It’s been a challenging year. Difficult customers and team conflict have negatively impacted team morale. You’re planning an end-of-year teambuilding event hoping to turn this situation around. You’ve prepared a budget and realise you’ll be investing around $5000 – $7000 to run an event for 10 people. This expenditure covers your external venue, professional facilitator and catering. So how do you make sure you get a good return on investment?

A great teambuilding event is designed to meet business objectives. Yet many managers and HR practitioners don’t think beyond ‘having a good day’ when planning their teambuilding activities. You need to be smarter and avoid fuzzy outcomes leading to a low-output session? By setting clear objectives before planning any other aspect of your day. That’s right. Before booking the venue. Before hiring the after-dinner speaker. Before planning the menu. Here’s how to set clear objectives and use them to plan a high impact teambuilding program.

CARTOON Nov 3 Building bridges 1

1. Project yourself into the future

The easiest way to work out your objectives is to imagine what you’ll have achieved by the end of the perfect teambuilding day. Use the following questions to guide this process:

  1. As a result of this teambuilding session, what will be different?
  2. What will the team produce?
  3. How will the output of the day support our business objectives?
  4. What behaviours will have changed?
  5. What problems will be solved?
  6. How will relationships have improved?

2. Turn your wishlist into objectives

Taking your answers to the above questions into account, narrow your ‘wishlist’ for the day to three key desired outcomes. Write these down as objectives, using the format At the end of the workshop, the team will have…’

For example:

  • At the end of the workshop, the team will have created an action plan for the next 12 months
  • At the end of the workshop, the team will have set norms for communicating within the team and with customers
  • At the end of the workshop, team members will understand each others’ personality preferences

3. Create a process to achieve each objective

Now it’s time to work out how each objective will best be met. Consider each objective separately and answer the following three questions:

  1. What steps does the team need to go through in order to achieve this objective?
  2. What process will we use to guide the team through those steps?
  3. How can we structure that process in a high energy format?

For example, in order to create a 12-month action plan your team would need to:

  • Assess the current business environment
  • Identify key objectives for the coming year
  • List key steps involved in achieving those objectives
  • Create a timeline for action

Processes you could use to guide the team through those steps would include:

  • Post it note brainstorming
  • Team storytelling activity
  • Cartoon drawing activity
  • Video production exercise

Each of those processes can be rated according to how engaged and energised people will feel when completing it. Post it note brainstorming is a low energy activity. Meanwhile, video production is a high energy activity. If you want robust results from your teambuilding day, it’s generally best to choose high energy activities.

4. Set criteria for your ideal event space

The aim of this step is to ensure you book a space which supports your activities. Factors such as furniture layout and lighting can make or break your session. Here’s a checklist to keep your efforts on track at this stage of planning your teambuilding workshop:

  • How much room will be required for activities?
  • How should seating and/or tables be set up?
  • What equipment will you need?
  • Do you require natural light?
  • Do you need adjustable lighting?
  • Do you need access to an outdoor area?
  • What provision do you need to make for team members with disabilities/mobility issues?
  • What safety issues do you need to consider?

5. Choose a facilitator

When it’s done well, facilitation looks easy. But leading groups successfully takes skill and experience. So you need to think carefully about the pros and cons to taking a do-it-yourself approach to the facilitation of your teambuilding activity.

Facilitation by team member/team leader/HR practitioner

  • Lower cost
  • In-depth understanding of specifics of your business context
  • If the facilitator is a popular member of the team, rapport will already exist
  • Follow up may be easier, as the internal facilitator is onsite
  • Facilitator cannot participate in the activities or discussions, as they need to take a neutral role
  • Facilitator may lack facilitation skills and have poor knowledge of groupwork techniques
  • Existing power relationships within the team may undermine the neutrality required to facilitate
  • Significant time must be spent planning the event

Facilitation by professional facilitator, such as Eleanor Shakiba

  • Facilitator is able to adopt a neutral stance and focus on driving process
  • Knowledge of groupwork techniques and group dynamics creates a ‘safe’ space for team conversations
  • Team leaders/HR spend less time on planning
  • Facilitator will be accredited in psychometric or facilitation tools – e.g. DISC or MBTI
  • All members of the team are able to take ‘participant’ roles and can contribute
  • Cost ranges between $3000 to $5000 per day
  • Team leader/HR must be willing to spend 2-3 hours briefing the facilitator
  • If no follow-up process is included in the facilitation brief, the group may lose momentum after the session