Everyone loves a team player. It’s a buzzword thrown around by recruitment and it’s a term resumes and interviews can’t do without. Couple this with the top performing desired skills on resumes according to NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) team problem solving and team skills are rated one and two as the most desired skills today. So what do you do when your team building efforts aren’t making a difference?
Here’s Allen’s story
Allen, a former Human Resources Director and now VP for Customer Experience for XYZ Company (an online food delivery/courier service), knew that this was what his organization needed. They had taken full advantage of the sudden surge in demand. But months into Covid-19, they were suddenly faced with competing apps and services.
Given that the players in the industry had access to the same talent and technology, a sound competitive edge they decided to bank on was exceptional customer service.
Customer service is at the core of organizations in the service industry.
Not coincidentally, customer service begins with exceptional teamwork.
This was a priority on Allen’s list even before the pandemic began. He also understood that to reinforce expected behaviors and to make ideal employees and team members of everyone, the company had to do more than reinforce protocol. It meant allotting a sizeable portion of the yearly budget to team building activities. Thus, every year they’d hire trainers and coaches, booked the swankiest venue and got everyone on board for the weekend. This year they went all out soon as safety protocols allowed.
The curated events would always proceed without a hitch. The outdoors did everybody good and afterwards employees headed home in high spirits.
But their team building efforts aren’t making a difference
The only problem is … nothing seems to be changing. The mood at work has remained tense at best. People mind their own business and the “camaraderie” that management expected is non-existent.
It appears that the people at the team building event are entirely different than how they are at work!
Allen had silently blamed the recruitment group, for personality mismatches. The employees (not so secretly) blamed their bosses for going by the book even when matters called for a few exceptions. The bosses, on the other hand, pointed a finger at their Operating Director, for being too austere with the balanced scorecards at a time when the world stood still with the pandemic.
So what’s wrong?
Did XYZ hire the wrong people? The wrong trainer? Or is everyone just out of it?
If you’ve attended a team-building event, but returned to work and realized that nothing has changed, who do you blame?
All too often, employees and team members get the rap. They’re “rigid”, “reluctant”, and “unenthusiastic”. They “don’t get our company culture” or worse, “they shouldn’t be working here.”
But I find that this is far from the truth. Organizations fail to reap the benefits of a team building effort for two reasons:
- Workforce inertia
- Lack of recognition
Workforce Inertia is the tendency for things to stay the way they are. Organizations usually have predictable ways of doing things. Employees have relationships, connections, and even clicks already established. They know who they like and who they want to avoid.
It is often the case that people are reluctant to practice behavior and skills that leave them feeling vulnerable or unpracticed because psychological safety is an issue. This is mostly true for work cultures that are internally competitive wherein people don’t feel psychologically “safe” to make mistakes. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that despite a successful team building or training month, everything returns to the status quo. The exception to this is when there is a continued focus on transferring new skills and knowledge OR when people WANT IT.
The solution to workplace inertia is COACHING.
Why coaching? Isn’t training enough?
While the training program is beneficial, coaching is that one strategy that transforms inertia into improved skills and attitudes. COACHING REINFORCES WHAT EMPLOYEES learn in training. Coaching OVERSEES the performance of new skills by giving them something to work on and discuss.
Ideally what employees are working on should benefit the organization’s bottom line. Give them projects that result in cost savings or productivity improvements – outcomes that can be measured and at the same time grow your organization.
People like seeing how what they do makes a difference! It’s what many of my TIGERS coaches have observed in the TIGERS training platform. The bonus here is, the more employees use what they learned, the more it sticks. And the more successes they “score”, the more they want a repeat.
One of the best ways of helping employees integrate and transfer problem-solving coursework is to create a problem-solving Affinity Group – a group formed around a shared interest or common goal.
The affinity group solution to team building events that aren’t making a difference
When Affinity Groups are formed, a facilitator is provided. This facilitator is ideally a person being considered for a leadership role and one who’s had measurable successes in the area that is being considered for affinity. . This is a win-win for everyone involved — the leader-in-training and those who form the Affinity Group to deepen their knowledge, skills and attitudes.
For example, directors and managers benefit by keeping in mind that it is important to give the team ongoing learning reinforcement experiences such as problems to solve at the root cause after important team skill problem solving training. The benefits are many. It benefits the organization while giving opportunities to employees to practice the new skills and to be recognized. Not to be ignored is the benefit it gives upper management. Senior executives and directors soon understand how important employee team training and development are because the measurable results can be seen in the organization’s bottom-line.
Lack of Recognition
The second reason many team building trainings do not change how work is done in the workplace is a Lack of Recognition. Many organizations fail to maximize their training programs only because they fail to give employees feedback and acknowledgment through coaching. When employees see how the change they aim for impacts the company in a measured improvement way,it builds personal satisfaction and the success that comes with it. When they are recognized for these efforts, they feel validated.
A little competition is healthy. But you want that drive to push meaningful collaboration among your people. One of the bigger (and more visible) measurable effects of a good post team building training is improvement in discretionary actions. This means that more employees go out of their way to help the company and co-workers whether it is part of their job description or not. This means more work moves forward. Productivity increases.
Unless employees apply what they learned in a meaningful, work-related way, your team building efforts may NOT transfer to improved skills and attitudes. You have to “track” something in order to know if it is getting better.
When cooperation, communication planning, decision-making, and other collaboration skills improve, your employees are more eager to support change. When they are recognized for incremental successes, they feel personal satisfaction. Thus, you anchor improved collaboration through recognition and proper measurement.
TIGERS has resources available to help your team reinforce newly acquired information. Talk to us HERE to learn more.
Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton
About TIGERS Success Series, Inc.
TIGERS provides a comprehensive, multi-pronged and robust system for improving your collaborative workforce behavior, collaborative work culture, profitability, project management and team leadership success. We license existing coaches, consultants and HR professionals in the use of these tools.
We specialize in building cooperation among employees and collaboration between departments for profitable, agile, and high performance team outcomes. Scaled to grow as your organization and leadership performance improves, our proprietary TIGERS Workforce Behavior Profile, Micro-Training technology and group facilitation methods result in your high performance team outcomes and change management success.
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