Posts Tagged ‘group dynamics’
Each summer, New York City and other large metropolitan areas are flooded with summer associates & interns – undergrad & graduate students from across the country and world, who arrive for highly competitive (and often lucrative) temporary positions at leading financial, legal and other professional institutions. This summer staff typically works hard and plays hard, and it is the job of dedicated HR staff to ensure that these potential future employees are provided with entertaining social opportunities during their employ.
Team building companies in NYC and elsewhere cater to this audience, of course- but with so many different options amidst varied corporate cultures, how do you make the right fit? Below is a simple guide to assessing your company’s culture across 3 broad variables, and matching it with an appropriate entertainment activity for your summer interns & associates:
Competitive – This is the most common feature of professional institutions who have a large summer staff program. Investments banks, hedge funds, litigation firms – they all tend to attract recruits who are naturally competitive. These people will thrive in any highly competitive activity, especially one with high stakes (ie: a great prize). Scavenger hunts, “amazing race” events, trivia, competitive sailing and other zero-sum, winner/loser events are safe bets here.
Analytical – Not all departments within the finance world attract the most competitive types. The IT industry, for instance, works very closely with banks, yet tends to attract a more reserved, analytical crowd – especially programmers, who work on the backend. These folks aren’t nearly as cutthroat as the traders they support on the floor, yet still love having fun. Scavenger hunts & other activities above might work well, but try something with less of a “winning” component, such as team cooking or rock climbing- people who spend 10 hours a day locked in the coding room love going outside to play.
Geeky – There’s no shame in admitting it – some companies recruit geeks. Anyone in the tech industry will be the first to admit this, yet geeky does NOT mean they don’t know how to compete, as well as have an awesome time. Brainpower is the key here, so find an activity where the staff can show off how creative & brilliant they are (I personally feel this is a natural home for live trivia & game show-type activities, but I’m somewhat biased, so please don’t take my word for it. Really, any activity which lets smart people feel smart is going to be a winner for this group).
While virtually any fun event will be well-received by a group of hard-working summer associates & interns, you can maximize the experience by smartly matching the team building or entertainment activity to the office culture.
Do you have any suggestions for HR managers & summer staff coordinators to help them select the best entertainment activities for their groups?
Whether held in Peoria, Toledo or New York City, corporate team building and employee entertainment events should have a lot in common. Sure, there is a lot of variety out there, and plenty of activities to choose from (although “trust falls” may be a bit past their prime). However, when it comes right down to it, employee team building events should deliver a high-value take-away to all attendees involved, which will prove beneficial for company morale, boost productivity and foster better teamwork.
Below are 5 mandatory features for a successful event. While it is impossible to please everyone, and not every activity is for every group, the ideal event will neatly & creatively demonstrate the following characteristics:
1) Fun – If it isn’t fun, it isn’t team building. In order to successfully transport people out of their regular headspace, employees at an event must abandon the negative emotions they often come into work with – namely anxiety, frustration, depression and fear. In it’s place, the activity must generate the exact opposite, countering strongly with positive emotion- in a word, fun.
2) Unique - By their nature, team building activities are intended to be both a physical and mental escape from the day to day office drudgery. The ideal event will take place in novel surroundings, led by new people with new faces, and bring an entirely different experience which the group is accustomed to.
3) Memorable – The event can’t just be a good time for one evening. In order for the messages of the activity to truly hit home, it has to be something which produces lasting positive memories, which the group can reminisce about in the weeks and months after the event is over.
4) Impactful – Did the event have a positive, measurable impact on the group? Whether through improved workplace relations, boosted productivity, enhanced efficiency, better communication or noticeable increase in overall office morale, a successful event has made a strong impression, allowing your employees to work better together.
5) Replicable – While team building activities can effectively enable positive change on a group’s dynamics, the changing nature of teams – and of work itself – requires repeated activities over time, in order to successfully impart messaging long-term. A high-value activity thus is one which can be easily replicated, yet which provides a different user experience every time.
Are there other core aspects of team building activities not included here, which you feel are important for your employees to experience?
When my father-in-law met my younger brother for the first time, he asked him what he did professionally. My brother, in between jobs at the time, replied – half-jokingly – “I have fun.”
If only life could be so simple, right? Imagine, going into work every day, and having that be your description of work: it’s FUN! But no, this is not the way of the world. Someone else once told me years ago, after listening to me complain about my first entry-level job, that if work were supposed to be fun, it would be called “fun,” not “work.” That stuck with me- but not in the way it’s fatalistic benefactor had intended.
So is that it, then? Living by the sweat of one’s brow in the hopes of someday being happy, AFTER work is over? Really? As Samuel L. Jackson said in Pulp Fiction: “Well, allow me to retort!”
Even before I worked in corporate event entertainment – heck, before I started working, period – I recognized the value of injecting fun into the workplace. I remember going into offices as a kid with my parents, and thinking: “man, this looks so BORING!” And you know what? It was. This didn’t change when I was doing office temp work in high school, or working at the store over breaks in college, and certainly didn’t abate once I entered the workforce proper after graduating. Why, I’d wonder, can’t work also be fun?
