As long as teamwork remains essential to corporate success, team-building activities are here to stay.
Corporate team-building events are a tricky business because they have to strike the right balance between professional development and recreational ice-breaking.
For a team to function optimally, it is not just about matching each employee to their ideal role, but also about fostering a sense of community and trust among everyone who works together. Colleagues need to feel comfortable enough to communicate openly before they can even begin to troubleshoot as a team.
Use Games to Combine Team Bonding with Team Building
When you think of the word “team,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most of us automatically associate teams with some kind of organized play. And if you want to generate a sense of team spirit among a group of co-workers, games are one of the most effective ways to make it happen.
The types of games played at corporate events fall into two main categories:
- keyboard_arrow_right Group challenges that are designed specifically for company events
- keyboard_arrow_right Classic favourites that people typically play in their leisure time
With group challenges, you may have to spend time designing the rules and the basic structure. Although there may seem to be less planning involved when you rely on good old fashioned sports games, you will need to create a framework that draws parallels between the game and the team dynamics of the workplace.
Of course, if you are using a group challenge at your corporate team-building event, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are many great ideas already out there to get you started.
The best types of group challenges will require different team members to fill a variety of roles. Each individual brings a unique set of skills and thinking styles, and the most effective activities will take advantage of this diversity
Pipeline Design Challenge
A pipeline challenge is an excellent group activity because it involves multiple stages of planning and construction, and groups can be assigned to different sections of the pipeline. Each team is not only responsible for their own section, but for how the whole model fits together.
If your priority is to encourage collaborative cooperation between different departments in a company, this challenge is ideal. The game won’t be complete until the pipeline can successfully transport rolling objects from one end to the other.
Turning Over a New “Leaf” Challenge
To complete this challenge, participants will stand together on top of a large sheet of fabric. Their task will be to flip the sheet so that the bottom side is facing up at the end of the exercise. The catch: none of the team members can step off of the sheet at any time, and no one is allowed to carry anyone else. This task requires team members to generate a collective strategy and co-operate efficiently.
Because it demands excellent communication skills and rapid brainstorming, this challenge works best for companies looking to improve the strategic leadership skills of their team. To increase the pressure, add a time limit or have separate teams race to complete the task first.
Caption: For groups of under 10 people, consider using a beach towel to make the task even more challenging.
Build & Race a Car Challenge
This challenge adds an extra element of adventure with the excitement of the final race.
Participants can be broken up into teams and provided with supplies to build a car--either a small trolley-style car that can seat one person, or a toy car made of lego. The human-scale challenge is more suited to a team that enjoys being physically active; keep in mind that there may also be more liability in terms of personal-injury risk.
With both the human-scale and toy-car versions, this challenge has the advantage of allowing for multiple types of awards: fastest car, most stylish car, best car name, silliest car, safest car, and so on.
It demands both creative thinking and engineering know-how, as well as effective collaboration. If you want to encourage stronger bonds between the creative and strategic branches of your company, this could be the right team-building activity for you.
If you have access to a swimming pool, a fun variation on this activity is to build a boat from cardboard!
AR (Augmented Reality) Adventure Challenge
AR can be used to simulate video-game effects in your real surroundings, in this way adding a whole new dimension to traditional challenges like an “escape room” or a scavenger hunt. The possibilities are endless, and many gaming companies offer customizable AR experiences that can be adapted to team challenges.
With an AR-enhanced adventure game, you can solve riddles while following a trail of AR animations around the city, or even within an indoor setting.
This kind of team-building activity is best suited to a tech-savvy workforce who likes brain teasers. Although AR games usually require a fair bit of walking, they are also less hands-on than many other team-building challenges.
Most AR games can serve over 100 clients at a time, but staff members are usually separated into teams of 3-7 players each. This dynamic creates a low-pressure environment for shy employees, while also encouraging team bonding.
QR Scavenger Hunt
If you have a website, you can put clues for your scavenger hunt on hidden web pages, and then set up QR codes for quick access to these pages. Place the QR codes strategically around your office space or conference hall--or even around the city!
While DIY options are certainly possible, you can also outsource the game design to a company that specializes in QR scavenger hunts.
See the video below to see a QR-enabled activity in action:
This kind of activity doesn’t require your team members to have advanced technological knowledge; as long as your employees have smartphones, they should be able to download a QR scanner (if one isn’t built into their cameras already) and participate in the fun.
More affordable than a customized AR game, this option allows smaller companies to leverage technology for an added element of surprise and interactivity at their team-building events.
