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Could team building events be the solution for reducing employee attrition?

2021 was the year of the "great resignation", with a large number of US employees quitting their job for greener pastures. Concerned managers across the board are now looking for creative ways to retain their employees. In most cases, monetary perks are just not enough. Free services centered around the office space also don't seem to make the cut these days, since a lot of employees seem to enjoy their working from home arrangement.

Most leaders tend to agree that building a cohesive team around a common company goal is the key to success.

Team building events can be a core part of that strategy. They can get employees to interact in a less formal setting, collaborate and build a culture of mutual trust. They can range from the simple evening diner out to more creative and elaborate activities.

Some example of fun events that I have attended over the years:

  • Tasting tour of a farmer market 🍎

  • Photo contest 📷

  • Treasure hunt in old town Jaffa 💰

  • Bay to breaker centipede in San Francisco (no, we didn't win first place :) 🏃

Where to hold the event? Not a one size fits all.

There is often a belief that holding an event in a remote exotic location is the best strategy, to make sure people "unplug" from their daily routine and focus on the activity. While this was certainly true in the days before mobile computing, companies have had to accommodate with smaller budgets, more and more remote workers over the years, and in particular with the pandemic in the last couple of years.

In reality, it's not a one size fits all: quite often, a combination of on site, online and off site events can be the best solution. My company recently organized a photo contest that lead to an award ceremony that was eagerly attended. It was all organized remotely, except the award ceremony which was both onsite and remote, but it was effective in terms of engagement (most employees participated) and interaction (based on votes). Sure, I didn't win, but this event exposed through the lens of the camera a slice of the diversity of people I did not know about, all done with a very low budget.

What does it take for a team building event to be effective with employee retention?

  • Inclusiveness: employee who feel they belong to a family tend to stick around a lot longer. activities will have to be feasible for all participants. For instance, a rock climbing event or a running race might not be fine for everyone.

  • Collaborative activities: for larger event, a good way is to break down into smaller groups with have a competitive edge. For instance, I participated into a treasure hunt with a number of problem to solve and each team had to figure out the answers as fast as possible.

  • Getting people to open up beyond their work comfort zone: everyone has a role within a company and many other skills that others might not know about. A good team building event will encourage participants to share these more personal sides.

  • Promote long term changes: a successful event will have long term impact well beyond its actual date. For instance, a sourdough bread making event can influence people to bake their own sourdough bread on a regular basis and share with others their progress, or even have contest about the best looking loaf or best tasting bread.

In summary, when done correctly, team building events can be an important tool for managers to retain employees and foster a productive and collaborative culture. team building should be a strategy around not just one event but a series of events that occur on a regular basis, to build anticipation. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts!

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