Think about it: if employees are having fun – not necessarily in their work duties (though this doesn’t hurt), but at least in their interactions with each other – won’t they be happier? Won’t they be more productive? Won’t they feel a stronger sense of attachment and commitment to their jobs, resulting in increased output and more pride in their results? Doesn’t a happy workforce naturally lend itself to boosting morale, creating a better work environment and thus better performance?
The authors of FISH! recognized this in their extremely popular book on workplace productivity, gleaned from hours observing workers at Seattle’s “World Famous” Pike Place Fish Market. If you’ve been there, it’s an amazing sight: big, burly fisherman, working with ice-cold seafood and dripping with rancid fish guts, are happily singing, cheering, and tossing fish into the air at each other. Why? Because otherwise, their jobs would be HORRIBLE, that’s why! Yet, there they are: excited, enthused, demonstrating teamwork and pride in their jobs. After watching for only a minute, one can’t help but feel a pang of jealously, thinking: “I wish I could work here…”
I think you CAN work there- not literally of course, but you can certainly inject fun into your workplace. Sure, work is serious: we need to be professional, productive and respectful of company time, money and reputation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have FUN while we do it.
Please share your thoughts on this. If you are a business owner, HR professional or manager, please let us know: what’s keeping you from making your workplace fun?
So you’ve decided to hold a “team building exercise,” and have everyone from the group, department or company participate. Do you have a goal in mind?
For many HR managers and executive staff, the true goal of team building activities in New York City and elsewhere is rather nebulous. Yes, there is value in taking a step back and lifting everyone outside of the daily grind, in order to have a shared positive experience; however, what is the purpose for your event? Without a clear idea of what skills you want your staff to take back with them to the office, you may just we wasting everyone’s valuable time- and halting productivity in the process.
Below are the 3 most important skills which every team building activity must incorporate, in order to have a lasting positive impact on your group which will favorably affect performance:
1) Collaboration – Events which are designed to promote group interaction should naturally foster meaningful collaboration as well. As the world gets flatter and digital technology becomes faster and more efficient, the need for employees and senior staff alike to practice meaningful collaborative skills has never been greater, and will only increase in the years to come.
2) Communication – With a faster, more interconnected world comes the need to manage an ever-growing number of emails, texts, calls and meetings (both live and virtual). Mastering group and interpersonal communication skills is vital to staff at all levels, especially as the constant demand for our time and attention across a variety of mediums forces us to sacrifice the care we put into how we communicate with one another.
3) Decision Making – Perhaps the most vital skill for employees at all levels to master, sound decision making is a skill shared by successful leaders in every industry. Events such as this offer a unique opportunity for teams to practice decision making in a group setting, without “real world” consequences.
Teamwork will play an increasingly vital role in the rapidly transforming digital workplace. Skills that allow employees to work better as a team by collaborating better, communicating more effectively and making crisp, clear decisions should be an absolute priority for companies who want to compete effectively and efficiently in the years to come.
What are some other important skills which team building activities should help employees develop?
The recent Charlie Sheen saga included this Tweet about “Winning,” which served as fodder for late night TV show host, but got me thinking about an interesting topic.
There are myriad “team building” activities out there, ostensibly designed to facilitate group interaction and bonding, foster collaboration and leave a lasting positive impact. Many of these activities involve breaking a larger group down into smaller teams, who then compete against each other in a friendly rivalry lasting only for the duration of the event- scavenger hunts, boat races, trivia events etc. The reason for this of course is to introduce a more immediate objective to the team building goals listed above, and that is the element of “winning.”
For a small team of people within the larger group to “win” a team building activity, the lasting positive impact is even greater than that of the group as a whole. However, what about the vast majority of co-workers who didn’t win- are they losers? How does making the bulk of the event attendees “losers” make for a positive team building experience? Additionally, won’t the majority of “losers” come to resent the “winners” back at the office?
I would argue an emphatic “no” to this. While it’s true that in competitive-based, zero-sum team building events such as trivia, the driving force of the event is indeed the chance to “win” (it doesn’t matter if you’re giving away iPads or a week in Tahiti as prizes, folks just want beat everyone else). However, this competition is always good-natured and fun. Even among the most competitive of professions– investment banking, law, etc. – I’ve found that while the inter-team ribbing & trash talking is intense, it’s accompanied by lots of smiles and laughter. After the event is over, the “winning” team is allowed to gloat (usually quite loudly), but the rest of the group provides encouragement and congratulations.
The reason that nobody feels like a “loser” after a competitive corporate employee event is that while only one team in fact “wins,” everyone has just enjoyed the same shared experience- and that experience was fun, energetic, enthusiastic and impactful.
There is of course one exception to this, and that is when one of the “losing” teams feels that they were robbed of their rightful “win.” This can happen when the activity is trivia, as there is always a chance that questions may have multiple correct answers – or even worse, the official “correct” answer given is actually wrong! (these and other topics will be addressed in future posts on quality control, and ensuring trivia questions are “bulletproof.”) If and when this does happen (and if you run enough team building activities, it inevitably will) it’s best to rectify as quickly, fairly and publicly as possible. People don’t mind not winning- unless they are convinced they did, and aren’t recognized for it.
What are your opinions on the positive/negative role of “winning” in corporate team building events?