Think of 6 different categories related to your workplace, and then come up with trivia related to the category. You can adapt this game to focus on serious questions about the workplace (“In this year, the company was founded and the Berlin wall was dismantled”) or playful (“This 1980’s television show about geriatric roommates is also CEO Debra’s favorite sitcom). Contestants can use air-horns instead of buzzers to signal an answer.
If you choose to focus on workplace-related facts, this activity can be a good way to improve your employees’ knowledge of company history--people will remember the facts they get wrong! On the other hand, if you choose to highlight personal details about your staff, this activity can be an excellent ice-breaker.
The basic premise behind an escape room is simple: team members have to solve riddles and other brain-teasers in order to escape a dangerous room. The variations on this theme are only as limited as your creativity, but popular ideas include zombie rooms and a torture chamber. Use props and sound effects to increase the adrenaline!
This activity requires a lot of creativity and advance-planning, but the budget can be very low. If you have the budget for a corporate outing, look into venues that feature escape rooms with theme-park-worthy decor. It is an ideal exercise for small businesses that want to encourage more team collaboration.
Jigsaw Puzzle Challenge
Low-tech games like jigsaw puzzles can also be a great way to involve the whole team. But how can you adapt this classic pastime so that it really pushes your staff’s collaborative skills?
Divide staff into teams, and then ask each team to split up into three subgroups. One subgroup will be given an image of the assembled puzzle. Another will have all of the puzzle pieces. The third group will have the task of assembling the puzzle, but they can have only 5 free-floating jigsaw pieces at a time. They can trade pieces with the subgroup that has the full stash, but they can’t ask for more than 5 pieces at a time until they start joining parts together. The subgroup with the final picture can describe the image, but they can’t show it to the others.
If you want to see which staff members have outstanding skills in communication and strategic thinking, this challenge will allow them to demonstrate their talents. It will also show how important cooperation is for achieving collective goals.
This activity works best when staff members are divided into groups of 9 players, but it can easily be adapted to large-scale events--there is no limit to how many teams can compete against each other!
While professionally-oriented personality tests may not immediately seem like a fun pastime, most people love learning more about themselves.
If you keep the assessment simple and interactive, you can learn more about your workers and give them the tools they need to maximize their efficiency as a team. Consider hiring a professional facilitator to perform the tests and incorporate fun activities into the process.
Belbin Team Roles
Even when it comes to personality tests administered by corporate event planners, most focus on general psychological traits rather than on specific work-related skills.
This is where Belbin Team Roles come in. Dr. Meredith Belbin developed a system to identify nine key clusters of behavior that relate directly to different types of work. Examples include “Co-ordinator,” “Specialist,” and “Completer/Finisher.” With their Belbin Team Roles identified, your employees will have a better grasp of how they can maximize their contributions to team efforts.
This kind of personality profiling works best in combination with a group challenge that involves multiple skill sets. During the strategic-planning stage of the group challenge, encourage participants to take on responsibilities that match their Belbin Team Roles.
Watch the video below for more information:
The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire is a gold-standard personality test for corporations looking to learn more about their employees. It’s designed to identify what styles of communication people prefer, as well as what methods they use to absorb information and make decisions.
These insights not only help employees to understand their own particular needs and strengths; they also help team members gain a better appreciation of how to accommodate others and collaborate effectively.
Personality tests of this kind work best when you have a professional facilitator to administer them. These exercises require thoughtful consideration of team dynamics, so they work best with a maximum of 20 to 30 people at a time.
If your organization is suffering from issues of miscommunication between members of staff, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator test might be a good way to start the conversation.
While classic recreational games may not immediately seem relevant to corporate team-building, they are hard to beat in terms of social bonding.
Just because it’s work-related, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Simple games like ping-pong can create healthy competition and aid with team-building, which will reflect in team performance further down the road. To encourage a team dynamic, ask players to split up into pairs and play in doubles.
Corporate retreats and events need to incorporate some levity, and a branded ping pong table can add just the right touch. This kind of game works well as a light break activity to enjoy in between more work-intensive challenges.
Many corporate professionals have long understood the networking value of “golf buddies,” and it can easily be adapted to a corporate team-building activity. Golf’s “handicap” system also allows people of various skill levels to participate without becoming too discouraged.
If a significant number of your employees already play golf in their spare time, a corporate golfing event could be an excellent way to strengthen team bonds.
Consider incorporating a charity drive into the event so that players can feel like they’re contributing toward a collective goal.
If golf’s “handicap” feature helps to promote inclusivity, mini-golf goes a step further. People of all different athletic abilities can usually manage to make a hole or two. Because mini-golf is broken up into a series of small challenges, team members can take turns playing.
