The major concern for the more astute amongst us is that many of the providers have little relevant management or business expertise necessary to adequately facilitate programmes for an increasingly sophisticated market.
Too often companies call what they do 'team building' when in reality they are doing no more than playing games with your people. It seems that anything from wine tasting to mountaineering can be marketed as team building in a race to wrest hard-earned budgets from training departments. Of course the logic is clear: if you get a group of people together from the same company and they do the same activity then you are teambuilding, right?
Well, yes and no. In effect there is nothing wrong with programmes that rely purely on fun or extreme activities alone; indeed, a light-hearted fun atmosphere is often a prerequisite for teams when they are away from the office. Moreover, to have a good time may be the only objective for certain reward-focused events.
The problem arises when a company expects these types of activities to have a measurable and long-term effect on culture, performance and behaviour back in the work place. In short, the value of professional team building is its impact on organizational performance.
However, what often happens is that come Monday afternoon, when the dust has settled on the great weekend away, it becomes clear that the wow factor has worn off and that people revert to their old behavioural habits. The fallout of this is the view of some senior management that team building is a waste of time and money. Often the issue lies in the facilitation of the programme, meaning that many trainers do not have the experience or a clear understanding of organizational culture, nor an interest in team conflict and how to deal with it. And – just as important – many do not have the ability to debrief activities in an effective manner.
Other practical measures to ensure quality standards are met would be for training purchasers to insist on meeting the trainer who would be facilitating the programme and grill him or her with a series of questions. These questions should be specifically designed to examine how and why the debriefing and follow up process takes place, as well as asking how they have helped to solve a specific team problem with a recent client.
"When the dust has settled on the great weekend away, it becomes clear that the wow factor has worn off and that people revert to their old behavioural habits. The fallout of this is the view of some senior management that team building is a waste of time and money."
Purchasers should be aware that certain less scrupulous companies wheel out the same training solutions or team building activities irrespective of the problem or objective set by the client.
A further suggestion would be to enquire about trainers' professional qualifications or certifications in using team assessment tools such as the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) or Myers Briggs Type Indicator, both of which lend credibility, substance and, of course, effectiveness to a programme.In the short term it would seem that the message is 'buyer beware' and take care. Team building can mean many things to many different people. It can be done well or very badly. In a market were training budgets are often the first to be cut, choosing a programme that promises to do the former is an organisational necessity.