Team Building – Back to basics


In the last few years, Team building has caught on fast and has become widely accepted across businesses and industries. There are many reasons why companies organize team building activities or programs.

  • Because a friend was speaking about how much fun he had when his team went out for a team building program
  • Because everyone is doing it
  • Because its different
  • Because we want to have some fun and adventure
  • Because we do it every year and like it

However, with better clarity of purpose there could be more appropriate reasons for investing in and organizing team events which can help you achieve tangible results. After all everyone wants ROI.

The roots of team building lie in the curious efforts of Prof Elton Mayo almost a century ago, that sought to delve deeper into workplace behaviours and study the relationship between productivity and work conditions, which makes for quite an interesting narrative.

His initial studies involved change in work conditions such as brighter lighting, reduced working hours and more breaks for a test group that were under constant observation at Hawthorne works. As expected, there was a marked increase in productivity. However, what puzzled him was that productivity continued to increase in spite of the lighting being dimmed later. Any guesses at that?

A careful analysis later attributed the workers’ increased efforts to their managers showing an interest in their well-being and a willingness to improve their working conditions. And of course the fact that somebody was there, observing them (don’t we all get cautious!). The combination of the resulting change of behaviour came to be known as the Hawthorne Effect.

While this study was quite a breakthrough at that time, today we know that efforts by leaders to motivate teams through shared experiences have a marked effect on productivity and performance.

Another experiment threw up interesting discoveries into team building and team relationships. Two women were selected by Mayo, who were further asked to select four more women. This team of six was assigned a supervisor, had a separate workspace and were observed for five years. Additional variables were also manipulated as in the original experiment. No matter what happened, the productivity increased and surprisingly remained unchanged, even after the end of the experiment. Again, can you guess why?

The analysis revealed that this was due to the women who now viewed themselves as one team and had a sense of team belonging, whereby they could not go down in the eyes of each other. The women also admitted to feeling a sense of freedom as a small team as compared to being a part of one big assembly line earlier.

From teams in sports to teams in business, high performing teams have some common attributes – collaboration, shared goal, mutual trust and support, competitive spirit, desire to win and high motivation. Team building programs, when planned and executed effectively, can help create and bring out these factors though outdoor team building activities or indoor business simulations for your team. While teams will definitely have fun and a lot of interesting stuff to talk about, they will take away more – they will have meaningful interactions with team members and a lot of enriching leanings and memories to take back and use at the workplace through our unique experiential engagement methodology. Yelohat has planned and executed many memorable and impactful team building programs that have ensured not just fun and engagement, but have also added value though experiential learning.

As an HR practitioner or a Team Lead, have you been able to observe the significance of the human factor and having a good team? How do you keep your employees motivated?

Posted by Anuradha Prusty on 18th February 2018

Company Spotlight on YELOHAT in February 2018 special issue on '10 Most Promising Corporate Outbound Training Companies - 2018'