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As the world comes out of the recession and moves towards a slow and painful recovery, team building remains as important as ever, say experts.
Hazel Jackson, Chief Executive of Biz Events, a company that organises team-building events for businesses, told Emirates Business: "It is important for businesses to invest in team-building despite the setback they have suffered due to the recession as it is the people in the organisation who will help your business to recover from recession. Your team needs to be smarter and more aligned now as the competition in the aftermath of the global recession will be fiercer than ever.
"If companies have to get 100 per cent out of their employees, it is important for them to invest in team-building activities as well. This is because team-building activities are interesting and stimulate problem-solving tasks designed to help members of an organisation develop their capacity to work effectively together, while having a whole lot of fun. Team building is one of the most effective tools for reinforcing a corporate message and engaging employees in initiatives."
George Duncan, General Manager, Tadrib.ae, said: "Recession or not, team-building exercises are always beneficial as they not only teach your employees to work together in harmony but also teach them to think out of the box.
"Team building exercises help some people to get rid of their inhibitions and come out of their shells. Also the UAE is a place where there are people from so many different nationalities and not everyone is comfortable working with people of different origins. So team-building exercises help break the ice where different nationalities and cultures are concerned and help all the people from different departments in your company go forward together for the benefit of the business."
Team-building exercises can be simple, novel or complex and designed for specific needs, but the one golden rule is that they should ensure the participants have a good time while working together.
Team-building activities can be used in meetings, presentations, workshops, training seminars, education programmes and corporate training.
According to Jackson, when she set up her business a few years ago, there was not much awareness regarding the importance of team-building activities in the UAE. However, over the years more and more companies have become aware of its importance and as a result there are quite a few players in the UAE market now.
"I would say that there is a marked difference in the attitudes of the businesses now than when I first started a few years ago. Back then, we had to educate them about the benefits of team-building exercises, but now, they are not only aware of it, they have become very savvy as they have a host of companies to choose from. Also repeat customers now demand more sophisticated and innovative exercises.
"In fact, we have added 10 events to our corporate team-building portfolio which now includes 45 different challenges," she said.
According to the industry sources, businesses in the UAE seem to be preparing for the upturn after the recession as after a mild dip in the bottomlines during the downturn, order books for companies organising team-building activities are full again and they are doing more business now than they did before.
Duncan said: "Even though our business was affected by the downturn, it started picking up from November 2009 and my order books are packed from January to May. I am doing more business this year despite the fact that I have in no way cut down the costs associated with the exercises for companies."
Jackson said: "While 2009 was a difficult year for many companies, they still recognise the value of saying thank you to their staff, getting them energised, engaged, motivated and aligned for 2010.
"What we have seen are companies being more strategic with their team events, which is perfect for us as we're able to work closely to ensure return on investment and longevity from the events they have done.
"Our bookings for January 2010 are a good indicator for the rest of the year as they show companies are more optimistic and prepared to invest in their teams. Participation levels for January increased 41 per cent on our record breaking new year period of 2007."
Talking about the games organised by her, Jackson said: "My favourite activity is The Big Picture, where all teams paint crafted sections of a picture on canvasses. Communication and co-ordination is critical as not all the information is immediately available. After all the teams have finished, the canvasses are joined together to create the Big Picture. This highlights the successes and challenges of working together and the exercise is a good way for demonstrating different styles of people working together as no team can achieve their goal without co-operating with each team member and the whole group will not achieve their goal without co-operating with the other teams.
"The challenge clearly demonstrates the importance of effective communication in a short space of time."
Another one of Jackson's favourites is BeatsWork where teams learn to play samba instruments. While in the beginning the "music" they create is totally discordant, they ultimately come together and perform in harmony. BeatsWork was designed to show the power of relationships between individuals, when collectively harnessed and aligned towards a common goal.
"The analogies between the individual instruments and rhythms are introduced, explaining that we can only make music if everyone learns to appreciate their role in relation to others,'' she said. "All players must contribute as a team, rather than individuals trying to stand out, and work together playing in time and on cue."
According to Jackson a vital part of team building exercises is the participants' reflection and discussion about the activity, about how they approached the situation and possible points of learning.
So Biz-Events videographs the participants during an activity and the video is later watched, analysed, and discussed by the teams, to help extract potential learning from the exercises.
Not only that, in order to ensure that the teams don't forget the lessons learnt during the exercises, So Biz-Events videographs the participants during an activity and the video is later watched, analysed, and discussed by the teams, to help extract potential learning from the exercises.
- Bean Around the World
It is business simulation game where teams explore issues of short-term productivity versus long-term strategy, in a highly charged trading environment. Bean Around the World captures the essence of understanding customers' needs in a changing market. Teams negotiate, build relationships and trade to increase the value of their coffee business, with objective results.
Key messages: Explores issues such as short-term productivity versus long-term strategy, trust building, win-win negotiating, managing customer and supplier needs within a complex supply chain and the power of information. On its own, Bean Around The World makes a highly effective conference energiser, putting delegates in a positive and receptive frame of mind. With a review and analysis session thrown in it becomes an excellent vehicle for building real commitment to customer focus. A minimum of 12 people and a maximum of 200 participate in the game that can last from one to two hours.
- Chariot Challenge
Teams are provided with an unusual set of equipment including flat cardboard, cardboard roles, tape, tie-wraps, cutting tools and the blueprints. Their challenge is to build a roman chariot that can be raced to win the champions chalice. No materials but those provided can be used. This seemingly impossible challenge requires commitment, resource allocation and quality control. A dynamic and daring race concludes the teams challenge.
Key messages: In Chariot Challenge cross-functional collaboration, decision-making, resource allocation and innovation all come into play. An impossible task will quickly become very possible (and lots of fun) as the power of the team and a well co-ordinated effort takes over to make the project a reality. An analogy can be drawn to the work place where everyone has a rewarding role to play in keeping the team in the race whether they want to build, design, decorate or drive the chariot, each team member had a valuable contribution to make. The minimum number of people required for this game is 15 while there is no upper limit. The time frame given for making the chariot is one-and-a-half-hour.
- Body Building
Build the company logo out of 'Human Resources". Each person is given a grid reference that correlates with a letter or part of their logo. Their company name can be spelled out or their logo recreated using the bodies of the team. The photographs produced look great in office reception areas, make fantastic employee gifts and prove that is really the people who make a company.
Key messages: An event involving everyone, great for breaking the ice at a large regional conference where delegates may not be familiar with each other, energising delegates ready for the next agenda item or use as a grand finale to a successful day
The final photograph is truly representative of how each individual really does build the structure of the company and also makes a unique and memorable souvenir. It gives delegates a real sense of "belonging" to an organisation.
It can involve a minimum of 80 people and a maximum of 10,000 and can be finished in 30 minutes.
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