Corporate team building means big business for tourism and hospitality – and even SMEs. In fact, a company away-day or team building event could be your most lucrative venture yet.
If you think corporate away-days and team building were a dated notion of the early noughties, think again. They’re back (in fact, they never really went away) – in a big way.
The market has never been so lucrative. Just ask Team Challenge Company, which has grown over the last few years to become one of the UK’s largest independent corporate team building providers.
The Scottish firm has seen a surge in bookings for 2015 and more than 55,000 attending one of its company events in the last 12 months.
But it’s not only the event organisers who are benefiting. By teaming up with Scottish hotels and venues, corporate team building specialists are using the away-day trend to boost local economies and, ultimately, Scotland’s tourism.
Team Challenge Company works with venues up and down the UK, for example, and has recently added MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa in The Trossachs to its books.
Dundas Castle is another Scottish hotel to recognise the benefits of hosting such events – so much so that the estate has launched a team building programme of its own.
“Dundas Castle creates great team building events because we are in the most accessible location and we have a large amount of space for big groups,” says operations manager Alyson Thompson.
“We also bring professionalism that gives organisers the comfort that things will go well. Otherwise, businesses can find organising team building events quite tough because of the logistics and planning required for a big group.”
The five-star exclusive use venue is just 20 minutes from Edinburgh Airport and, set on a 1,000-acre estate, has plenty to offer for corporate away-days and team building.
It has also recently launched its own Dundas Castle Explorer app – an interactive tablet challenge which sees delegates chasing around the estate solving challenges.
Some of its events even take place in the soon-to-be 600-year-old ‘Auld Keep’ – making it one of the oldest corporate venues there is.
“The great benefit to us is that just one booking can bring hundreds of people to see our gorgeous castle and grounds.”
But the rewards don’t end there. There are plenty to be had by employers too.
“Corporate team building can be a good way to hang on to your top performers,” – Kris Flannigan, Robert Half Scotland
So what’s in it for companies – and why should they splurge their hard-earned profits into a mud-fest or similar for their staff?
While the term ‘team building’ has been banded about as a buzzword, it’s not to be confused with ‘thought showers’, ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘low-hanging fruit’ and ‘calls to action’.
Why? Because the term sums up what it does perfectly and, what’s more, according to experts, it actually works.
The main goals of team building are traditionally to improve productivity and motivation. But there’s so much more to it than that – as Team Challenge Company will tell you.
Taking employees out of the office – and away from computer screens which can be fairly obstructive when it comes to workplace socialising – undoubtedly helps to break down barriers.
According to those in-the-know, it’s a great opportunity to see a different side of the people you work with and realise strengths and talents you never knew both you and they had.
In fact, adventure is one of the most important ingredients for a day out with colleagues, according to Go Ape, which says it gives workers the chance to let off steam with fellow “primates” in the great outdoors.
“Our Go Ape corporate team building events provide an action packed day of adventure and are a great way to challenge the team,” says Sam Hardy, events manager at Go Ape.
“There’s a chance for employees to build bonds, boost confidence and learn and improve skills such as communication and problem solving.”
Go Ape’s Tree Top Adventure offers the ultimate exhilarating experience of swinging through the tree-tops, flying down zip wires, leaping off Tarzan swings and navigating obstacles and rope crossings.
According to those that have been there, done that and bought the T-shirt, nothing can beat the feeling of elation which comes from monkeying around in the trees – and there’s said to be a great sense of support and camaraderie as colleagues support each other to overcome their fears.
“Our dedicated team will create a bespoke event to suit different needs and budgets, from organising the tree-top adventure and booking conference facilities to arranging transport and catering with our forest barbecues.”
A stint in the trees could be just the ticket to get you thinking differently. Who knows, you might even have fun.
Not only that, but you could improve all these things for your business in one fell swoop:
Morale and leadership skills
Processes and procedures
Some companies are so aware of the benefits of team building that they’ve actually built it into their company schedule on a regular basis.
