A team that functions as one unit, seamlessly staying productive as they head toward one shared goal—and remain happy while doing so—is still the holy grail for many employers. Yet for something that’s meant to boost camaraderie in the workplace, empower employees, as well as build trust and address conflict among colleagues, the idea of team building gets a pretty bad rap.
Just hearing the phrase “team building” almost immediately induces eye-rolls—mostly because it’s a term so closely associated with trust falls that supposedly represents the forming of lasting bonds, and somewhat embarrassing obstacle courses meant to test your employees’ good judgment under pressure.
In today’s fast-paced and sophisticated working environment, however, is all this even necessary? Aren’t there better things the company can spend their time and money on? Yes, and no.
“In my company, when I say team building, I’m talking about the underlying concept behind all these activities that have become synonymous with it. The idea behind these activities is to draw employees out from their silos, forge and build a relationship with their colleagues, and strengthen that,” says Brandon Steven, founder, and CEO of Steven Enterprise, LLC.
So no, team building doesn’t necessarily have to involve team-based, collaboration-focused exercises, but yes, it does mean that businesses have to make an effort to improve cohesion within the organization. Because at the end of the day, a great team will strengthen your operations and boost your efficiency.
“I believe that building a great team goes back to the kind of culture you have in the workplace. Some companies have a knack for creating a culture that people want to be a part of—that employees aspire to be in. A big part of that means taking the time to understand what actually matters to them so that they have a workplace that they actually love waking up early to go to,” he adds.
This goes well beyond offering competitive pay and great benefits. While important, team members won’t invest in an organization where they can’t place a value greater than their paycheck. Because when it comes to building your team and making sure each one is happy, a great team spirit anchored on an empowering company culture is critical.
“You don’t want to create a workplace where employees feel like they have to be someone else five days a week. And it’s up to you to create a place that’s built on a culture of trust and growth—where people can be open and constructive as well as encouraging and flexible to teammates.”
Steven describes it as “your head being on a swivel and light on your feet.” Meaning, being open to new ideas and having the ability to see things through other’s eyes.
Let’s take the traditional go-to activities for team building as an example. On paper, its value is undeniable. But when your employees have to do the same programs year after year, you’ll rarely see any real results. Obstacle courses and endurance races can be divisive and will likely only prompt them to try and get themselves out of participating. Overnight workshops and retreats are usually seen as time away from their families, or more pressing tasks, making them resent the whole process.
Steven believes however that the same, if not better, results can be derived if you take the time to truly understand what matters to your team. Take his own approach to team building—he veers away from cookie-cutter programs and instead focuses on investing in practical training. He encourages socializing outside of work. He provides flexible policies that help boost team engagement. And he always aims to set a clear example to his now 8000-strong team, that open communication and support is critical to the success of their business.
“My approach to team building is evident in the time and attention we dedicate to each person in the company. We take the time to learn what we can do to make team members feel empowered and valued in the organization,” he adds.
Ultimately, creating a thriving and profitable business is tied to Steven’s ability to attract and retain team members with the skills the company needs to deliver amazing results. Working in a culture that celebrates shared ideas, pays attention to group dynamics, and values teamwork draws like-minded employees who share the same ideals; allowing tenured team members and new hires to seamlessly work together.