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Syed Maaz

The Best Corporate Team Building Activities: You’ve got it wrong all this time

The Best Corporate Team Building Activities: You’ve got it wrong all this time

Here’s the deal—we’ve read and studied enough about “team building activities” in blogs, textbooks, TEDx talks, and YouTube videos. As they are wrapped as shimmery presents crammed with awkwardness, bottled emotions, snarky remarks, and in some extreme cases, increased resentment—they lose their purpose. So, what’s the deal with team building activities?

Team building activities are supposed to make people stick together. According to McKinsey, almost every employee (97%, to be exact) believes that a lack of cohesion negatively impacts a project/task. Come to think of it, putting several people from different backgrounds in one office space might very well turn out to be a disaster if team building activities aren’t taken seriously.

What goes wrong with corporate team building activities?

What goes wrong with corporate team building activities?

What starts as a noble attempt to glue people together, strengthen the bond of companionships and inevitably, conquer the organization's objectives, goes wrong in the first step because the corporate team building events are way off the mark.

Read about the Importance of team-building in the workplace>>

Here are a few things that go wrong:

a) We end up calling it a “Team Building” activity

Just like the first rule of the Fight Club, you don’t talk about team building activities without being subtle. Forcing a group of people to like each other is a wasted gasp of air and calling it a team-building activity shouts it out loud. Something as casual as “let’s get a drink after work” or “how about a short break this afternoon?” look good both in email subject lines as well as in real life.

b) We make it too “Exclusive”

It’s one thing to tell your teammates to wear all black at a dinner party, and another to make your teams go “ugh I have to sing at that Karaoke event”. While it’s crucial to keep the team building activities for corporate fun, don’t make it too stringent with the rules and let people vibe with what they feel is okay for them.

A hefty chunk of people want to watch things happen from the touchline, and that’s also a right way for them to gel with the others.

Winning teams don’t make excuses, they make plans

c) We try building team relationships in cabins & breakrooms

Please don’t make it a two-hour seminar after lunch because that only brings out more groans and sighs from people than positive vibes. The best possible team bonding scenarios should be somewhere away from the workspace and outside the work hours so that the busy ones aren’t thinking about fighting their email battles and skipping these events for work.

d) We think that a one-off company choir with a vast guest list is a good idea

Team building is an intimate activity, not a fifteen-slide presentation for 200+ people in an auditorium with free food. The best way to get it just right is by segregating your organization’s teams into groups and letting them gel together on their own. Real team bonding begins when people from different teams start participating. Picking out the chits would be a perfect way to get various teams on the same page.

e) We forget to follow up

Sure, there’s a lot of following up in the breakroom about how the food was and how Mark from Sales sang Radio Gaga like Freddy Mercury’s soul dropped into him. Still, real follow-ups come in the form of a survey to see what people thought of the team building activity and what more (or less) do they expect from it the next time.

How to Plan a Team Building Event Like A Pro

How to Plan a Team Building Event Like A Pro

We are often stuck with how to plan a team-building event that will help in employee engagement. Team building events can be a severe investment for leadership in both money and resources. You want to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

The well-planned corporate team building activities for employees can engage them, increase communication, and boost positive energy! It’s no wonder 70% of the Forbes Global 2000 companies use gamification to engage their teams.

None of us are as smart as all of us - Ken Blanchard

A team-building event can also help boost employee morale and engagement, especially if your company has just gotten over a particularly rough few months or has had a lot of work coming in recently.

Unless you have hosted a team-building event before, however, you may find it difficult to orchestrate one which will benefit the team. Pulling off a great team-building day (or week?) is not the easiest of tasks, but here are a few tips to point you in the right direction:

1. Know Your Budget

Before you make any plans or consider any other aspect, you need to have a rough budget outlined. What are you or the company willing to comfortably spend on your team building event? The budget you settle on will determine the types of activities you will be able to source, or the location you will be able to travel to if that is what you had in mind.

2. What is Your Goal?

What are you trying to achieve with your team building event? There’s no right or wrong answer to this, but it’s a good idea to have some goals in mind for it. If you aren’t 100% sure, why not ask your team for some unique and amazing corporate team building activities ideas?

