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There's No Easy Way to Say This, But . . . Your Employees Hate Your Team-Building Ideas What do you do now? Here are three alternatives.

By Andre Lavoie Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


There's no easy way to say this, but . . . Employees hate your team-building ideas. It's not that they're bad; it's that employees are just tired of the same old cookie-cutter programs. There's only so much growing a team can do after that 50th trust-fall exercise.

Related: 3 Team-Building Secrets of Successful Small-Business Owners

Alternately, you should get employees excited about team-building, by creating some unique and compelling activities. Doing something unique will take everyone beyond the events themselves: Effective team-building can build lasting bonds and even workplace friendships. It can re-energize employees and improve morale and productivity.

So, if your employees are still rolling their eyes at your team-building ideas, take these steps toward creating activities they'll actually enjoy:

1. Know what employees hate, and why.

Tried-and-true activities are the go-to for most companies. But employees are tired of the same programs year after year. These options rarely result in any real progress.

For instance, today's professional doesn't gain anything from trust falls and human chains. And physical challenges (obstacle courses, endurance races, etc.) make some workers nervous and embarrassed.

Then there's the 10-hour workshop or weekend retreat. Employees view these programs as time they have to spend away from family. Furthermore, the events often breed awkward situations (likely induced by too much alcohol consumption) that only create a rift in the workplace.

Related: The Unusual Team-Building Methods of Famous Bosses (Infographic)

It's no wonder why many employees view team-building as divisive and humiliating and make any excuse they can to get out of the activities. But with only so many options, what are you supposed to do?

2. Create innovative bonding exercises.

People want to work with people they actually enjoy being around. In fact, 91 percent of the 28,371 workers polled in the 2017 CultureIQ Company Culture Trends and Insights survey said they had co-workers they consider friends.

So, to really improve morale and team dynamics, create scenarios that will build friendships, including:

  • Game days, where employees play group games similar to Clue. They'll have to work together to solve a common goal, which creates instant collaboration.
  • Show and tell, which offers insights into employees' personalities. In this game, workers will also remember the fun times of their youth. Nostalgia is a great way to bond.
  • Scavenger hunts. Everyone loves a good challenge. Plus, the excitement of finding list items first gets people high-fiving, laughing and making memories.
  • Creating your own game, where employees collaborate on a unique game based on the company's workplace culture and values. Including "inside information" will help keep things lively.

Employees should always be aware of the purpose behind the games they're playing. Sure, they're fun, but the point is to encourage working together and thinking things through as a team. Want to really take things up a notch? Here's how some of the biggest names in business have masteredteam-building:

  • Facebook created an outdoor spy game where employees had to solve clues to "rescue" a co-worker or object that had been "stolen."

  • Lyft "stranded" employees on a private San Francisco island. Team members had to build a communication device to make contact with the outside world and be "rescued."

  • Chipotle and Amazon teamed up with local museums to provide employees private tours tailored to the company values.

If these options are too bold or not plausible, you can build activities around co-worker hobbies. Volunteer programs are another great way to build friendships while benefiting the greater community.

Finally, you can never go wrong with a company-wide field trip or picnic. These events can have added value if they also provide an opportunity for employee-family involvement. When families are included, workers are more likely to be on board.

3. Keep things fun and exciting through regular feedback.

When the fun is over and everyone is back at work, don't forget to solicit feedback. Find out what clicked for employees and what they didn't care for. Then, you can make changes for next year's events.

Additionally, consider creating a "bonding committee" to help plan future events. Alternatively, you could schedule company-sponsored dinners to discuss these events. This is a double-win, since the dinner itself is a bonding experience.

Related: 4 Ways Team-Building Rituals Can Actually Destroy a Team

When employees get moving, thinking, learning and working together, they get to laughing together as well. Creating bonding experiences employees actually like fosters a workplace culture of friendship, which directly improves morale and productivity.

What are you doing to keep employees motivated? Let us know in the comments!

Andre Lavoie

Entrepreneur; CEO and Co-Founder, ClearCompany

Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, the first talent-alignment platform that aims to bridge the gap between talent management and business strategy by contextualizing employees’ work around a company’s vision and goals.

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