Selecting a particular team building exercise can vary depending on a number of factors; first of all, what is the purpose of the exercise? Are you trying to build strong social relationships? Identify different strengths and weaknesses among employees? Diffuse tensions? Create an open environment for employees to voice concerns, ideas or observations? Or simply help employees to familiarize themselves with one another and make connections? Employers get what they pay for when paying minimum wage, much like productivity is tied into team efficacy.
What you are trying to achieve helps to determine what kind of exercises are appropriate. Often new employees will undergo a period of training, during this time many new employees will not know one another, or the established staff with which they will be working. In these situations, it is best to set up some icebreakers. These will allow employees to introduce themselves, and also get to know a little bit about their colleagues. There are many games that are suitable for this purpose.
One game (which from personal experience I have found is very enjoyable, helps to ease tension or nervousness, and build bonds between employee), involves each employee writing down three facts about themselves, two of which are true and one of which is false. The other employees then have to guess which fact is the false one. This usually results in a funny anecdotes and interesting stories, which can in turn lead to employees feeling more humanized and receptive around their colleagues. There are lots of games which are suitable, but try to avoid anything overly competitive, as this can cause people to become more isolated towards colleagues, and can hinder future cohesion between employees.
One problem that companies often have is poor communication between different departments within a business. Paradoxically, compartmentalization of jobs does help to boost efficiency, but this also creates a lack of understanding between the exact roles of each department. In some instances, this can lead to tension and “passing the buck” (in which a job is passed from department to department without resolution). It important that employees from different departments are explicitly aware of the capabilities, responsibilities and process of each other department, in order for them to work harmoniously. Team building exercises with employees from different departments not only help to break down the barriers and prevent problems and tensions from building up, but can also allow individual employees to make contacts with employees from other departments, allowing them to complete tasks with added efficiency and cohesion.
There are many team building exercises which can help promote harmony between departments, often it’s simply a case of letting employees from one department spend some time with those from another during work; this allows them to not only talk to employees they may not have met before, but also see exactly how they do their job. It’s not the most fun exercise, but it equips employees with the knowledge of how the business works, and helps them to make new connections in different departments.
One of the more difficult situations within a business is when there are tensions between two or more employees. Often this can come about when employees feel like others are not pulling their weight, or when personal issues have built up which lead to abrasiveness and conflict. In order to diffuse this, I have found that putting the two parties together to work on a task they both enjoy can be quite effective. Tensions can sometimes build up from the monotony of repeating the same task, which can be compounded when parties feel unhappy working with another person. Taking them out of this environment and assigning them a task which they both enjoy will not only force them to set aside their differences to complete a task, but will also give them a welcome break from their usual environment, and give them a feeling of shared accomplishment through working together, which can de-escalate rising tensions. This is usually best carried out in a neutral environment, separate from their usual work space.
The newly created environment will help them to change their engrained attitude towards work. It is essential that when the task is assigned, that both parties are placed on an equal footing, with joint responsibility for the task.