By Darnell Dobson Contributing writer

Creating synergy within your organization is vital to its sustainability, growth, and success. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In order to maximize the full potential of employees, team building is an essential tool to build strong relationships in the workplace. Mary Barry, Program Director at Summit Team Building, believes that solid relationships form the core of high performing teams.

“When you think about it, it doesn’t make much sense to expect high performance out of a group of individuals that know nothing about each other,” Barry says. “Yet if they start to learn what makes each other tick, it’s amazing how much momentum can be gained.”

While it is difficult to measure the impact of team building, or if it even works, a Towers and Perrin report seems to corroborate its effect. The 2006 global study compared the financial results of organizations with high employee engagement to those with a less engaged workforce over the course of a year. The results showed that the companies with a highly engaged workforce improved their operating income by over 19.2 per cent over the 12-month period while companies with low employee engagement saw a decline in operating income by 32.7 per cent. Barry also noted that the same study concluded that team building leads to higher employee engagement that, in itself, leads to higher financial incomes.

This study focused on the tangible benefits of team building, but Christine Wessman, co-founder of the PaddleCore Corporate Team Building Experience Program, identifies many intangible benefits as well.“Team building is invaluable for all sizes of teams, no matter the industry,” says Wess- man. “Team building exercises help organiza- tions build skills that will empower employees to work together towards a common goal; the company’s goal. It allows teams to understand their strengths and weaknesses and, as a result, helps leaders shape the strategy for an organization. A company that improves their team skills will also improve their bottom line.” She also says team building can be effective at any given time. “Even the strongest of teams need to keep their finger on the pulse. Teams need to continually adapt to changes and ensure everyone is on the same page.”

Wessman also says that most companies tend to use team building exercises when going through major organizational changes such as mergers and acquisitions, or when they realize that departments are working in silos. “Team building ensures teams under- stand their role in the big picture. When teams work together, they feel the sense of account- ability and pride in each achievement creating an auspicious work place.”

Telecommuting trends and the growing reliance on technology are also creating a growing need for team building activities. “Business dealings take place globally and sometimes across time zones,” says Wessman. “People are also valuing the flexibility of telecommuting in their busy lifestyles. This means that employees are relying on virtual communication and interacting far less. Team building allows group members to communicate more effectively and build trust with one another. This will foster a more collaborative team and ultimately a more successful team.”

Barry agrees, pointing out that people can now work from pretty much anywhere using a phone and Internet connection. With less and less human interaction, she says building con- nections is even more important. “Leaders or event planners see this as a huge opportunity to make the most out of the meeting and want to create an agenda that includes meaningful experiences that will strengthen relationships and forge new ones.”

Even without the influence of telecommuting, Barry notes that managers and leaders continue to express a desire to establish a workplace environment where employees build relationships with one another. “A lot of folks spend as much time or more with their colleagues as with their families—it really makes sense for organizations to want to make that time as enjoyable as possible.” To remain relevant and effective, Barry says that team building initiatives, like those used by Summit, have adapted to the times. 

“Back in the 80s and 90s, a lot of team building options were outdoor-based and fell into the ‘high-ropes’ kind of category and a lot of the facilitators had backgrounds in outdoor education. Now we have a huge variety of themes including cooking, art, scavenger hunts, golf, etc., and our facilitation teams come from a wide spectrum of backgrounds,” Barry explains.

There is no one way to create a successful team, but Barry believes the best teams share a clear, common vision and know how their efforts contribute to that goal, they know how to leverage their strengths and manage their weaknesses both as a team and as individuals, and they have fun together which sometimes takes a lot of effort but pays off in the end. Barry further adds that team-building initiatives are most effective when they engage the entire group, allowing everyone to contribute regardless of physical abilities. This takes people a little outside of their comfort zone, as that is where individuals are more likely to learn new things and experience personal growth.

Wessman’s company PaddleCore developed the acronym “ACCT” which means Accountability, Cooperation, Communication and Trust. In order to achieve the objectives of ACCT, PaddleCore uses the dragon boat to both demonstrate and practice the value of these skills.“In dragon boat, all 20 paddlers must be paddling together while also being account- able for their own responsibilities. Successful teams do well not because of a few super stars but because of teamwork that involves a clearly communicated vision that each team member buys into,” Wessman said.

Organizations that practice strong employee engagement more often than not see the benefits in their bottom line, and as Wessman states, “we believe that team building allows companies to come as groups and leave as teams.”

This Article was originally published in the Summer 2017 Issue of Office Today Magazine