5 Ways to Get Naysayers to Participate in Team Building

Off-site activities can help build a company's culture in a way that's relayed back to the workplace. Don't undermine their value by forgetting to highlight their purpose and document them for the future.

learn more about Lain Hensley

By Lain Hensley • Jan 14, 2015

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It can be a challenge to get even the most enthusiastic of employees to participate in team-building activities, and the announcement of mandatory events of this nature often prompts further complaints.

Silence the cynics and garner true interest in team building events by getting employees to see their value. Choose the right event and the perfect setting and communicating the value of the activity.

Here are five tips for turning naysayers into willing (and maybe eager) team-building participants.

Related: 6 Ways to Go Above and Beyond the Average Work Retreat

1. Deliver value.

Nothing is more precious to employees than their time. Often, employees' first reaction to the announcement of a team-building event is the thought that they have no time for what they see as a recreational activity with no significant takeaway.

Help employees understand the return they'll receive on their time investment by choosing an activity with a valuable takeaway for staffers, both personally and professionally. Companies that specialize in team building are currently seeing great success in philanthropic challenges.

2. Change the setting.

When gathered at the workplace, employees can find it challenging to refocus their attention on a team-building exercise. Select a new setting for your project to help employees disconnect from ringing phones and the constant flow of email.

Outdoor areas can be great for fresh air, but anywhere new will do. Rented meeting spaces or hotels can work well.

Related: 3 Team-Building Activities That Can Build Trust

3. Make the connection.

During team-building activities, help employees disconnect from their immediate work tasks and focus on the project at hand. You will still want them to understand how the activity relates back to work, though.

They should not be thinking about their to-do list but rather contemplating how and why the time they're taking out of their day makes them better and more productive team members.

Let the activity be fun but also have a true purpose for your company. Often companies host team-building activities with the assumption that employees inherently understand the purpose of the activity.

Avoid this mistake by relating the project back to the company in a clear fashion. Focus on individuals' roles and how each helps the company. Communicate this idea throughout the process, helping employees make the connection.

4. Change employees' mindsets.

Team-building events enlist communication skills and require attention to productivity. They take analytical and creative skills.

A good team-building activity will tap specific skills from many different people.

Such activities can help change a naysayer mindset by showing staffers the value of working together for a common cause. Sometimes natural leaders and hidden skills will emerge in the process.

5. Document results.

Team building should not take place in a vacuum. Many companies make the mistake of hosting an event but never referencing it again. That can accidentally communicate to employees the idea that participating in the event was just checking off an item on a list.

Developing true interest in team-building activities means making such activities a living, breathing part of your company's culture.

Hire a freelance photographer or enlist a camera-enthusiast team member to take photos during the event, seminar or activity. Share these images with employees and the public. Use social media to create a conversation about what your team did and why.

Related: Just Sticking Around for the Food? Why Company Culture Matters More Than Perks.

Lain Hensley

Odyssey Teams COO

Lain Hensley is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Odyssey Teams, which develops philanthropic team-building programs for large corporations: the prosthetic hand-building program Helping Hands and the bicycle-building event LifeCycles. He is an inspirational speaker and corporate trainer with an eye for introducing organizational change. 

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