Teambuilding taster

Gone are the days when teambuilding just meant an evening at the pub with colleagues. Now, with the huge range of teambuilding activities on the market, these events are an excuse to push the boundaries. But, as with any event, there is an increasing need to ensure  teambuilding provides a tangible return on investment.

With organisations now re-igniting their teambuilding taste buds, the choice of activities is endless. So, how do you go about choosing the most appropriate activity for your team? Is it all about all-action activities, or is it about keeping it creative?

According to Ian Luxford, Strategic Solutions Director in Grass Roots’ Learning Team, part of the Employee Solutions division, the decision should be based on the group you are working with and what will best help them get to where they need to be.

“Good teambuilding will always challenge people and may work best if they are away from their comfort zones, but it is essential that no one is challenged so far that they cannot participate and benefit,” he says.

Dan Collins, Director of Fresh Tracks, which delivers people development programmes and events, says his top tip for making teambuilding events inclusive is to combine activities. “The team will likely consist of analytically-minded and more physically-minded individuals, so the best activity is one that incorporates all members of the team.”

Mental challenges alongside physical challenges mean everyone can be a hero and it also caters for those who may be pregnant or have a medical condition. “Make it so that everyone can take part and not have to throw a sickie on the day of the event,” he adds.

In addition to choosing an activity that will appeal to all, it is essential the activity fulfils the event objectives and generates ROI.

As with any corporate event, teambuilding needs to have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line, it needs to generate more value than it costs.

Pinning down exactly what you want a team to do differently following a teambuilding event is a key ROI objective, according to Elling Hamso, Managing Partner at the Event ROI Institute. “If you want them to listen better to the opinions of colleagues, then your teambuilding event needs a sequence of listening techniques, appreciative inquiry or something like that,” he says. “If you want them to allocate work among themselves according to what people do well, your teambuilding may need a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator exercise to identify the preferences of team members.

“The most important objectives for teambuilding, is concerned with the behaviour of participants after the event,” he concludes.

KDM Events MD Kevin Davies says although the purpose of  a teambuilding activity is usually fairly obvious – maybe it’s the fun element of a product launch; bringing to life key corporate messages; or injecting a recreational component to a conference – it’s good to drill down further to establish specific objectives that, if met, will bring added value. 

“Only at this point should you match teambuilding options to the brief you have put together, and these days the choice is huge,” Davies says. “Examples include the creation and editing of a movie, to communicate key business messages in a fun way.  A more energetic option could be a school sports-day style competition. Or for a lasting memento, and to generate a sense of corporate cohesion how about the team creating an original piece of artwork to grace the company’s reception?”

Similar to this, is Chillisauce’s Urban Art Logo, which the agency says is the perfect metaphor for teambuilding. Companies choose a design they wish to create with graffiti, the design is then split into different sections and delegated to different groups. All the teams work together and finally unveil the full work of art. Energy drinks company Monster took part in this activity, with the finished piece now hanging up in its office.

Creating engaging team-led exercises tailored to your businesses and ambitions is the most important element of teambuilding, according to Alison Glaves, MD and co-founder at Mediamaker. “Delegates should be motivated to participate and help their teams succeed, knowing they are strengthening their abilities to work better together.”

Keeping it creative
“Compared to physically challenging teambuilding events, creative activities enable participants to draw out imaginative ideas not always seen in the office. They allow for greater self expression, all while sharing and developing ideas as part of a team,” says Anna Snoep, Director of Sales and Marketing at Down Hall Country House Hotel, which has launched a new teambuilding activity, Animate, with Bluehat Group.

Described as a highly creative indoor activity based around stop-frame animation, groups are challenged with producing a unique digital animation film short. 

For teambuilding events with a CSR focus, Beaumont Estate in Windsor’s Building a Dream activity brings teams together to create and build real bikes for donation to a children’s project in the community. All complete bikes undergo safety checks before being donated to a community organisation.

With the rising popularity of TV programmes such as Masterchef and The Great British Bake Off, food-based activities are another way to get a team’s creative juices flowing.

Seasoned cookery school worked on a Masterchef-style event for Innocent Drinks, where the brief was to provide a fun cookery teambuilding day to bring colleagues together including several new team members. The team started with a skills test to test their teamwork, listening and communication skills. A soufflé challenge followed, before the teams put their taste buds to the test as they identified the different ingredients in Moroccan themed dishes, before attempting the dishes themselves.

