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Does team building really work?

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Do away days actually add any value for the HR function?

Less than one in five (18%) workers believe that the opportunity to bond outside of work improves their working relationships, according to research by indoor go-karting company TeamSport.

Only one in ten (11%) report that away days help them be more confident in their role, while only 14% said they help improve their communication skills with managers.

So do away days actually add any value for the HR function?

Yes

Fiona Tayler, corporate events manager of TeamSport:

“Team building away days should be a crucial consideration for any business that is looking to improve the communication and overall morale of its employees.

Off-site activities create the perfect opportunity for co-workers to become more motivated as a group, and can even help to break down any political and personal barriers that they may have.

Many clients often feed back to us on how these corporate events can give them a clear understanding and new perspective of their employees on an individual basis, as well as the company as a whole, often seeing a huge improvement in team productivity and working relationships as a result.”

No

Rob Briner, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Bath:

“It may have some small short-term effects but in general it doesn’t do much, unless it’s based on building really specific skills or knowledge that are directly relevant to the performance of the team.

My sense is that most team building is based on increasing social interaction and co-operation through setting very short-term ‘fun’ but challenging tasks. While some people may enjoy that sort of thing, others may hate it, and, overall, there’s no reason to think this will have any impact on performance in the workplace.

So, like any training or development, if you first identify a really specific need for knowledge, skills and/or abilities and design an activity around developing these then you might be in with a good chance of doing something that’s effective. However, most team building that I’m aware of doesn’t do this.

As with any intervention, it’s worth thinking about the downsides: wasting time, creating conflict, making people uncomfortable, forcing people to do things they can’t, and so on.”