AT THE OFFICE: Go team! Need for collaboration greater when there are fewer employees
With fewer people on the payroll, working effectively with each other is essential in today's workplace. Team-building exercises help people get to know each other, which builds trust and even the buy-in needed for an organization to reach its go...
With fewer people on the payroll, working effectively with each other is essential in today's workplace.
Team-building exercises help people get to know each other, which builds trust and even the buy-in needed for an organization to reach its goals, experts say.
"It's more important than it has ever been with companies trying to do more with less.
They're trying to achieve productivity when they have never had to work together before," says Cher Holton, who recently taught team-building techniques to the Fort Lauderdale chapter of the American Society for Training & Development.
To kick off the meeting, participants were split into groups and given a bowl of M&Ms. Each team member chose a candy and was asked to share something, such as what they do for fun, based on the color.
Before long, people were smiling and laughing. It was an ice-breaker.
"You don't have to know people's deep dark secrets," Holton says. But colleagues who have camaraderie "are more willing to go that extra mile to achieve a goal," she says.
Before attempting a team-building exercise, trainers need to know the purpose, which could be relationship-building, learning tools to resolve conflict, or planning a project. "You need to know the problems or the pinch points," Holton says.
Working through conflict is another reason companies employ team-building.
"We've worked with teams where they're absolutely at a stalemate. They can't reach decisions," Holton says.
She teaches the team members conflict-resolution skills, such as learning how to ask questions instead of advocating a position, so it's a "civilized disagreement."
South Florida companies including American Express and First Data Corp. use team-building techniques to solve problems and strengthen workplace relationships.
American Express vice president Dean Vocaturo says he finds team-building useful in this economic environment because people are stressed both personally and professionally. Through teamwork, colleagues get to know each other on a personal level and feel more comfortable interacting.
"Hopefully, they'll be more trusting and open to accomplishing the common goal of the organization," says Vocaturo, who oversees billing and payments at the credit card company's Weston office.
In one instance, Vocaturo asked his team to come with strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in considering an ideal organizational structure. The team identified a problem and then were asked to come up with a solution.
Since they were involved in the solution, they were more likely to support it. "As the Brits like to say, their 'skin's in the game,' " he says.
Team-building becomes more critical when a team is virtual.
Jennifer Tomarchio, instructional designer for First Data Corp., used to do scavenger hunts and other get-to-know-you activities with her team on site at the Coral Springs-based financial transactions company.
These days, her team is spread throughout the country and traveling is not always in the budget.
So online, the 10 team members do activities such as "pick an object on your desk and describe how it fits your personality" to begin a meeting. They also have a virtual water-cooler where they post movie quotes or other conversation-starters.
It's not just fun and games.
Through such interaction, "you learn each others' strengths so you can know who you can call upon for certain things," Tomarchio says.