“Our team was fully engaged in the cooking activities and it enabled us to bond as a group out of the office environment,” says Innocent Drinks Procurement Leader, John Taylor.

Edinburgh New Town Cookery School’s Generation Game with a foodie twist sees teams take part in tasks such as decorating cupcakes, making pancakes, and tasting teas. All tasks are scored before everyone comes together for a kitchen-themed version of a pub quiz. “This is a great teambuilder which gets everyone laughing and learning,” says Principal of the school, Fiona Burrell.

Jenius Social, a new food hub in Islington, has a range of creative cookery-based classes designed to get groups interacting and working together to improve communication, develop problem-solving abilities and encourage staff to think outside the box and be creative in their approach to challenges.

Classes include Tasty Brands, an apprentice-style challenge where teams go head-to-head in baking, decorating and packaging sweet treats. Teams create their own logo, branding and marketing strategy, set the retail price and work out their profit margin.

For chocolate lovers, Thorpe Park Resort has teamed up with Hartley Events to produce a Chocolate Coaster Challenge.

“The emphasis is on having fun all while working as a team; it will take a collaborative effort, effective communication and excellent time management to design and construct the chocolate coasters,” says Paul Hartley MD, Chocolatier and Chef at Hartley Events.

All about the action
Russell Allen, founder of Crescendo has recently launched a team event company which he says will ‘right many of the false implications the word ‘teambuilding’ implies. “Rome was not built in a day, and a team activity will not build a team in a day,” he says.

For Allen, a team activity’s meaningfulness lies in the traditions of play, team dynamics, creativity and escapism.  As Einstein once said: “The more complex the mind, the more the need for the simplicity of play”.

At Worcestershire-based Farncombe Conference Centre, childhood is at the forefront of its new teambuilding activities. Climbing trees, Meccano and street luging down the Cotswold escarpment may sound like childish pursuits, but that’s the whole point according to Sales and Marketing Manager Rachael Buttery.

“Research tells us when we have fun in the moment, like children, we are more open to learning. Understandably, adults feel they have to act maturely in the workplace but taking life too seriously can be a barrier to learning and the generation of new ideas,” she says.

“We realise organisations need to deliver ROI and all our activities come with learning objectives and deliver added value. They are designed to engage participants in a memorable and entertaining way.”

Farncombe’s new activity programme was recently showcased to 40 attendees from a range of organisations including the NHS Foundation Trust. The high intensity day included African drumming, archery, tree climbing and human sheep herding.

“The events were not only fun and interactive, they were also contextualised,” says Anthony Shipley from the NHS Foundation Trust. “They were linked to teambuilding, leadership and management activity, which is important in terms of value for money.”

Butlins Events’ Fun Fairground Challenge with activities such as The Big Shootout, Hook a Duck and Wiggly Wire; and School Sports Day, with egg and spoon race and sack race, are just two of a selection of play-based teambuilding activities it has on offer.

Wildgoose Events’ GPS tablet technology games, currently utilised at venues including Alton Towers Resort and the Natural History Museum, give clients an opportunity to get their messages across directly, while engaging staff in shared experiences outside the office.

“A Wildgoose event is never just a ‘jolly’ unless a client just wants a ‘jolly’,” says MD Jonny Edser. “The platform affords clients the scope to deliver anything from a fun event to a focused training event.”

Olympia Conference Centre took part in a Wildgoose event, which it says helped build morale. “The team at Earls Court & Olympia London had gone through a transitional period and we felt it was important to reinvigorate team spirit with a fun and competitive outing,” says Halls Director, Gillian Kiamil.

 With the help of Wildgoose, the team were transported around London in a cab and the different activities meant that at no point was anyone left out, which was essential as the team ranged in age from 35-65.   

“Traditionally we do more sedentary activities such as cooking lessons but the treasure hunt captured the imagination of everyone involved. We put people in teams they wouldn’t naturally sit in and encouraged the team to relax and laugh. It refreshed the bond between the team,” she concludes.

St George’s Park, home to the FA’s National Football Centre in Staffordshire, has opened a new Outdoor Leadership Centre for clients to further develop leadership and teambuilding skills in an outdoor, experiential environment. There is a 40-foot climbing tower, linear high ropes and a range of low rope activities, as well as 15 different leadership and team exercises. The site also has a Powerfan, archery range and laser combat zone.

