How to organise team building

Organising a team building event is never easy, whether it’s a day of outdoor sports or two hours of brainstorming in a hotel room. People always have different opinions about what the activity should be, some resent the time away from their work and some – those who in fact really need to be bonding more with their team – don’t want to spend the time with their colleagues.

It becomes even harder when you are providing a 24 hour service because there is the added problem of how to include everyone while staying operational. “You can’t close a residential care facility for 24 hours,” says Gary Daglish, performance development officer in social services at Newcastle Council. Which is why a lot of planning is required if an event is to be successful.

1 Why are you doing it?
That’s the first question you need to ask. Why do you want this group of people to come together and what is the desired outcome from the event? Is it just to have fun? To address any problems with team working or motivation? A reward for a job well done? Make sure you and those attending know what the event is for. It is much easier to choose the right activity and organise a successful event if you are clear about objectives from the start.

2 Who needs to be there?
Think about which people need to be there and if senior management needs to be involved. It is important to get as many team members as possible to take part, so get the event in the diary well in advance. Also, as Daglish says, it may be necessary to get in cover so that services keep on running. “We ask other teams to provide cover or get in relief staff sometimes,” he says. “It is important to try to release the full staff team as much as possible, but it’s not easy and it’s very hard to include night staff.”

3 What will happen on the day?
Once you know what you want and should be there, Alison Hall, management and development training officer for social services at Nottingham Council, thinks all staff should be consulted as to what the activity is. “You need a lot of consultation,” she says. “Try to please everyone, otherwise it isn’t a team event.” There was a trend for organising adventurous sports, such as potholing, but some people will not want to – and may refuse – to take part in such an activity. If you want people to attend and get involved, make sure the activities are appropriate and won’t scare people off. Hall says you should be prepared to do something a bit different. She thinks it is good to get people out of their normal working environment and she once organised a team building day that was a country walk followed by a pub lunch. “It was what everyone wanted and it was a fantastic experience,” she says. “A lot of networking was done that day by people who didn’t normally come across each other in their ordinary working day.”

4 The venue
Think about all the logistics for people. If the event is at a different location to the workplace, how will people get there? Will people have much longer journey times? You don’t want the day to get off to a bad start because people are annoyed at having to set off 30 minutes earlier than usual so to get to the event on time. Also, make sure the event and venue/location are accessible to everyone and have all the necessary facilities. 

5 Evaluate
You can often tell on the day if it has been successful or not, but it is important to evaluate it properly and quickly. Get feedback, ask people what they thought of it and what they got out of it. Hand out questionnaires at the end of the day or in the following week so outcomes can be properly assessed. It is better to let people answer questionnaires anonymously because the responses will probably be more honest. And the feedback will help you know what to do and what not to do next time you organise such an event.

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