Team building programmes have the misfortune of being commonly perceived by employees as ‘a colossal waste of time’ or even ‘a ploy to please the higher-ups’. Such negative feedback, however demoralizing, should be carefully considered by the management – after all, this could indicate the pressing need to revamp the company’s team programmes. It is important to remember that these programmes serve as a means to an end (in this case, better cohesion between team members) and not as an end in itself – it does not make much sense to simply tick off ‘team building’ in the corporate checklist when the essence of teamwork is clearly not captured.

However, team building programmes need not always be synonymous with meaningless corporate activities; not when there are many well-planned and well-executed team building programmes in the market to choose from. Here are some characteristics of a stellar team building programme that won’t cause your employees to run the other way:

1. Trust is a Must

Building trust between team members, needless to say, is a pivotal objective in any worthy team-building programme. When there is trust, employees will be more confident in each other’s judgement instead of second-guessing each other’s decision-making processes, which can be physically and mentally exhausting and not to mention counter-productive.

Trust cannot be attained by subjecting employees to a series of back-breaking, competitive games – a route that unfortunately many conventional team-building activities take. Competition between employees in fact lowers company morale when forced to pit against one another, pushing them to fend for one’s self instead of promoting collaboration. Such mindsets reinforced during these activities will be carried forward and perpetuated in the workplace – the direct opposite of what your programme should set out to achieve.

2. Communication is Key

The importance of communication has been repeated many times by countless business articles – it helps employees perform their roles better when goals and objectives are laid out clearly. A less common factor, however, is that communication plays a crucial role in altering differences in individuals’ attitudes, which effective team-building programmes take time to address. Without proper communication, there will be difficulty in understanding the struggles that each team member faces – only with communication comes empathy and understanding for one another.

True team-building activities are in the business of making sure that team members understand the whole picture without jumping to conclusions, taking things at face value or making unwarranted assumptions. Also, team members are encouraged to take responsibility for making sure that what they wish to convey is the same as what is received by the listener.

3. Common Binding Purpose

“You cannot unify everyone’s thoughts, but you can unify everyone through a common goal.” – Jack Ma of Alibaba

Perhaps the most important factor of an effective team building programme is how employees can be rallied together to serve a common purpose. More often than not, employees can be easily derailed by the busyness of things happening within the organization that they forget the bigger purpose they serve – whether it is the social mission or the company branding they seek to advocate. It is in the hopes that, with an effective team-building programme, they will be reminded of how camaraderie is the key to help fulfil a meaningful purpose and team unity, making working life more fulfilling and less mundane.