Feel the force

It can be hard to drum up inspiring exercise fot team building events which
is why Ceridian Centrefile called in TV gardener Tommy Walsh and directed its
efforts to supporting charity

It sounds like a tough challenge to take a sales force of individuals, used
to working independently, and instil a team ethic. But for HR and payroll
specialists Ceridian Centrefile the answer was linking up with children’s
charity NCH and drawing on the popularity of TV makeover programmes to create a
two-day teambuilding event.

Seventy sales people were brought together in January and split into seven
teams to carry out makeovers of three NCH family centres for vulnerable and
disabled children in South West England. They were supported by makeover expert
Tommy Walsh of TV’s Groundforce.

"Our sales people are all over the country, often on the road or
working from home," says Ceridian Centrefile HR manager Sharon Douglas,
"so creating a team culture is a real challenge.

"This event was an imaginative way of encouraging teamworking because
everyone taking part knew they were doing something of real value for the
community and that gave the exercise an extra edge."

As well as the fact that the company’s sales people are used to working
independently there was the challenge of firing their enthusiasm.

Beating cynicism

"In the past we’ve done more traditional teambuilding events, like
treasure hunts and outdoor exercises," says Ceridian events manager Roger Clark.

"It can be difficult delivering training to people who have already
been on lots of exercises and who can be a bit cynical. Telling them they were
going to spend two days painting fences and planting gardens probably didn’t
sound like much fun, but once they started and saw how worthwhile it was they
really got into it."

Like many companies Ceridian Centrefile has been trying to develop a
‘corporate social responsibility’ strategy, in other words becoming more
involved in supporting community activities, and the venture with NCH fits into
that strategy.

Ceridian used events company Synapse to help organise the exercise. "We
knew that Ceridian had supported children’s charities in the past so we
contacted NCH to see if they had properties that needed renovating and whether
the job could be done in the timescale," says Synapse director Carole
Young.

Once the properties had been found Synapse recruited project managers from a
Welsh TV makeover programme to plan what would need to be done and to prepare
the sites. It also recruited Tommy Walsh to advise and support teams during the
event.

The seven teams were given 36 hours to complete seven projects, agreed in
consultation with the charity staff and its service users. These ranged from
interior renovation and decoration to reclaiming and renovating outdoor spaces.

Their efforts were judged by a panel of designers representing each of the
family centres and awards were granted to the individuals and teams
demonstrating the best team-building and leadership skills.

Teams were marked on a variety of skills, ranging from co-operation and
creative thinking to time management and artistic interpretation.

Clark says about £5,000 was spent on materials for each of the NCH centres.
He declined to give the total cost of the event, but equated it to that of
sending the sales force on an external team-building exercise.

In addition to the cost of materials the budget had to pay the events
organiser Synapse, the project managers brought in to prepare the sites and
plan the work, a handyman on call for tricky jobs on each of the sites, and
Tommy Walsh.

"The fact we were dealing with three sites made it more expensive, but
they weren’t too far apart," says Clark.

"To a certain extent you can spend as much as you like on something
like this, but the key element was having the project managers. Without them it
would not have been possible."

People taking part were given a questionnaire to assess their handyman
skills so these could be distributed equally among the teams.

The main aims of the exercise were to build team spirit among a group of
people whose contact with each other was usually restricted to the telephone
and e-mail, to give them confidence in achieving challenging goals and to
demonstrate how working as a team can achieve much more than working an
individuals.

One participant, customer sales manager Steve Giddings, says: "I’ve
done team-building exercises before, but this was different because it involved
directly impacting on others and at the end you saw you’d contributed to
something that would benefit children with disabilities.

"We’d all seen these makeover programmes so we were intrigued to see
what it would be like in practice.

"My team transformed the outdoor space at one of the centres, which
included shifting tons of soil. It was the sort of job that looked impossible
to do in the time allowed, but made you realise what can be achieved by a
team."

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