Strategies for Success: Offsite Team Building

Janet, a group manager, complained to her human resources consultant, Larry, that her group does not function as a team. Janet’s team did not help each other out, didn’t care about one another, and didn’t want to share information with each other. These were just a few of problems she was having. She and Larry came up with the solution to take this out of the working environment for a couple of days and take their team to a resort to resolve this problem. They put together a plan where they would work on trust, ice-breaking, and brainstorming to better the team in working together.

On the first day of the offsite only about half of Janet’s team had shown up; the other half were working on a hot project that needed to be completed later in the week. The remaining team members politely participated in the team building exercises, but didn’t seem very interested in the activities as they felt too “squishy.” Because Janet wanted to focus the offsite on team building, there was no clearly stated business purpose for the event. The brainstorming sessions were good, but no tangible actions were taken down for the team to follow up on. In short, the offsite was met with a resounding thud from the team and was a dismal failure.

If you have never attended a successful offsite business session you probably think great results are impossible. However offsites are really a great way of bringing a team together to concentrate on business dilemmas and finding solutions for them. While working on these business problems a good teamwork is usually developed. One of the best side benefits of offsites is this team-building which is formed when working together to solve problems. A well-planned session finds answers to business issues but also brings groups together to work closely and develops a team spirit and confidence to accomplish tasks efficiently. A sloppily put together session will not be productive and the planner will not be highly thought of.

These simple guidelines will help you to be certain that your offsites are both accomplishing their duties and creating teams that will last.

Identify a specific objective for the offsite. This should be a clearly defined organizational purpose for the event. Possible goals include defining financial goals for the proceeding fiscal year, account management for primary customers, or brainstorming for solutions to a problematic business situation. If the objective is merely “Team Building,” the members are very likely to consider the offsite to be a waste of their time without any concrete value. Tacitly encourage the development of real team building through the stated goal of finding a solution for a problem or defining the organization’s future.

Provide plenty of time for networking – Give ample time during the day and evening for the team to have snacks, enjoy beverages, and just talk about whatever strikes them. Team building starts with building relationships, and building relationships starts with getting to know each other. Allow for networking time to be free and unscripted and let the team enjoy some casual conversation with each other.

Try and plan your offsite for a “slow” time or during a quiet period in your business. This removes the excuses of overwork, having to check email and take calls. There is rarely an ideal time but try and find a time where people can concentrate on the event rather than on their normal routine and how much they’re going to have to catch up on later.

Holding an overnight offsite session is a good idea to help build strong ties between team members. Building these ties results in a great base for teamwork and future business strength. Some great ideas have come out of a late night meeting over a meal with employees solving business problems or brainstorming new ideas. An even greater benefit is the renewed confidence the team has and the feeling that they can conquer any business obstacles so long as they work as a team.

Make sure to plan for following up on the work you did at the offsite. If you don’t have a follow-up plan for the ideas you come up with, it’s all for nothing. When you come up with your plan come up with tasks, owners, dates. This will maintain the momentum from the offsite so can get these ideas to work in the real world. If you don’t, the team will see the offsite as a time-waster.