Investing in corporate day-outs and events might be good for an organisation, but when it comes to good old team building, office outings need to go beyond just hot-air balloon rides or a rush around the go-kart track, experts are saying.
And while modern technologies and new, innovative ways of doing businesses are changing team dynamics at the workplace, they say out-of-office
activities, if properly planned, can prove to be a worthwhile investment for a company.
Realising the demand for such exercises, Dubai-based experience-gifting company Blue Banana recently joined the corporate events arena. Managing director Simon Ford says a lot of firms confuse team-bonding exercises with a team day out.
"Team building is the most overused phrase in Dubai," he says. "A lot of companies do what they think is teambuilding exercises but in fact they are really just a fun team outing. For instance, people say they are going go-karting, but how does that create a team when everyone is in individual cars?
"To do a proper team-building exercise you need to bring interaction into the strategy," he adds.
Ford's company will hold its inaugural Corporate Challenge at the Dubai Autodrome today.
The event will see teams from 25 UAE companies go head-to-head over six challenges in a battle that will test their wits, lateral thinking, team work and communication, time management and problem solving skills.
"We moved into this field because some of the people receiving our gifts were CEOs and they wanted to do something for their employees," says Ford, who is referred to as the "Ideas Man" at Blue Banana.
"One company, for instance, took its employees on a hot air balloon ride in the desert and when they landed were treated to a five-star breakfast. This was a team reward for their performance."
Justin Hughes, the managing director of Mission Excellence, a company which calls itself an organisational performance consultancy, says it is absolutely vital for a business to be clear on what it wants.
"There are two different types of activities – team building exercises and team development," says the former Red Arrows pilot.
"Paint-balling or go-karting for example, are not really about improving performance, it is more a team sharing experience. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, it might not actually improve performance back in the office."
Hughes says his experiences at the world-famous Red Arrows has given him the skills required to work in organisations that find themselves recruiting new staff from a multitude of nationalities and backgrounds.
"With the Red Arrows you have a hundred people involved, with nine pilots of which three will change each year. What makes that interesting is that we are consistently delivering world class acts but with different people every year."
Hughes' company, which has organised events for corporations across Asia, Europe and the Middle East, was recently employed by Dubai-based mobile phone retailing company Cellucom to help create a better working relationship between its employees.
The event saw more than 50 employees make a trip to the luxury Bab Al Shams desert resort.
"We were divided into teams of 12 and 14 – consisting of people from different departments - and given a case study to solve as a team.
"It was extremely beneficial," says Puneet Parasher, training and marketing manager at Cellucom.
But while fun and games and a well-deserved break out of the office are on the agenda, the focus should be on learning, says Hughes. "What we are trying to do is achieve bonding values but we also use a situation that makes people think," he says.
Blue Banana's Ford agrees. "The critical thing is to look objectively at your time and ask what you want from your team. We have to be honest with our clients and get to the root of what they want from the challenge," he says.
"The same principle exists whatever activity you do which is creating trust between people."
- Team building skills are critical for effective management. So when organising an exercise, the following factors will determine what kind of event is best for you and your team:
- Be clear about what it is you are looking for
- Decide whether you are just looking to reward staff performance or is it simply an exercise to let off steam?
- Determine if there are specific problems in your organisation that need to be addressed
- Make sure you don't overspend. Focus on the results you want to achieve