Smart moves

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Is there still a place for “old-school” team building techniques or does today’s audience demand an alternative approach?

There are many team building theories that have circulated the corporate world since the 1970s. Myers Briggs, Theory X and Y and Belbin’s theory continue to be used today as a basis for creating a better working environment.

But according to Ted Walker, head of marketing, Keith Prowse, the key word for today’s team building is variety.

“In the past, industry saw two main strands to team building activities; those that involved ‘thinking’ and those which involved ‘doing’. In order to strengthen the synergy between colleagues, an activity should ideally offer both.”

Since the recession, there has been a shift in the needs of teambuilding events, says Nicky Upton, head of corporate events, Merlin Southern Parks. No longer do organisers pick an off-the-shelf, desired package and turn up at a venue on the day, organisers want value for money, as budgets remain restricted.

Andrew Caldwell, managing director, Extreme Adventure, argues that people’s appetite for team building has changed.

“People are more daring. Heights put people out of their comfort zone but, in the end, they love it,” he explains. “High ropes give people the perception of danger but they are always in a safe zone. There’s a clear and present perception of danger and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but high ropes and team building exercises can have a lasting impression on your staff.”

New ideas

Extreme Adventure offers a range of mobile high ropes and is soon to launch a mobile zip wire – 40 metres in length and eight metres high. Other new team building challenges to arrive on the market include catch and cook activities at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage. This activity shows a group how to catch, clean, fillet and cook a selection of fish or your team can go wild food foraging, build a wood-fired oven and then make their own bread. The new offer from River Cottage provides an alternative to the traditional team building activities of mass participation drumming events or the archaic map-reading sessions that are orienteering. Or try your hand at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios and a Record a Song package – both are being promoted by Perception Sales and Marketing.

Dartmouth House, one of the properties within the Lime Venue Portfolio, has developed and launched a Strictly Come Team Building package with The Latin Dance Agency.

Explains general manager Richard Fisher: “Corporate shared goals, confident individuals and harmonic personalities
in a working environment lead to a more productive workforce. With the bottom line under constant scrutiny and the need to deliver excellence at an all-time high, we have seen an increase in demand of team building packages. We surveyed our corporate clientele and noticed that not only was value for money paramount but also shorter team building activities that were engaging, fun and reflected popular trends like Zumba or TV contest programmes. Based on this and the fact that the house has an original 19th Century ballroom in partnership with The Latin Dance Agency, we developed our Strictly Come Team Building package, led by Strictly Come Dancing choreographer Richard Marcel.”

Adds Gabriella Warren, managing director, The Latin Dance Agency: “Dancing is a fun physical exercise which is a proven way to boost motivation
levels, break down barriers, improve self-confidence, reduce stress and improve performance. Employees gain a useful motivational boost, skills for teamwork and the office party.”

Building relationships

Lime Venue Portfolio’s head of marketing, Richard Kadri-Langford suggests that it’s important to remember the objectives you want to achieve.

“I think it’s all about communication, and that team building activities should be an integral part of any company’s internal communication strategy. Whilst businesses encourage staff to work longer, harder and smarter, team building gives us the opportunity to add a bit of fun to the mix whilst offering positive benefits.

“We all need to let our hair down and team building activities, not only allow people to have fun on work’s time, they allow them to mingle and network with their colleagues and build internal relationships that not only enhance day to day team work but also build the culture that is so important in making sure at every touch point, a company’s employees espouse the values of the company,” he explains.

Lime Venue Portfolio offer a host of team building experiences such as The Wellcome Collection’s Medicine Now Gallery, which helps groups and teams
to bond as they explore a selection of current medical issues through the eyes of scientists, artists and patients. Beaulieu, Hampshire, offer the opportunity to drive vintage cars, be part of a murder squad or even crack the Da Vinci Code whilst in Manchester at the Chill Factore, a teams’ power is put to test with a daring12- metre high climbing wall and a 60-metre long luge for tobogganing, skiing and snowboarding.

Kadri-Langford concludes: “The more exciting and fun the team building activity is, the greater the level of excitement created and the fonder the memories.
It is only the things people remember that will have a long-term effect on how they behave. If the events boring and forgettable then your message is simply lost.”

Adventure calls

Firms are choosing to invest in team away days to boost morale during the recession, according to VisitBlackpool’s conference and meetings team.

VisitBlackpool’s business tourism manager Mandy Tythe-McCallum explained: “The downturn in the economy has left a lot of staff feeling vulnerable and deflated and management teams have started to look at what they can do to improve confidence and morale within the company without overspending.

“We are witnessing more and more interest in team building activities coming from companies across the UK and beyond, and it’s safe to say that this interest has only increased with the onset of the recession.

“Team building plays a core role in helping companies to solidify their workforce, with each member of staff focused on a common goal. It’s also important for staff to have fun during team building days. Team building should be a highlight and never a chore!”

Traditional team building days and activities in Blackpool remain popular, including corporate golf days at the Devere Village Hotel and orienteering and treasure hunts at Ribby Hall Village. But corporate teams can choose to get down and dirty mucking out the elephants at Blackpool Zoo, to facing their fears, getting up close and personal with creepy crawlies.

According to Adam Honey, chief executive officer, Mountain Leap, team building days are highly intrinsic to a company’s success and growth, instilling a valuable sense of community spirit through shared experiences and subsequently improving productivity and overall motivation. Corporates are growing tired of the same boring, more traditional, team building days and looking for a break from the “norm”.

“The more memorable and inspiring the team building activity the more successful it will be, There is also significant value in using feedback during and after activities to elicit increased learning and awareness both of which act as foundations for communication and relationship building with colleagues, clients and suppliers.”