Oxford Languages, team building is defined as:

The action or process of causing a group of people to work together effectively as a team, especially by means of activities and events designed to increase motivation and promote cooperation.

This definition is quite positive on the surface. Upon reading it, I would venture to ask the question: Who does not want to create motivated, effective groups of employees?

From a rational, practical perspective, most individuals would recognize the value in having engaged staff members working together productively and cooperatively, especially when more than half of workers say their jobs are reliant on collaboration and 86% say a lack of collaboration is the top reason for workplace failures.

From a relational, intuitive perspective, it also follows that improving motivation and cooperation would inspire better results and a more dedicated workforce. The statistics also reinforce those perceptions.

Appraising Its Value

Well-designed bonding experiences resonate with staff and have the potential to drive incredible results:

80% of employees and employers believe it is important to create a sense of community at work, revealing that the vast majority of personnel would be open to team development that will boost connection and belonging.

63% of leaders report that communication improved after engaging in team building. Considering the hard costs of miscommunication alone, businesses lose between $4,000-$6,000 per employee per year to this challenge, not to mention the negative impacts to trust and innovation. Reducing these sorts of losses is important for business.

Connected departments also see a 20%-25% increase in productivity and a 31% increase in profitability. Investing in bonding experiences where staff get to know one another and learn to cooperate effectively can clearly have an impact on bottom-line results.

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The data demonstrates that the outcomes of relationship building are largely beneficial, the majority of employees seem to want to engage in it and the results are often extremely positive to individuals and the bottom line. So, where is this stigma coming from?

Overcoming Objections to Team Building

In some instances, people may not be aware of the return on investment that comes from team development. I recommend sharing the statistics above to negate those claims if that is the case.

More often than not, the negative reputation that accompanies bonding experiences has to do with the “activities and events” referenced in the definition from Oxford Languages. Hesitation often arises because some prior morale-boosting exercise felt too scratchy or too boring for a participant, or the person may doubt the effectiveness of a particular practice.

In these instances, the reputation of team building can be improved by ensuring that the initiatives are well-thought-out and speak to the different ways that people prefer to think and behave. These actions will allow each participant to feel engaged.

To see optimal results, be sure to:

  • Explain the outcomes and value the experience will deliver
  • Describe the relationship between the exercise and everyday actions
  • Ensure there are opportunities for staff to make connections with one another
  • Speak to the discoveries they will make and their implications for the future

I also encourage those who are hosting group development initiatives to share social proof. Evidence can come from testimonials from people who had previously engaged in the activity or well-respected members of the organization who can speak of the importance of investing time in team building. It is helpful to hear not only from typical cheerleaders of these sorts of events; be mindful to also seek out and include the opinions of skeptics.

Team building deserves to be seen for what it truly is: A valuable way to build meaningful relationships between employees that inspire better collaboration, higher engagement and improved results. By finding ways to demonstrate its value and creating programs that respect participants’ interests, needs and reservations, organizations will be able to unlock the collective strengths of their workforce.

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