Stretching Your Budget for Team Building During a Recession
By Anne Thornley-Brown, President
Executive Oasis International
For companies that are doing well, it is still possible to have it all. If your organization is facing challenges, it’s time to take stock and re-visit your company’s approach to team building. It’s important to avoid the mistakes that some of the companies receiving bailout money made. It’s been all over the media. Instead of focusing on resolving their issues, some of these companies have continued to spend money for expensive events, trips, and lavish entertainment. Companies that are facing financial challenges can avoid similar embarrassment . It’s possible to provide team building that has bottom line value, save money and still have fun doing it.
The key to stretching your team building dollars is to keep the essence of the team building and eliminate non-value added activities. In other words, use your budget to obtain expert facilitation to address your business needs and find other ways to save money. Sometimes, the need to save money can create a richer programme. Here are some ideas to deliver powerful programmes that eliminate fluff and add bottom line value:
- Immediately just completely cut the frivolous activities that are masquerading as team building.
Here is the latest craze. Literally, the HEIGHT of frivolity disguised as team building.FORGET playing paintball. Companies are sending staff to experience a plane crash in simulators run by British Airways as the ultimate team-building exercise.
For £130 a head, employees are taken to a hangar at Heathrow where they board a shortened version of a Boeing 737 mounted on a motion platform.
After “takeoff”, they are plunged into darkness and put into a nose-dive from 3,000 ft as the cabin begins to fill with smoke.
Once the plane has hit the ground, the “passengers” have to get out as fast as they can through the front and rear exits. By this stage, the employees are so pumped up that on three separate occasions businessmen have shorn through a half-inch steel bolt by hand so as to lift a 45lb overhead escape hatch and climb onto the plane’s wing.
The half-day “crash courses” are so popular that BA has taken more than 350 bookings from about 8,500 oil executives, bankers, civil servants and staff at the Football Association
I hope that I am not the only one who sees something wrong with this picture. I am a former summer flight attendant (during my university days). I think that companies can learn a lot about team building from airline crews. A simulated flight in which members of your team act as crew would have great value if the entire exercise is properly debriefed. However, I think THIS is taking things a bit too far. It’s fine for emergency procedures training but team building? I don’t think so.
(See our blog entry Why Companies are Cutting Team Building for examples.)
At a time when organizations are facing financial constraints, why waste valuable team building dollars on activities that are of questionable value and in some cases unsafe?
- With the money you save, eliminate half-day “quick fixes”, it’s time to dig deep.
Focus on sessions of at least a day that give your team tools and strategies to generate ideas to:
- attract new business
- cut costs
- improve business results
- Reduce the number of employee events that are strictly recreational.
Too many organizations have been trying to pass these off as team building.
- Pool the funds you have been using for recreation and entertainment to offer value added facilitated business team building that addresses your company’s specific business issues and challenges.
- Bring team building “on-site”.
- Another suggestion is to do all or part of the session on-site or during the day at a hotel near you.
You’ll save a lot in hotel costs, meals, even transportation.
- If you’re going to hold your team building retreat at a resort or hotel, schedule it sooner rather than later.
With reduced occupancy rates due to the recession, many hotels are offering deep discounts. Your company can now stay at even 5-star resorts in locations like Canada, Jamaica, Dubai, Oman, and Abu Dhabi for a fraction of what they would normally spend. 6 and 7-star resorts are offering specials. These bargains will disappear when the economy picks up.
- Explore more cost-effective venues.
Examples include community colleges and universities or even high schools (from April to August), summer camps (all times of the year except the summer), community centres, and even some country clubs.Sometimes organizations do the opposite. They spend a lot of money for an expensive resort or airport hotel and then scrimp by engaging an inexperienced and inexpensive facilitator.
- Start the session on-site, hold part of it off-site, and conclude it off-site.
Your session would look something like this.
- Week 1: On-site: Executive and Team Briefing
- Week 2: Off-site: Simulation and recreation and debriefing. (1 night/2 full days with an early start)
- Week 3: On-site: Business Application Exercises
- Instead of getting your marketing or ad agency to organize team building, go directly to an organization that specializes in facilitated business team building.
The agency will be outsourcing execution anyway and they will add a HEFTY mark-up.
- If you are going to need team building for many departments, use a boutique firm like Executive Oasis International, that specializes in team building to help you design and execute an integrated strategy.
You’ll save money due to the volume. If each department does its own thing, you’ll pay top dollar every time.
- Consider one-stop shopping with a service bundle.
If you need to do an executive retreat, team building, an incentive trip, and some recreational and corporate events, enjoy the benefits and the savings of one stop shopping. Executive Oasis International offers one-stop shopping in Canada, Jamaica, Dubai, Oman, Singapore, and Malaysia. There are firms in the USA, the UK and Europe that can also help you save money through one stop shopping.
- Use a cooking school, catering department from a community college or local restaurant to cater your on-site session.
- For an overnight event, use a campsite in the Spring, Summer or Fall.
You’ll be able to include all kinds of activities in a business simulation and still give your team a chance to relax, unwind and bond .Here are some examples:
For a daytime event, use a conservation area.
- Select a session that can incorporate a business related project and still retain the fun factor.
The benefit is that your organization will be raising the bar, resolving issues and pulling together as a team while STILL having fun. Here is an example:Visexecutaries: Apprentice Team Building
- Modify your schedule.
If you’re concerned about losing productivity, instead of taking people away for a 3-day retreat, why not have a session once per week or break the team building up into two 1 1/2 day sessions spread 2 weeks apart. If you’re doing something that incorporates a work related project like Visexecutaries, this format would be perfect.
- Cut booze out of the budget.
This won’t make you very popular but it will save you a lot of money and ENSURE that team members are FOCUSED for the entire session.
Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012 (Flickr)
Executive Oasis International offers business simulations for team building, executive retreats, and incentive travel. Featured destinations include Canada, Jamaica, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Egypt, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Other Resources and Articles
- Apprentice Team Building
- Inc. Inc.: Breaking Down Silos
- Survivor Team Building
- Off-sites That Work
- Off-sites That Work iii