Dear Adam Grant, Let’s Think Differently About Team Building

We are dedicated Adam Grant followers and believers, but after seeing his recent post on Instagram we felt compelled to respond with some thoughts of our own. @AdamMGrant, rather than the focus being on compensating employees extra to attend a work event, shouldn’t the focus be on designing and offering the types of events that employees want to attend and that foster the best relationships? We believe we have that figured out.

We have worked with many companies to design experiences for their employees. In compiling data on what works, we have five principles that we use to drive our planning process.

  1. What is the GOAL? It should be more than just having fun. Once we dig deeper with each client during the development process, we find there are additional goals that we can incorporate to make the experience more meaningful. These can range from reinforcing company culture, to delivering learning materials in a new way, to understanding colleagues’ personality styles for a more productive team dynamic, and more.
  2. Instill PRIDE – We have found that tying in meaningful company information is a great way to highlight why employees should be proud and excited to work at their companies. Our experience is that most employees lack knowledge about company history, social giving opportunities, sustainability programs, or DEI initiatives. Our events are designed to highlight the company’s mission and future direction as well as programs the leadership team wants to feature.
  3. Company CULTURE – What does it feel like to work at this company? What did the leadership team highlight in the last investor call? Are there new initiatives important to reference? Once we understand the answers to these questions, we incorporate language, branding and specific activities that reinforce the company’s culture.
  4. Consider different JOB FUNCTIONS and DEMOGRAPHICS of participants- We would design a much different experience for a group of interns than we would design for an executive leadership team. A sales group gathering would typically be much different than an experience we would suggest for software engineers. Individuals at various stages of their careers or in different job functions, often have unique ways of connecting and sometimes opposing ideas of what they find fun. It is important to create an experience that is cognizant of the group dynamics!
  5. TIMING is important- Most times our experiences are included as part of a larger agenda. If the participants attending the meeting do not already know each other, we suggest kicking off the meeting with one of our networking events. Alternatively, when there are agenda items we are reinforcing in our experience, we recommend having it after the learning portion of the meeting has concluded. Wherever it is placed in the agenda, we like to suggest that our experiences occur at the end of the workday and optimally lead into a social gathering. A nice touch is to have videos and photos of the event streaming as people mingle. When employees have connected on a different level, socialization and communication occur more easily and more naturally.

Our opinion is that companies need to take the idea of ‘team building’ into a new direction. Time and human interactions are precious. Companies need to invest in meaningful experiences that don’t feel like an obligation, but rather a privilege that leaves employees feeling happy, informed, and better connected.


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