Building high-performance teams isn't just about the technical capabilities of its members. It's also about how they relate to each other. While most organizations consider teamwork necessary and critical, in the age of Zoom meetings, it can be difficult for organizations to create spaces to build interpersonal relationships.
In her book “Happiness At Work”," Jessica Pryce-Jones estimates that we spend about 90,000 hours at work. Considering that on average that's almost a third of our lifetime, it makes sense that cultivating relationships within our environment is an important factor in people's happiness and consequently in a team's performance.
But it's not always easy to interact with colleagues on non-work-related topics, especially if you're working remote. The value of team-building activities is that they generate conversations outside of work topics so that team members can get to know each other, which in turn promotes good performance and well-being.
What are team building activities?
The origin of the term "team-building" dates back to the 1920s when psychologist William McDougal wrote about the importance of team building and the conditions necessary for a good work environment in his book The Group Mind.
Years later, a group of Harvard Business School academics led by Elton Mayo published studies showing the direct relationship between working conditions and an individual's level of productivity. This was when the idea arose that productivity depends to a large extent on job satisfaction, adding that of all the factors that influence human behavior, according to Mayo, the most relevant are those that derive from people's participation in social groups.
Certainly, team-building activities are instances designed to converse and break the formality of the work environment. In essence, these are social interactions that serve to build human relationships and are important because they help to develop an individual's potential within a company by strengthening communication with peers.
What we've learned at Modyo through team-building activities
Increases motivation and productivity
In 2019 Oxford University published a study that states that workers are 13% more productive when they are happy. At Modyo's Design Lab we can back up this conclusion from our own experience, given that after a couple of years of doing team building activities where 100% of the team participates, on a frequent basis -monthly or quarterly, depending on the time-, we have observed how each member of the team is more open, vulnerable and willing to trust the others thanks to the team building.
At bottom, team buildings allow people to really get to know each other, which creates the feeling of a safe atmosphere. This has a positive impact firstly on the level of trust of each individual person, and secondly on the internal communication of the whole team, which ultimately fosters cooperation and the motivation needed to face work challenges.
The Design Lab participated in a remote team-building activity, distributed between Colombia, Chile, and Costa Rica.
Strengthens commitment to the team and the organization
Recent studies suggest that the average tenure of employees in a job has decreased by 20% since 2020, being at a higher risk of resigning after the first year in a new role. Team building activities are a good strategy to generate a sense of belonging to the team and the company, which serves to decrease turnover.
Since the Design Lab established team building activities as one of its principles—to our surprise—the Employer Net Promoter Score (employee engagement and job satisfaction) has increased considerably. While this increase in job satisfaction is due to a larger set of efforts, we believe that team building plays an important role. When measuring which ceremonies are most appreciated by team members, the results placed team-building activities among those that contribute the most value, and likewise, team turnover decreased from 50% to 16% in 2 years.
eNPS Design Lab de Modyo, 2020-2022
Encourages good team performance in the long term
Within a team, it's common for each person to have different strengths and weaknesses. But it's difficult to be aware of this spectrum by considering only work-related interactions, especially in remote environments. Team-building activities allow you to discover—and develop—skills you might not otherwise be able to observe, as they're usually instances where creativity, problem solving and trusting other team members are required.
One of the team building activities that had the most laughs in 2022 involved forming teams to sell an unusual product.
In our experience, this makes sense. People who enjoy working together are not afraid to make mistakes or ask for help. In fact, they're better equipped to solve problems by knowing the strengths of those around them, which allows them to think of strategies and solutions more efficiently.
How to conduct valuable team building exercises
Define an objective: Before choosing an activity, it is important to ask ourselves what are the current pains of the team in order to convene a dynamic that serves to reduce these points of friction. If we want to get the team to get to know each other, we can plan a team building activity that will allow for a more personal conversation. On the other hand, if we want to lower stress levels, we can participate in a game whose only objective is to get a couple of laughs.
An example of a team building that consisted of drawing some concepts in Figjam, which finished with a voting to choose the winner of each category.
Plan ahead: After selecting the team building, schedule the attendees (in our case, we give a month's notice) with enough time to complete the activity. For large teams, it helps to divide into small groups to get the most out of the space.
Designate leaders: Choose people who will be responsible for moderating the activity, as well as having the necessary materials to carry out the activity. Something we have learned at the Design Lab is that team buildings serve to empower others, helping them to develop soft skills and leadership.
Prepare artifacts: For the day of the meeting, it is important not to waste time preparing the workspaces. Consider having them ready in advance and agree on roles for moderators. In the Design Lab we have had very good results using Figjam and Miro because there are many templates, although as good designers we sometimes create our own games.
Once we created a set of cards in Figma to make our version of the famous game "cards against humanity" but design edition.
Does team building take too much time? Is it necessary?
In the book Team Building: Proven Strategies for Improving Team Performance, it's mentioned that many people tend to undervalue team building activities. They see them as unnecessary or lacking clear outcomes. It's understandable that can happen in environments where at a cultural level, team development is not a focus.
But, there are clear consequences to ignoring team building. The problem lies in the fact that a lack of team cohesion is often a breeding ground for conflict, miscommunication, and lack of coordination, which sometimes has a negative impact not only on the well-being of employees, but also on the quality of deliverables and customer relationships.
At Modyo, we've learned that investing time in individual development is a long-term investment in the growth of the company, and for this reason, we have 3 hours a week set aside in our calendars for "growth and development." In our case in the Design Lab, once a month we use this space for team building.
Team building activities help build culture and camaraderie, and good results can generate a strong sense of well-being within the team that is evident in the quality of work and the level of commitment to group success.
If you've got great teams and you're looking for solutions for public sites, transactional websites, digital onboarding, or scaling your digital factory, then we'd like to talk to you about how you can build an ecosystem of customer experiences built on great digital products.