When planning team bonding activities, it’s easy to get stuck in the same old happy hour rut. The Friday happy hour is fun, but after months of doing the same thing, they stop having the same effect.
Creating opportunities for employees to connect outside of their regular job function is essential to maintaining a collaborative and supportive culture. That said, bringing together people — with different interests, personalities, and schedules — to “bond” is a tough, tough job.
The following guidelines are designed to help you create effective team bonding activities while relieving some of the inevitable headache involved!
1) Divide and conquer
If I were in charge for planning all of our team bonding events at CultureIQ, we’d have a picnic every month. While I love picnics, they aren’t for everyone… every month. When the planning responsibility falls on one person, you’re more likely to do the same thing over and over again.
Instead, rotate the responsibility of planning company activities amongst task forces. This has a few key benefits: 1) the very act of planning an event together is a bonding opportunity; 2) it will result in a wide variety of experiences; and 3) the work and stress won’t fall on one person each time.
2) Shake up the silos
Your sales team knows each other plenty well. They travel together, sit together, eat together. But how well does Claudia in sales know Jim in operations? Probably not that well.
Team-building events are an opportunity to bring together individuals that don’t get to interact on a regular basis. However, when placed in an open room, people tend to gravitate to what’s comfortable, so cross-team socialization doesn’t always happen naturally.
To shake up those silos, plan events that deliberately group together individuals from different functions and departments. At CultureIQ, we hosted “The Culture Games,” during which cross-functional teams competed against each other in a series of competitive bar games (ping pong, shuffle board, etc.).
Other activities that are conducive to cross-functional bonding are bowling, trivia, lawn games, or anything with a healthy dose of competition!
3) Root it in your values
There is a difference between having values and living by your values, and many companies struggle to do the latter effectively. Using your values as inspiration for your team-building events is a great way to organically bake them into your culture.
For example, one of Whole Foods’ core values is “We Serve and Support Our Local and Global Communities,” so the company encourages employees to volunteer together — on a local level and a global level! This is a great way for teammates to live by their company values and to connect outside of their job functions.
One of the CultureIQ values is to “celebrate and enjoy the journey.” In honor of this value, a lot of our team activities are centered around celebrating wins — big and small — along the way. As an example, we had a ribbon cutting ceremony and champagne toast to launch our new brand at the beginning of the year.
Look at your values through a new lens, and get creative with incorporating them into your team bonding opportunities.
4) Ditch the “go big or go home” mentality
There’s no need to “go big” with every team building event. If that’s your mentality, then you’ll limit yourself in what you can do. You’ll have a lot more flexibility if you embrace the fact that not everyone likes to do everything.
One option is to empower employees to create smaller, interest-focused activities to get people together. Running club? Sure! Video game club? Why not!
Another idea is to break the company into small groups of five to ten individuals, and let them plan their own activity or event.
Smaller events can feel less intimidating to some of the shyer team members, and it also means that you aren’t waiting for everyone to get together for people to bond.
5) When in doubt, just ask!
At the end of the day, team bonding activities are for your employees. If you don’t have a good read on what the team wants to do (or even if you do), take the guesswork out of it and ask them! Send a survey with a few options, and go with the winner. This step will reduce any grumbling and increase buy-in from employees. Take it one step further, and collect feedback after the event to help you plan the next one!
Jamie is the Head of Community at CultureIQ, a platform that helps companies strengthen their culture. Jamie brings people, companies, and ideas together to collaborate around company culture. Sign up to receive updates about community events and opportunities here, or feel free to shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.