Look Back at: Team Building Trends for 2017
Based on our experiences over the past year and what other team building consultants have shared with us when we recently did some benchmarking, here are our predictions for 2017.
These are not listed in any particular order.
Just like last year, some of the emerging team building trends aren’t positive or beneficial. Many companies still don’t “get it” and continue to invest in activities and practices that have little or no impact on the bottom line.
1. Team Building to Deal with Uncertainty and Change
As uncertainty and turbulence intensity in the global marketplace, some executives will recognize the need to give team members of their team real tools and strategies to deal with it. It will take time for companies to come to the realization that they need to become better at spotting trends and preparing employees to deal with change and uncertainty.
There are a number of ways to do this including:
- team building with real projects to help teams learn to produce results in tight timeframes
- facilitated team building exercises that help teams connect the dots and spot trends
- benchmarking exercises
- urban safaris that include interviews with top brands
2. Team Building with Revenue-Generating Projects
These have a direct impact on the bottom line by marketing products and services more effectively and attracting new customers. This approach is effective and fun. It helps organizations see the impact of team building initiatives first-hand and measure results.
3. Long Term Organizational Development (OD) and Team Building Initiatives
Approaching team building as a once a year event doesn’t produce lasting results. Some organizations are beginning to recognize this and engage team building consultants for more long term assignments. The focus is on providing team building on a “just in time” basis to equip teams with the tools and strategies to handle specific business challenges as they crop up.
This is particularly important for the new generations of tech-savvy participants.
When Oculus Rift, acquired by Facebook, and other virtual reality systems advance to the stage that makes group participation in simulations possible, we will see an explosion in business applications. Virtuix Omni and VUE VR make it possible to move in virtual spaces. Sansar by Linden labs is shaping a shared virtual reality platform using Oculus Rift headgear as the access point.
This is just a fun video demo by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook but imagine the possibilities for simulations as shared virtual reality technology emerges:
As we cautioned last year:
Never incorporate technology just for the “cool factor”. Remember setting the context, the debriefing, and applications to day-to-day business realities are the most important elements for effective corporate team building.
5. Charity Team Building
Some companies are incorporating charitable components into team building and executive retreats. Charitable projects can be used very effectively in team building simulations as companies recognize the importance of giving back to the community.
6. Outsourcing of Procurement
Outsourcing of procurement for executive retreats and team building has been a trend in Europe for some time now. It is starting to show up in North America. The driving force behind this model is to drive down costs and reduce the amount of time that executive assistants spend in sourcing.The main challenge with this model is it removes team building consultants even further from decision makers. The information that is provided is usually sketchy and this makes it challenging for consultants to propose targeted solutions.
Third parties often don’t have an understanding of the key ingredients for effective team building or the distinction between team building and activities that are strictly recreational.
Procurement involves a weeding out process. Often, only options presented by the lowest cost providers ever see the light of day. The others are not even relayed to the company.
Outsourcing of team building procurement can work if:
- very clear briefs are provided by executives
- clear and specific decision-making criteria are provided
- it’s not just about finding the lowest cost provider
- the actual proposals are submitted to companies instead of summaries that blur the distinctions between suppliers.
7. Continued Substitution of Recreational Events for Team Building
More and more, team building has come to mean any activity in which a team participates. Lately, the emphasis is on dirt cheap activities. The bottom line is that, despite all of the red flags that have been raised on this and other blogs for over 8 years, this trend isn’t going away any time soon. There is a place for team recreation but…..
Let’s be clear, escape rooms, social painting, painting tea cups or wine glasses, and colouring as stand-alone activities, while relaxing, are not substitutes for team building.
I am a big proponent of arts in the workplace as a tool to help team members tap into their creativity. Arts activities can be incorporated into team building simulations with great results.
Cheap recreational activities give the illusion that senior management is “doing something”. Employees are not fooled by these contrived activities that do not address the real issues and challenges that teams and organizations are facing.
8. Short Team Building
We have discussed the pitfalls of short team building a number of times so we aren’t going to re-hash them here. This trend is continuing and the most frequently requested timeframe in recent months has been 2 hours.
I must admit, I really don’t have a handle on why companies spend money on these types of activities. If you see the value in them, please share your perspectives in “Comments” below.
Foolishness and Folly as a Substitute for Team Building
This trend was unexpected and it left me speechless….
Just when we thought things couldn’t get any more bizarre, activities like axe-throwing and rage rooms where people smash computers, printers and dishes with a baseball bat are cropping up and gaining popularity on corporate agendas.
There is no comment to be made other than “Give me a break! No pun intended”
Team Building Placebos
As stress in the workplace intensifies due to uncertainty in the marketplace, we will start to see team building placebos.
After the 2016 U.S. election, media reports started to highlight some of the practices that were being used on university campuses to comfort students who were upset about the results. These included bringing comfort dogs and cats on campus for students to pet, aromatherapy, setting up crying rooms, providing play dough, and colouring books.
Certainly, these stress relievers can help people feel less anxiety but they don’t resolve issues.
Mark my words, you will soon see these activities cropping up in corporations under the banner of “team building”. Remember, you read about this here first. Check back, we will post updates right here. If you are seeing this in the workplace, please let us now.
Mud obstacle races, once popular with thrill-seekers and weekend warrior types, are now being marketed as team building. These activities are very risky. There have been serious injuries and some deaths. It is hard to understand why any CEO would subject employees to this. Look for even more extreme activities in 2017, resulting in more accidents, deaths, and lawsuits. My only question is “Why?”.
10. Cuts to Team Building Budgets
If the practices in 6 – 9 continue and there continues to be a climate of uncertainty and an increase in market turbulence, we will once again see team building budgets cut. The meaning of “team building” has drastically changed and not for the better. When CEOs realize how much their organizations are spending on activities that are delivering little or no value, they will just “throw the baby out with the bath water” and scrap team building initiatives.
This is unfortunate, short-sighted and unnecessary. It is also avoidable if companies begin to make wiser choices. It’s not too late to prevent this. I write these posts hoping that it will be a wake-up call before the axe falls, literally (as in axe-throwing) and figuratively.
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