Choosing the right teambuilding event for your team

Organising teambuilding days is a training department staple. And when you’re done with assault courses and go-karting, what’s the latest activity to get your team going?

Teambuilding events can – if run wisely – breakdown interpersonal barriers, help people to access untapped skills, and get creative. But while some people love the idea of getting away from work and getting stuck into different activities, others may associate teambuilding with humiliation,or even physical pain.

Thankfully, teambuildingevents have moved on from the ‘boot camp’ image they had in the 1980s, when they first began to take off. “There is still a place for the assault course, but the range of alternative options is now immense, so companies can choose the style of teambuilding most likely to appeal – and also the format most closely aligned to their business objectives,” says Izania Downie, executive director of Eventia, the trade association for event providers.

Most providers offer a choice of teambuilding options that can be custom-made to meet objectives and budgets. One such provider is Progressive Resources. “Events aren’t simply boxed up on shelves ready to be dispatched. Each event is unique and can cost between £500 and £250,000, depending on the client’s requirements,” says marketing manager Chris Newnham.

Looking to the next few months, Progressive’s offerings include Parmesan Job – based on The Italian Job – where teams use a fleet of Mini Coopers, GPS and walkie-talkies to solve a treasure hunt. If you have the budget, helicopters and speedboats can be used.

A less hectic option is Team Wok – a half-day event where teams create a complex Chinese meal with the help of expert chefs and then feast on the outcome. The event claims to help develop communication skills, while the tastes and smells create a “vibrant buzz” and “gets the creativity flowing”, according to Progressive.

Tangible results

If you want to get some tangible results from a team build, ask the provider if it provides a report after the event.

This is one area that BlueHat UKprides itself on, as it incorporates models such as Belbin and Myers Briggs to measure interactions. It also provides an indicator report before and after the event to show what has changed. It can also provide detailed feedback, such as personal performance plans.

BlueHat sales and marketing director Paul Casement says teambuilding events should not be seen as just staff jollies. “Clients often ask for paint-balling, go-karting and quad bikes. We’d argue that these are fine for improving short-term motivation, but have little to do with teambuilding,” he says.

BlueHat offers more than 50 teambuilding products – from short energisers to full teambuilding days. One indoor event it says is popular in the autumn is Hells Bells, where teams work to complete a giant 3D working sculpture. This involves activities including solving puzzles, creating costumes and making model sculptures, which claim to build skills such as time management, leadership, communication and creativity.

The event is for groups of seven to 400, lasts just over four hours and costs £2,250, plus £45 per person.

Some teambuilding events can seem costly, but those that see positive results when back at work argue that it is a sound investment.

Thorpe Molley Recruitment business manager Simon Warner was convinced of the benefits following a teambuilding event organised by Adventure Scotland. Twenty staff took part in a treasure hunt that involved walking, mountain bikes and canoes. “If the teambuilding event is successful, then the business will reap the rewards in terms of enthused, refreshed and energised staff. Motivated teams impact on the bottom line and improve staff retention,” he says.

Consider objectives

Most teambuilding activities do not require participants to have relevant skills or make specific preparation, but giving some thought to what you want to get out of the experience is sensible if you want to maximise results. “We encourage people to think about their objectives and why they are doing the event in the first place,” says City Challenge managing director Jane Read, who runs urban orienteering activities in European cities (see case study below).

The company provides different challenges, which start at £195 per person – some aimed at helping teams bond and others that are all about team development, including in-depth feedback and review sessions. “We like to take time to discuss what organisations want to achieve to help them match with the right challenge,” says Read.

If you are looking for more of a traditional adventure event, provider Outside offers a programme – at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire –called Fevertree, which claims to develop confidence and communication skills. Comprising a mix of mental and physical challenges adaptable for all levels of fitness, activities include high and low rope activities, a lake crossing without a boat, and a 250-metre zip wire from the top of the castle turrets.

Outside says no preparation is needed other than an open mind and a stout pair of shoes. Event prices start at £150 for a half-day and £250 for a full day, subject to the numbers of participants and the content of the programme devised.

One outdoor event that seems to be filling up rivers across the country is dragon boat racing. Gable Events, based near Peterborough, provides teambuilding days that get teams to paddle effectively together in a series of races.

Director Carol Lester says the boat racing doesn’t require previous experience, and the winners are those who paddle well as a team, rather than those with the biggest or fittest individuals. “We provide a qualified helmsman at the back of each boat, who encourages and trains the teams to paddle down a measured course, giving participants a sense of achievement,” she says.

Gable’s prices start at £2,500 for a two-hour teambuilding activity for 20-30 people, to £4,000-plus for a racing event for more than 100 people. Events take place at Dorney Lake in Windsor, but if you don’t fancy facing the British weather, all-year-round packages are organised in Seville, Lisbon, Barcelona and Rome.

However, if you are looking for an activity that is simply for laughs, then orbing could fit the bill. This activity is best suited to the more daring, or perhaps just the hardened adrenaline junkies. It involves being harnessed inside a 12ft, double-hulled inflatable PVC sphere, before being sent hurtling down a hill at speeds of up to 30mph.

Provider ORB360 organises teambuilding events on the South Downs. A half-day corporate package for a group of 32 costs £425, which includes unlimited orb rides, team challenges involving ball-based activities, such as orb racing and orb bowls, music and refreshments.

“There is nothing quite like an adrenaline rush to get people talking and laughing – a team that does these two things will stay together and be more productive,” says founder Paul Butler.

However, if you fancy orbing this year, you’d better book now as it’s only available until the end of September.

Case study: GKA

Market research consultancy Gillian Kenny Associates (GKA) chairwoman Chris Kenny says her staff are still realising the benefits of a two-day teambuilding event. The firm sent 32 staff to Prague with City Challenge, where they were divided into teams and, working against the clock, tackled specially devised challenges based on the history, design and architecture of the city.

Trained facilitators worked with the groups to ensure everyone worked closely together and used their intellectual and negotiating skills to solve problems.

For the GKA staff, who are split between two sites in Gloucestershire and a Birmingham office, it was a good chance to get to know colleagues. Kenny says: “Our Gloucestershire offices are very close, but at times it feels like a hundred miles because people don’t communicate.

“When we got back, the buzz in the office was priceless and that lasted for ages. You can’t buy that feeling and it’s made a difference to us as an organisation.

“People could see that we were prepared to invest in training, and they know that if we look after them, in return they’ll go the extra mile for us when it is needed.”

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