Only 25% of managers have incentives linked to strategy. Make sure you’re not one of them. Explore Xoxoday Compass>>

When you know what you want to achieve from the team building event, you will be able to select an activity or location which is best suited to it. Letting off some steam in an adventure park is not quite the same as going through an escape room challenge or going on a mystery tour.

No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it - Halford Luccock

3. Give it Time

Don’t plan a team building event, pay for everything, and then suddenly spring it on your employees that it will be taking place next week. It would be best if you allowed plenty of time so you can make thorough plans and enable your employees to make any arrangements so they can attend (such as babysitters, etc.). This is especially the case if it involves travel.

4. Decide on a Location

This will very much depend on your budget: obviously, the more money you have, the better the location will be. There are destination management companies there that can help you out with the logistical side of things, so you will be spending less time on the actual planning that you may think.

5. Promote Full Participation

Encourage the full participation of your employees by notifying them of the team building event early and by promoting it. Some employees will be keener than others, and because you can’t force them to go, it is essential to try and persuade as many people as possible to come. Of course, you will need a rough idea on numbers before you book anything, so the sooner your employees know about it and can RSVP to their invitations, the better.

6. Don’t Make it Corporate

Although there will be some corporate elements to your team building event, the overarching feeling should be that it is a fun, relaxing environment where your employees can unwind. Yes, the company is paying for it, and yes, it is a team-building event, but allow your employees to do what they want. Forcing them to sit through presentations or talk about work will do nothing to help boost engagement.

A wolf's strength is in its pack

7. Keep Things Personal

Whilst the event takes place, everybody who attends should understand that the relationship between their actions and teamwork. To be a successful team, each member must commit to adopting any new behaviors and information they have learned during the event. You should be regularly engaging with your employees and gauge how they are feeling, what they think, and how they are responding to the event.

8. Document It

Hire a photographer or videographer to document the event and have it posted on your social media pages. You can also use pictures and videos throughout your company’s marketing material, company-wide bulletins, and newsletters. By keeping the memory of the event alive, your team will be excited for future events and the people who did not attend the first Time around will start showing up.

Unique Team Building Activities for Corporates Straight Out of the Box

What are some unique, dynamic and best corporate team building activities ideas that won’t have your employees rolling their eyes? Let’s discuss a few options. (GIF credits: GIPHY)

1. The Dinner Party Guestlist

The Dinner Party Guestlist

Nah, it’s not the actual dinner party (which is a great team-building activity by the way), but we go around asking people about three guests, dead or alive, who’d make it to their grand dinner party. Watch people bond over their favourite celebrities like no other. [Author’s pick: Cristiano Ronaldo, Rana Ayyub & M. Ismael Menk]

2. In-house Kickstarter Campaign

In-house Kickstarter Campaign

Give your employees a chance to own it up. Let them come up with a new corporate team building activities idea related to the organization’s business model and allow them to present it. If it has the juice to get real, then show them the money and make it happen! It’s a great team-building activity to spot new teams with productive mindsets that have the potential to be think tanks.

3.  Your Own Radio Show

Your Own Radio Show

Pair random people up and according to their interests, get them to come up with a 30-minute radio show/podcast. It can be sports fanatics criticizing their teams’ transfer windows or a bunch of people reviewing cosmetics, tech gadgets, or just gossiping about the office. Let the fun begin!

4. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt

Leadership can break the employees into small teams. This is an excellent opportunity to set up teams with people who don’t often work together to facilitate networking. Give each group a list of activities they need to complete, or items they require to gather.

Google & Amazon are knee-deep into scavenger hunts with AI bot-based applications from various sources, and they are a big hit.

Bonus—you could even have a manager serve as a living clue! Once teams complete all the tasks on their list, they meet at the ‘finish-line’ area where you can determine the winner.

5. The Sorting Hat

The Sorting Hat

Give your teams simple cues to sort themselves out in groups. How many of them have been on a rollercoaster? Who loves chicken over fish? Would you write with black ink or red? Divide your squad and conduct any follow-up games or let them chat it out. Low budget team building activity? Check.

6. Diversity Day Game (from The Office)

Diversity Day Game (from The Office)

The real ones know what Diversity day is, and although our managers might not be as school as Michael Scott, we can surely try out a much less graphic version of Diversity day. Assign demography to each of your employees, pair them up, and stick a placard on their forehead. Let every employee guess their demography with other one’s cues without actually telling the name. Spills and gags guaranteed.