Take companies such as Baker Tilly, Shell and Legal & General, for example, who’ve all been working with Team Challenge Company.
But while this fresh vigour for corporate team building might be new, the concept is not, says Team Challenge Company co-founder Gerard Crowley.
“The effectiveness of learning through experience isn’t new,” he says. “Back in the 4th century, Chinese philosopher Confucius is attributed as saying: ‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.
“I’ve been involved in team training events and workshops for many years and recently I’ve seen a real increase in demand for experiential learning.
“But this trend is unsurprising given the stats which show we remember 75% of what we do compared with just 5% of what we hear.
“Across the pond, there are reports that an increasing number of American colleges and universities are embracing experiential learning and promoting personalised instruction.
“Meanwhile in the UK, despite the available evidence and increasing demand, still too many businesses are sticking to the same old tired formulas of lectures, videos or staff handbooks to train their staff and are surprised when behaviours aren’t changed.
“To get the best results and continuous learning, teams need to feel free to identity and pursue their own goals, self-evaluate and essentially learn to teach themselves.
“One oil and gas client which took part in our experiential emergency evacuation procedure training, which involves smoke bombs and actors playing casualties, found staff response times to emergency procedures were over 70% quicker following training.”
This sentiment is echoed by BlueSky Experiences, which says the Forbes.com study that found 44% of participants unsatisfied with their jobs has revealed a worrying statistic –leading to huge problems for employers.
The Methven-based firm, which works with a number of organisations, from SMEs to national blue-chip companies, says team building curbs this trend – empowering employees by getting them away from the workplace, having fun together and getting to know each other by having a good time.
It offers a range of different experiences for team building, from culinary challenges to Highland Games and tablet-based adventures and has worked with the likes of the University of Strathclyde, Scottish Water, Kitchens International, Shell, Premier Oil , Perth Council, and Dundee & Angus College.
It claims that, as relationships and friendships grow, job satisfaction increases and employees feel valued and rewarded for their efforts by their employers.
“Our purpose is to inspire, build, develop and reward individuals and teams with an innovative mix of dynamic and thought-provoking programmes,” says managing director James England.
“There are many benefits to working with BlueSky. Initially, our sales managers will talk with clients one-on-one in order to gain an understanding of their exact needs and requirements. They will then use this information to propose suitable programmes.
“Our events and activities can be tailored to specifically improve team’s team working skills, communication, collaboration and goal setting skills, as well as improving trust within the team.
“Following their time with BlueSky, teams will return to the workplace rejuvenated, with a fresh understanding of the dynamics that exist within their team as well as a wealth of new ideas & knowledge which can help them work more effectively as a team.”
According to Kris Flannigan, associate director at Robert Half UK in Edinburgh, corporate team building can even improve staff retention – something that’s a particular source of concern among financial firms.
He says that, based on Robert Half’s recent research, 88% of chief financial officers (CFOs) are challenged to find skilled professionals and 78% are concerned about losing top performers.
“Corporate team building can be a good way to hang on to your top performers,” he says.
“Not only can it help to build stronger working relationships and open up lines of trust and communication, but it can help with workflow processes and encouraging your staff to discuss challenges, as well as increasing staff retention and lowering turnover rates.
“It can help to build a tighter unit and get better results. I’m also a firm believer that the team that plays together stays together.”
And if you think corporate team building is only for the summer months, think again!
According to Flannigan, there are little things you can do in the workplace to boost team building on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
“We always have an annual away-day when we’ll go go-karting in East Lothian but we also have dress down days and engage in fantasy sports leagues, which helps to boost morale.
“The feedback is usually very positive so I think it’s something we’ll always do internally.”
Now all that’s left to do before you tap into your workforce’s hidden potential is to decide where to go and what to do… an adrenalin-boosting adventure in the snow or white water rapids, inflatable fun, a day at the shooting range, or something else entirely?
Whatever you decide, if the experts are right, your staff are about to discover diversity is their greatest asset.