In today’s economic downturn, morale is often cut with budgets. However, more and more healthcare organizations are learning that efforts toward team building pay off in raises of morale, rapport, energy and commitment among employees. These concepts, often referred to by researchers as “engagement,” create a happier workforce and more satisfied patients. In addition, Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, states that a history of strong team building culture helps for recruitment. “Companies that create true team environments turn into places where other team-oriented players want to work,” says Lencioni.
So what do modern team-building events look like? According to Dr. Susan Cain of the Corporate Learning Institute, the best models for team building focus on personal motivation, engagement and appreciation of others, and they do this by leaving “work” behind for the day and focusing on civic or creative projects that highlight workers’ other talents that do not see use in the typical workday.
- Chili cook-off. Work teams are given some resources and must barter for the spices and ingredients needed to create their desired chili recipe. Then, together, they execute the recipe, make the chili, and serve it for the noon meal at a local soup kitchen, other charitable organization or healthcare cafeteria. This operation can be supported and commemorated with paper chef hats, bib aprons or diner hats for servers.
- Can-struction. In this multi-phase event, team members are given a week or two prior to the main event to collect canned/nonperishable goods as their raw materials. Then, on the day of the event, teams are briefed on the theme, whether it be a new mission statement, patient experience or care message. Teams then have break-away time to create a physical model of their idea, using their canned goods, along with a pitch for the “judges” about their grasp of the focus concept. All of these presentations are given in a common area, and all team members present vote to determine a winning team. While that team’s participants receive a special prize, such as a fun thermo lunch container, all participants are winners as they deconstruct the models, pack up the donations and load them onto the truck for a local food bank.
- Build-a-bike competition. Work teams compete in several small events to earn the parts, tools and directions to assemble a bicycle; events may include relays, trivia or briefcase scavenger hunts. Groups then assemble their bikes and are rewarded with getting to see the happy faces of children from a local charitable organization or child care unit who come to claim the new bicycles.
- Repay the community. In many communities there are aging properties or historical sites that need restoration or just plain clean-up. One team-building event had its participants removing scrap metal and debris from a disused train depot slated for historical review. According to Benchmark Hospitality International President, Sam Haigh, his team removed an estimated 96 tons of sheet metal from the tracks area in under four hours.
Activities such as cleaning a rail yard, renovating a playground, re-fencing a family shelter area or teaming up with Habitat for Humanity give team members an experience that will last a lifetime and are wonderful public relations opportunities. Great reminders for these hard-working participants include logo’d hammers.
- Off-site adventures. Whether it be a dude-ranch challenge, rock climbing, white-water rafting event or reality-show-style road rally, these team-building activities can truly pack a wallop. Participants display wholly different sides of themselves as they face great equalizers in nature. They learn that the CEO, for example, may not be the best horse-back rider, or that the shy assistant may be the strongest map reader. More than a meeting ever would, these adventures cement relationships and continue to pay off in memories and stories for the participants to share back at the office or clinic.
Back at the work place after the team building event, team spirit pennants can be great reminders of the amazing growth experiences participants had during the team-building activity. For competitors, these flags will be lasting reminders and conversation pieces for your valued employees, prompting them to tell stories about how amazing their group was to new hires and other employees who did not attend. That level of engagement is priceless.