Periodic team-building exercises can go a long way toward cultivating team morale and developing employees’ interpersonal skills and other leadership abilities. Both efforts are essential to retaining top performers in today’s challenging hiring environment.
Beyond tried-and-true extracurricular activities — such as a group outing to a local sporting event — aim for team-building exercises that promote staff discussion about work-related topics in a fun and memorable way. Here are seven creative ideas:
1. Host a game show
Split up into teams, and try to stick to content employees can use in their everyday work. For a more informal type of team-building exercise, include interesting facts about employees (with their permission of course), especially positive stories related to their careers or accomplishments.
2. Idea-sharing lunches
A casual lunch — featuring good food — can serve as a general catch-up session as well as a platform for creative conversation. If your budget allows, have a caterer handle the food and beverage presentation and cleanup. If not, throw a fun potluck lunch — perhaps featuring a particular theme or cuisine.
These informal gatherings can be particularly valuable during intense work periods, such as before the year-end, during an ERP implementation, or other peak periods of stress. In addition to informal idea sharing, have knowledgeable staff briefly share insights on relevant topics such as finance regulation and reporting updates. Just be sure to include time for light-hearted discussion, as well.
3. A company off-site
An off-site event mixed with brainstorming or idea forums, as well as personal free time and group activities, can help inspire your team and arm them with fresh ideas to take back to the office. This also provides a great setting for strategic planning and professional development opportunities outside of the office. If budgets allow, considering renting a cabin in a nature park to encourage time outdoors for hiking and relaxation. If this isn't possible, there are many collaboration venues for hire which can also fit the bill in urban areas.
4. Flex your collective creativity
Many team-building games focus on improving participants’ problem-solving skills while inspiring lots of laughter.
Here’s an activity to try called the “Game of Possibilities”: Give a paperclip to groups of five to 10 participants. Then, one person from each group takes turns demonstrating a way to use the paperclip that does not involve its intended purpose.
In this game, the rules make the fun! They are:
• The person must make his or her demonstration without speaking
• The person must stand while demonstrating
• The demonstration must be original
Clearly, this game could be repeated over and over with other items substituted for the paperclip (e.g., pen, water bottle, telephone, etc). Hopefully, participants will learn to create new and unusual uses for everyday objects and translate this experience to creating new ways to solve problems, use resources or motivate a team.
5. Yin and yang
If you looking to find ways to improve communication in the workplace and build team spirit, consider the 'yin and yang' as a possible team-building exercise in the office.
First, ask team members to think of a common pair of items — for example, macaroni and cheese, yin and yang, or jacket and tie. Have them write the name of each item on separate pieces of paper.
Tape one piece of paper to each participant’s back — making sure no one gets their own suggestions. To deduce what’s taped there — and find their other half — participants mingle and ask each other yes-or-no questions. Of all the fun team-building activities on the list, this one probably takes the least amount of prep time. So it’s especially suited for team leaders who are time-strapped.
6. Create an obstacle field to build trust
With the weather improving why not head outdoors for a team building exercise that builds trust and communication among the team.
Head outdoors to an open field (or if it's a rainy day an empty hallway or meeting room could work) and place obstacles around the space. They can be cones, empty water bottles or other objects. Divide your group into two-person teams, and blindfold one member. The blindfolded team member must then try to navigate the obstacle field without tripping over any of the objects. The partner provides verbal guidance.
To add a competitive element, you could make it a race and have the pairs race either other through a course, deducting points off their time for each collision that occurs.
7. Build a bridge together
If your teams are quite isolated in their work, a team-building activity may be a great way to create a platform for colleagues to build relationships. A team-building exercise that focuses on creating a structure, such as a bridge or tower, out of household items can help them test their communication abilities.
Start by dividing your staff into teams of three or four. Then, provide "construction materials," such as string, newspaper, marshmallows, cardboard tubes and Popsicle sticks. Decide on a time limit for building, and start the clock. While building, your staff will have to communicate with each other effectively if they want to find a solution to the problem.
When the clock runs out, test the structures by gradually adding weight. The sturdiest tower or bridge wins.
Most important of all — Have a vision
No matter what type of team-building exercises you choose for your employees, be sure to outline clear goals that you want to achieve through these activities. Consider involving your team in the planning process, as well; allowing them to provide input and add their personal touch can help them feel more invested.
Over time, you’ll discover which strategies resonate best with your employees. You can then schedule team-building activities on a regular basis to maintain a more engaged and productive accounting and finance team. These activities will become a part of your office culture, and can help to promote retention.
*Note: This article has been updated to reflect additional team-building activities and exercises.