7. Office Trivia

Office Trivia

Who consumes most of the green tea at work? To whom does the Miley Cyrus mug belong? Add up all the questions and inside jokes, along with office facts, and cook up an easy office trivia to strengthen the old bonds and rekindle old companionships.

8. Celebrating Cultural Diversity

Celebrating Cultural Diversity

With teams going global and cultures, orientations, and beliefs from all corners gathering under one office roof, it’d be dumb not to embrace and celebrate them. There are actual events nearly every month that someone at work would be celebrating, and nothing shouts team building more than celebrating them.

Netflix’s inclusion and diversity program make sure that team building is done in such a way that it takes everyone in a warm embrace.

9. The Business Simulator

The Business Simulator

One can call it as a virtual problem solver, but it sparks out solutions that your employees would never fancy speaking of in conference room meetings. Gather your teams, divide them into groups, and give them an imaginary business problem/project with a deadline. Let them think out of the boxes and gather solutions to the problem in hand. And for the last time, you can’t ask Elon Musk to invest in it.

10. Chopped-Style Cook-Off

Chopped-Style Cook-Off

These are one of the best corporate team building activities for employees, which will only work if you have a suitable kitchen in your office, or if the leadership is willing to rent out a kitchen space. Local cooking classes or culinary schools can be an excellent option to check out. Have 3–4 contestants be the chefs. Assign a dish they need to prepare, focus on quick and easy-to-make options.

The catch is to include unusual ingredients they must utilize in the dish. Contestants have a set time frame to complete the meal, and everyone else watches—pressure on! You can have the office’s self-proclaimed foodies serve as the judging panel to decide who wins.

11. Board Game Tournament

Board Game Tournament

A day-long tournament of board games offers a laid-back and relaxed corporate team-building atmosphere. You can set it up in a conference room at your office. There are many options for running a board game tournament; it just depends on how much prep your event organizers can accomplish.

This is another opportunity for the leadership to put together teams that don’t usually work together to encourage cross-team networking and corporate team building activities for employees on its own. The tournament can be laissez-faire, with stations of games set up and teams choosing which they want to play.


12. Escape Rooms

Escape Rooms

If you want a simple event where you can show up at a location for fun corporate team building without hassling the leadership, look no further than escape rooms. These live-action games lock participants in a themed room, where players need to work through a series of problems and puzzles to get out.

Usually, there is a set time frame. Some escape room facilities offer multiple rooms where groups can compete against one another to see who can finish first.

Coca Cola’s escape room team building activity received laurels all around the world and became a big hit. The best part? Employees were taken by surprise.

13. A Day of Volunteering

A Day of Volunteering

Volunteering might not offer brainteasers or an adrenaline-pumping activity, but it does have multiple other benefits. You can choose a cause that is similar to your company’s core values and beliefs while giving back to your community.

Many volunteer opportunities will get your team members outside, where they can still enjoy time together and work towards a common goal. While you don’t want to exploit charitable activities, volunteering will provide a good photo op for your organization that you can post on your company’s social media page or blog for positive PR.

14. Be a Tourist in Your City

Be a Tourist in Your City

Even if employees have been lifelong residents where your company is headquartered, you’d be surprised how many people don’t partake in typical tourist activities of their hometown. Research activities and places that your city is known for, even touring landmarks for the day could be fun. Send out a survey to see which sites people have not yet visited.

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships - Michael Jordan

Don’t let them know that it's for a future corporate team building outing. Otherwise, the results might be slightly skewed. You could even opt for a local sporting event. Many stadiums and venues offer corporate boxes or suites.

If you use employee rewards and recognition systems, you can check out the experience partners that are contracted by the system.

Ready to plan your next corporate team building event?

plan your next corporate team building event

Emails with the subject line: ‘You’re Invited to our Next Corporate Team Building Event!’ might cause employees to quickly RSVP no on the invite. Think outside the box for corporate team building and avoid the typical office lunches or picnics. Plan fun and captivating events that everyone in your organization (including the leadership) will enjoy!

Focus on unique activities that will engage your staff, promote cross-team collaboration, and get employees out of their workspace and having fun!

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