Much like ping-pong, this kind of game is best suited as a bit of recreation between more serious team meetings. Most mini-golf courses can accommodate no more than 100 to 200 guests at a time, so this activity is best for small- to medium-sized events.
Bowling is another low-pressure sport that allows every individual to have a moment in the limelight. It can also be played in teams. Consider providing branded team uniforms for an added element of nostalgia and whimsy.
Like mini-golf courts, bowling alleys usually have the capacity to accommodate small-to-medium-sized groups, but not much more. If you want a lighthearted icebreaker activity for a corporate event with 50 to 100 attendees, bowling is a good bet.
Artistic expression can be a highly motivating force, and team-building exercises are a great way to give your staff an outlet for their creative potential.
Not only will it encourage active participation, but it may also reveal hidden talents that will help your team to perform at its peak ability.
Write and Perform a Song
Who hasn’t made up their own lyrics to a favorite song at one point? A songwriting challenge will allow your staff to combine thoughtful ideas with playful melodies. Corporate team-building facilitators that specialize in songwriting activities will often provide professional musicians to guide the process.
This kind of activity can be adapted to groups of varying sizes. Some facilitators even offer workshops for up to 1000 participants.
This activity would work especially well if you already have a number of accomplished hobby musicians among your staff. The song that they compose could even be used in future promotional materials!
Make a Movie
With camera phones and apps that make it easy to do basic film editing, it has never been easier to make your own movie. Divide your staff up into teams, and provide each team with a different prompt. Use themes based on popular cinema, or ask staff to create informational videos about their workplace. Consider adding a time limit of 24 hours to amp up the adrenaline.
Movie-making usually requires people to fill many different roles, so this activity would be most effective at a workplace with diverse talent: each team will need people to write the screenplay, act, direct, and edit. Because each team will need around 20 people, this kind of activity is best suited to companies with over 100 employees.
Tour a Brewery and Create a Cocktail
Many breweries now welcome tour groups. Guides will explain the distillation process and give an insider’s take on the nuances of flavor. To add a creative challenge to this corporate outing, ask staff to develop their own signature cocktails from a limited set of ingredients.
This team-building activity is best suited to an overnight corporate retreat, but it can be adapted to a variety of group sizes. To encourage friendly rivalry, offer prizes for the best cocktails. It may also be a good idea to check that none of your employees have objections to consuming alcohol.
Collaborate on a Mural
Particularly well-suited to small or tight-knit teams, collaborating on a mural can be a fantastic way to bring everyone together and get them in touch with the company culture and their shared experience of working there. It’s nice to honour the fact that many of us spend the bulk of our waking lives with our coworkers.
Hire an artist to render ideas as your team pitches them and recounts funny moments and office anecdotes. Bonding over these memories reinforces that the office doesn’t preclude the building of social relationships and friendships, and it’ll give even the hardest-working team a sense of work-life balance.
Hire an Artist to Render Graphs and Brainstorms
If most of your activities are focussed on developing strategies and sticking to serious business, you can lighten the mood by hiring an artist to draw graphics during your brainstorming session.
Besides creating added interest, the diagram will help team members to see ideas clearly, making them easier to piece together. The graphic recording could be done by hand, or it could be created digitally and projected onto a large screen for bigger events.
While hired artists may not contribute directly to a team-building activity, their creations can help to keep employees lively and focussed during brainstorming sessions. Integrating multiple ideas into one design will also help team members to see how their different perspectives can work together for one collective goal.
This idea is a great way to add a little levity to team-building meetings that are burdened with a heavy agenda.
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Organizing a volunteer event for your staff can be a great way to generate a sense of comradery while showing corporate responsibility.
There are as many volunteer opportunities as there are needy causes. Look through the list below for inspiration, and poll staff members to see where the most interest lies.
Plant a Community Garden
Whether it be for growing nutritious vegetables or nurturing beautiful flowers, planting a new garden can be an incredibly rewarding way to contribute to the community. This activity will require significant planning beforehand, and some upkeep after the initial planting season.
If your workplace doesn’t have an outdoor lot or rooftop patio, look for community gardens that need volunteer support in your neighbourhood.
Designing and maintaining a garden has to be a highly coordinated effort. You need to run a very tight ship to make it work, so this kind of team-building activity is ideally suited for organizations with under 100 members of staff or those with a CSR committee.
On the flip side, working so closely together on a fun project can be an excellent bonding opportunity.
Pack a Lunch for Kids in Need
There are many schools that provide free lunches to children in need. Do some research into lunch programs in your community.
Make sure you research any allergy requirements beforehand, but give your team some input on what to include in the lunches--they will be more invested if they have some say over the final product. This kind of activity works well to generate a sense of equality among your staff. Everyone is contributing to the same goal and doing the same work.
