Team-building in Asia is increasingly emphasising on activities that promote corporate social responsibility and learning, but do they make it any easier to determine the effectiveness of such activities?

by KRISTIE THONG

The MICE industry is glued firmly together by long-lasting relationships and connections. Be it conferences where a same group of delegates spend several days together, or corporate events with specific set agendas, event planners have seen the effectiveness of having a team-building component within the schedule.
Team-building events are often the catalyst to ensuring delegates are given the best opportunity to give and receive at a conference or meeting, according to Australia-based BeChallenged managing director Oliver Sheer.

“By including a team-building event in your conference/meeting agenda, you will fast forward the effects of building relationships, laughing together, developing a common bond and therefore avoiding the awkward silence or rehearsed conversations that we all experience at so many functions. The more we can have genuine, real conversations the more we will achieve and take away from the conference/meeting.”

When executed for larger organisations with multiple divisions, team-building events have the ability to shed new light on age-old issues and increase awareness of strengths and weaknesses, says David Fotheringham, director of Asia Ability, which has offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
“Not forgetting that the deeper personal relationships formed through this shared team experience are often the biggest take-away from any conference – in terms of a sense of ‘belonging’ and enjoyment at work, as well as the substantial increase in productivity this fosters,” he says.

Singapore-based d’Oz International Pte Ltd managing director Angeline V Teo adds that team-building can be effective especially when a conference involves multiple nationalities from different cultures.

CSR a team-building goal

Gone are the days where the term “team-building” brings up mental images of trust exercises with people closing their eyes, falling back and having someone catch them. Just as event organisers have started focusing on special, unique touches in the way they execute events, team-building has progressed beyond mere tightropes and obstacle races.

The most significant trend is the dramatic increase in requests for team-building with a corporate social responsibility (CSR) component, observes Mr Fotheringham. “Just as more companies are actively promoting CSR as part of their company culture and values, in some cases to the extent of employing dedicated CSR personnel, these same companies see team-building as a fun and creative way to weave CSR values into the team development experience.”
From organisations building bicycles or toys to support children in a local community, to learning about and actively participating in environmental initiatives, such activities are able to achieve a more meaningful impact beyond motivation and productivity.

“Employees walk away from such events empowered and excited by the difference they can make as part of this team,” he adds.
With the rise of mobile and tablets, the application of tablet-based city challenges is becoming commonplace. Using tailor-made apps to guide teams through unique and engaging adventures, the combination of GPS, 3G/4G, video and photo capabilities on a single device now allows for a heightened level of interactivity and customisation, providing “a far richer city experience than was ever possible before”.

STIX, a company founded in 2003 by jazz musician Duncan McKee, specialises in 30-minute to three-hour sessions where groups engage in problem-solving, leadership and team development, networking and education by performing music together. Having previously helped groups from Google, Standard Chartered Bank, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson, Mr McKee believes team-building participants today want more intelligent learning content and the ability to co-create and collaborate.

“[Our sessions are] an organic process centered on team dynamics and the creative process. Producing things together as a group makes the experience and learning richer and deeper. It builds an emotional bond,” he says.

Objective is key

Organisers of team-building events all agree that organisations or conference planners will need to establish an objective before everything else.
Companies with an annual budget set aside for team-building will need to identify existing issues and challenges, as well as the desired outcome, Ms Teo says.
For conference groups, planners will need to ensure that the team-building component has context within the larger event.

“What’s the rationale behind having it? Is this the right medium to engage the audience or meet your objective?” Mr McKee says.
“The more targeted your objectives, the better you can set-up a team-building activity to succeed,” Mr Fotheringham adds.

How team-building events backfire

Poor delivery: Forcing participants rather than facilitating the event. There is a big difference between a team-building event and a team/personal activity.

No outcome or objective: Put together a team-building strategy; you are not going to solve the world’s problems but you should be able to work with your team-building professional to achieve a particular outcome.

Why: Tell the participants why. Give participants a background/reason for why they are doing a team-building event. People don’t like to waste time doing something for no reason.

Not 100 per cent inclusive: The ultimate team is diverse with gender/personality and age. Therefore a team-building event should provide a role or responsibility for all individuals.

No fun: Pretty much everything in life should have some sort of fun element, team-building included. If there is no fun, participants will not learn, be engaged or develop.