“This new centre will help equip people with the decision-making and delegation skills needed to succeed,” says St George’s Park Chairman David Sheepshanks CBE. “Not only will the centre help develop winners with integral leadership skills, but it has everything in place to be able to help challenge whether a team’s commitment, trust and risk-taking meets the requirements of their role.”

Wyboston Lakes has teamed up with Ride Leisure to offer a real challenge for delegates with a range of all-action water and land based activities. Activities include a hover experience, jet ski, Zego banana boat, wakeboard, waterski and, exclusive to the UK, the (personally tested) Jet Lev. If dry land is more appealing, 4x4s, quad biking, egg catapult and laser clays are on offer.

Mixing it up
Rebecca Mayes, MD at Elysian Estates, a specialist events and luxury property rental agency, says its portfolio of venues means it can offer a range of diverse activities.

For clients wanting a day of adrenaline pumping pursuits, Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire can offer clay pigeon shooting, a treasure hunt using Land Rovers, climbing to the top of the castle’s 100ft turrets and one of the longest zip wires in Europe.

For those wanting the complete opposite, Hill Place on the Hampshire coast offers team-based cake decorating challenges; an animated film workshop creating plasticine characters and directing animated short films; a masterclass in cocktail mixology; followed by a murder mystery evening.
The Chan School of Nunchaku, a form of martial arts that teaches participants how to tune into intuition and handle weapons, combines both active and creative elements.

“My workshops are tailor made according to my clients requirements – leadership training, emotional intelligence and interpersonal relationships for example, and they all incorporate a strong element of teambuilding,” says founder Martin Morrison.

Following seated meditation called zazen, participants are encouraged to discover how to move with feeling through Japanese sword training. “An open and versatile mind will always get more from a situation, and always find a creative solution to any problem,” Morrison adds.

Teambuilding has a lot more to offer than just a fun day out of the office, and it appears that regardless of the type of event chosen from the myriad of options out there, getting the right ratio of fun to learning is the key to ensuring a positive outcome for all involved. 

Creative case study

Client: Hilton Hotels
Event: Chocolate Chip Challenge
Venue: Hilton Wembley
Number of participants: 70 guests
Organiser: Off Limits Events

Brief: Hilton Hotels requested a fun teambuilding event to galvanise existing working relationships. It needed to be something new and something that involved some healthy competition. The client wanted something suitable for all ages and abilities, for men and women and something that was suitable to be run indoors.

Activity programme: The event started with a chocolatier who gave a detailed demonstration of chocolate making, which is often a new skill for guests. The teams then divided their time between accumulating a budget for ingredients and equipment, creating the concept for their box of chocolates, making the chocolates, designing packaging, then deciding on a marketing campaign including rehearsing an advert. All the elements were then discussed and displayed during the presentation at the end of the event. The event included practical challenges, budget management, time management, creativity, leadership and delegation.

Active case study

Client: John Lewis
Event: Totally Wiped Out
Venue: Scotland, Milton Keynes and Surrey
Number of guests: 120
Organiser: Off Limits Events

Brief: John Lewis approached Off Limits Events to manage its teambuilding event programme scheduled for roll out over 2013 and 2014. The nature of the teambuilding event was to bring various stores together in their regional areas, to promote positive communication, good spirits in a light hearted competitive environment, solidify relationships and generate positive attitudes.
Teambuilding solution: Mindful of the success of previous events, Off Limits Events developed Totally Wiped Out, drawing inspiration from the much loved It’s A Knockout.
Activity programme: A warm-up with a fun filled dance off competition was followed by a game and health and safety briefing. The teams then competed head-to-head around the inflatable assault course to collect points. Games included Sweeper Arm, Tricky Trunks, Drop and Drift, Obstacle, Punch Wall and the famous Big Red Balls. Following this, the first, second and third placed participants were announced and medals and fizz presented were presented before a team photo in front of the big red balls.
Result: The dates were successfully facilitated with excellent feedback, which led to the decision to roll it out at other locations for other stores throughout 2014.
Client comment: “The teambuilding of this event was almost a side effect. We wanted an event that would be fun and something a bit different and give the staff an opportunity to represent their branches. The event gave them a sense of belonging, team spirit and partnership that they were able to take back to the workplace.”

This was first published in the September issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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