If you want your staff’s creativity to shine, add a craft-based element to the bags themselves. Even a few whimsical stickers can add a personal touch. This kind of craftwork also provides the opportunity to give awards for “Best Design” or “Cutest Idea.”
Run a Marathon for a Good Cause
Although you are unlikely to secure 100% participation for a charity marathon event, it can be a great way to encourage fitness while donating to a good cause.
Staff members needn’t be keen on running; ‘walk or run’ marathons are inclusive of all fitness levels, and those who aren’t interested in either can help to coordinate the effort by collecting donations or providing water and other supplies on the day of the event.
If you have an office space close to running trails, extend the team-building by organizing meet-ups before work or during lunch so that your team can train together. Incorporate a marketing element into the activity by allowing staff to design branded t-shirts and develop a team slogan for the event.
Volunteer activities are not the only way to add value to your team-building events. While the emphasis may not be directly on strengthening team bonds, learning new skills together can be a great way to combine professional development with team building.
Most corporate jobs will never need staff to perform first aid or chest compressions, but these are useful life skills that your employees will likely appreciate learning. A CPR training session will encourage your employees to feel a sense of responsibility for the health and safety of the entire team, and it will show that you care about your employees’ wellbeing.
This kind of training can minimize risks if you are planning a future action-filled retreat in an offsite location. It is best suited to small teams of 10 to 20 participants. For larger groups, consider offering different time slots across a period of two weeks or more.
If staff members end up in training sessions with people from distant departments, all the better for encouraging more collaboration!
Organizations like CPR Consultants offer corporate training sessions.
Workshops in Excel and Google Sheets
Excel and Google Sheets are powerful tools that can help to automate a variety of workplace tasks. Not just for accountants anymore, these programs are a great tool for setting up automated emails and analyzing data.
Many corporate training companies offer workshops in Excel. Poll your staff beforehand to see who already has a good grasp of scripts and macros. Group these “experts” up with two other members of staff so that they can help to explain concepts along the way.
This kind of training session is ideal if you think your team could benefit from more automation in their day-to-day tasks. The “buddy system” will also allow those with special knowledge to feel good about sharing their expertise, while also encouraging collaborative learning.
Group Coding Games
There are many companies now that specialize in gamified testing and training designed for new recruits. Even past the hiring stage, hackathons and other coding challenges will help to keep your developers sharp and engaged.
To encourage the free exchange of ideas and techniques, group employees into rival teams. Your employees will not only form lasting bonds, but will also learn from each other.
This kind of activity is only suited to a tech company with a substantial team of developers, but in the right setting, it can go a long way to optimizing your team’s performance while keeping the atmosphere fun and light.
Lunch & Learn
A lunch & learn can be a great way to warm up to an afternoon of training or team building. Cater the lunch and ask an expert to walk your team through a helpful process or concept.
This could be as generic as having a financial specialist come in and teach your employees about managing their finances – a great and valuable session for companies that hire a lot of new grads – or as specific as having one department offer an overview of their processes so the other departments can get a better sense of what they do.
For example, if you’re running an event for a tech company and the developers work on their own floor, have some team-leads offer the rest of the company some insight into how they operate, what kinds of input they find useful from the sales and support teams, and what is in the pipeline.
A better understanding of what colleagues outside of your immediate team do will help you appreciate them and form a stronger sense of your purpose in the grand scheme of your company’s operations.
Have you planned a series of educational lectures for your staff, but worry that they’ll lose their focus? A team trip can be a great way to keep them engaged and motivated.
If you have the budget, an exotic location is ideal, but a nearby spa resort can also be an unexpected treat. Delegate informational presentations to different members of staff, but break up sessions with group activities that explore your surroundings.
This option may be more expensive than many of the others on this list, but it is guaranteed to leave your employees with unforgettable experiences. It is an especially good idea if you have employees working in remote locations, and you would like them to form lasting bonds with the names they regularly see on their computer screens.
You’ve read through the list of team-building ideas, and you’re probably already thinking about how to adapt them to your needs.
What next? Well, we have some extra tips for how to structure your team-building activity, no matter what type of event you choose.
Plan Your Activity with a Step-by-Step Framework
To keep everything running smoothly, be sure to follow these simple steps:
Share a pre-session memo with all staff.
At least a week before the event, give your team a brief overview of any planned activities. Clarify goals, objectives and expectations. Rev up the energy by adding fun imagery to the correspondence.
Provide the executive team with a briefing.
Identify key business issues and clarify how the planned team-building activities are relevant to your corporate goals.
