H&E North takes a look at team building trends and how to ensure long-term benefits from away days…

Team building is the buzz word and blanket term for everything from a morale boosting night at the local bowling alley to glamorous group trips in far-flung destinations and bushcraft survival courses. However, whatever the budget – and whether it’s an office away day, a weekend excursion attached to a conference or a few hours of ice-breaker activities after a meeting – the best team building exercises all have one thing in common: a focus on long-term impact rather than short-term fun.

Discussing the benefits of team building sessions, Justin Everley, Commercial Director of inland surf lagoon and team building venue Surf Snowdonia, told H&E North: “There are clear advantages to getting out of the office, energising your team with a great activity and shaking things up a bit. The real benefits, though, are about how that relatively small investment translates in the long-term – the trickle-down effect on team morale, motivation, creativity, job satisfaction and company loyalty.”

When colleagues or delegates are tearing around a race track, pulling on their waterproofs to go white water rafting, navigating brain-busting escape-the-room challenges or immersing themselves in city-wide scavenger hunts, morale will likely be sky-high. But, group bonding aside, if you’ve spent valuable time and resources on team building development, it’s crucial to ensure employees or attendees leave with relevant skills and lessons applicable to the real world, rather than simply making fun memories.

Ensuring those benefits are actionable upon your return to the office is what sets a team building experience apart. Avoid picking an activity based on its popularity potential and instead put careful planning into the outcomes you want your group to achieve. Simply put, if you’d like to see your employees improve their presentation or communication skills, choose a task that involves pitching a product or speaking in front of peers, rather than rolling pizza dough. If there’s a teamwork issue that needs to be tackled or a group disagreement that needs to be resolved, tailor a bespoke package focused on collaborative tasks rather than competitive sports, to suit the group dynamics.

To ensure your chosen activities make a lasting impact, make sure to:
• Clearly define the purpose of the exercise, and the end goals for employees both individually and collectively, from the start
• Mix it up – choose activities that allow colleagues to glimpse each other’s talents, and provide insight into different roles, so that there’s greater understanding throughout your organisation and a knowledge bank in case of illness or holidays
• Positive feedback – let the team give feedback to each other, so that positive reinforcement comes from peers rather than just superiors
• Review, review, review – examine whether the team building session helped the group to reach its goals, and review how employees have implemented the skills when back in the office, both immediately afterwards and later down the line.

Now that the warmer months, and longer daytime hours are upon us, outside pursuits are also naturally at the forefront of organisers’ minds, with event profs keen to utilise the inspirational qualities of the great outdoors. Breaking out of the usual four walls often leads to high-octane challenges and sport and fitness related activities, but there has also been a recent surge in the popularity of more contemplative exercises such as nature trails and wildlife walks, volunteering on sustainability projects, and ‘netwalking’, whereby meetings are conducted during strolls and treks.

But which other trends are topping the team building charts in 2018? “Collaborative team challenges, problem solving, any physical activity that takes you out of your comfort zone and is fun to do – these are all great. We’ve noticed that people are looking for activities that are compatible with a healthy, wholesome lifestyle,” says Justin, “Organisers are increasingly looking for authenticity and added value for their events – details like whether or not the venue offers locally produced food and drink are definitely more important now than they were five years ago.”

With the perception of team building having changed so dramatically, and with the focus now on increasingly entertaining, creative and immersive experiences, away days have become intrinsically linked to brand image and aspiration. “Businesses are very aware of brand identity and the power of social media to amplify that,” continues Justin, “A post which captures your team doing something amazing in a beautiful setting is arguably a better brand message than a day on the beer at the races. And we’d argue a lot more fun too! And because every event now has a social media footprint, brand alignment is increasingly important too.”

However, Justin adds that from his perspective “what matters most” when it comes to team building is “the spirit in which they are led and delivered. A great team building activity will fly or fail on the person who leads it – charisma, good humour and great communication skills are essential for the job.” These are certainly traits that many organisers will hope to see “trickle-down” into attendees both on the day and back on the job.

Got an app for that?
H&E North takes a look at a couple of team building apps on the market…

The Go Game – With clients including Netflix and Nike, this cross-platform app allows users to play a selection of indoor, outdoor and training games including mystery puzzles, mindfulness missions, safety training and even charity games with live donations.

Icebreaker – What it says on the tin. Have a resource chock full of quick, easy ice-breaker activities and ideas to hand with this app, which lists the exercises by type, situation and group size, as well as providing instructions and recommendations on purpose, props and duration.
Available for free on iOS.