Brief the team.
On the day of the event, make sure that your facilitator sets the context for group activities and establishes clear ground rules. This is a good opportunity to field any questions.
Wherever possible, frame the activity as a “business simulation”.
When explaining the idea behind your event activity, describe it in a way that draws parallels to your organization’s day-to-day realities and challenges.
Add a dose of recreation.
There is no better way to encourage team bonding than to add some good old-fashioned fun into the mix.
Debrief the team on business applications.
Wrap up the event with an overview of any key takeaways from your activities. What team skills were developed? Did staff members learn anything new about how they function as a team? How can they apply what they’ve learned to their teamwork going forward? Encourage participants to reflect on the experiences of the day/week.
As these tips suggest, communication is key to keeping your team-building activities on track. Make sure everyone is up-to-speed every step of the way, and continually check in with your team members to ensure that everyone stays on message.
Provide Positive Feedback
When you have a wonderful event team, you should also be sure to let them know how much you recognize their hard work! A simple thank you for time spent highlighting the tasks they accomplished can go a long way in making your team feel valued and appreciated.
Nothing is worse than putting in a grueling day at an event, only to be greeted at the end of the day by negativity. Constructive feedback on what could be done differently is always something teams should discuss, but be sure to approach your feedback in a fairly positive way.
Manage Group Dynamics to Maximize Collaboration
Of course, team-building events will inevitably bring together a diverse group of people with different personalities and a variety of job titles.
It’s important to think about how these employees relate to one another in advance, and to organize groups with optimal collaborative potential in mind.
If possible, allow participants to move outside of their default workplace roles by partnering them with co-workers outside their department. It may even make sense to eliminate reference to job titles and separate anyone who works in a direct subordinate/supervisor relationship.
If you are looking for one more way to keep your company event on track, corporate branding can help to remind employees that you’re still in a business setting. It can also help you to reinforce your brand identity.
Marketing isn’t just for your clients. If you want to influence the way your employees view their workplace, strategic branding can set the tone.
And if your branding is stylish enough, you may even end up on their Instagram feeds! The right branding choices can make your employees feel proud to be a part of your corporate team.
From desserts and cookies to entrees and drinks, food and beverage options can easily be transformed into a delicious branding opportunity. Larger cakes and cupcakes can be embellished with printed designs and logos.
You can even use cupcakes to spell out your brand name in a pull-apart option. Food packaging options are so diverse now that you can adapt them to different styles, colors, and names.
Floors offer unique branding opportunities and every venue has them! Whether you are looking for dance floor or entrance signage or want to make a big statement like this showroom floor, it makes the event more dynamic and inclusive. You can also opt for digital or interactive floors as an entertainment idea.
Everyone needs something to write with during meetings, breakaways, and presentations. And taking handwritten notes is still the preference for many. Providing branded stationery--including headed paper, branded notepads and pens--makes your brand awareness last longer since attendees will take their notes home, look over what they learned and have all your brand details at their fingertips.
Effective and adaptable to many different logos and company signage or branding, these bars would be a welcome addition to a social evening event for your company team-building retreat. They light up, meaning attendees will be able to find the bar in low lighting, and they also function as a successful branding tool.
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Stairs can be unsightly and difficult to incorporate into event schemes and themes, but unfortunately, many event venues have them. Incorporate them into the event’s corporate branding by giving them a makeover with a stair wrap.
Team-building events are a challenge because they need to serve business interests, but they also have to appeal to what is most human about us: our interpersonal bonds.
Team-building activities are rarely productive in and of themselves, but they are founded on the belief that stronger teams translate to greater productivity in the long run. Humans are not robots. People are most productive when their workplace feels like a second home, and they can count on their coworkers to help them do the best job possible.
What defines a good team-building activity will depend partly on the needs of the workplace, but the essential ingredients are social bonding and skill identification. Occasionally they can also include productive work--like contributing to a good cause or learning a new skill--but the “team-building” element of these exercises is really more about the interpersonal bonds that develop from these activities.
Here is a quick overview of the different types of team-building activities, and what they achieve:
- Group challenges: Identify individual strengths and develop interpersonal bonds
- Personality tests: Gain insight into communication and thinking styles to improve team dynamics
- Games: Use recreation to strengthen interpersonal relationships
- Volunteer service: Foster a sense of social responsibility and shared purpose
- Creative activities: Give your team a creative outlet while strengthening social bonds and exploring potential talent
- Educational training: Encourage collaborative learning and build your team’s knowledge
If you think about the needs of your team and plan every step carefully, your efforts will pay off in better employee satisfaction and retention.
Let the games begin!