Keeping the spirit alive after a corporate retreat Set out specific goals for team-building exercises, experts say
By Elizabeth Howell
Five years ago, Robert Merkley joined two others on a lengthy bike ride in support of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. The trio raised $80,000, prompting Mr. Merkley – founder of Ottawa’s Merkley Supply – and co-rider Roger Greenberg, CEO of The Minto Group, to investigate launching a similar initiative in the capital.
The result: Ride the Rideau, a 100-kilometre annual road trip in support of cancer research at the Ottawa Hospital. Just three rides later, it has raised more than $4.4 million.
Mr. Merkley, who has 48 employees at his business, says the high participation rate of his workers in the fundraiser is an offshoot of the close-knit environment.
“We’ve always been a close team here to begin with,” Mr. Merkley says.
The experts, however, are divided about the value of using outside office events as a team-building experience. Critics say sometimes the environment is too far removed from the everyday paperwork and meetings to make a meaningful difference in the workplace. Others, however, say it helps foster camaraderie and boosts morale.
Below are edited thoughts from HR professionals concerning how to bring experiential team-building benefits back to the workplace: MARGO HOYT, PRINCIPAL AT KNIGHTSBRIDGE OTTAWA: If you really want your team to be more effective, going out and playing tag or paintball (is) fun and has a place in terms of building relationships. But if you’re trying to enhance the effectiveness of your team, you need to understand the strategy of the organization and where your team fits into it.
We (gather) assessment data on work styles and preferences and build that up so you have a profile on your team. If your team needs to be reaching out and partnering with external stakeholders, how do you do that?
As a team, you put processes in place to build skills around productive conflict and communication, and then you really have to focus on it. DALE STEVENSON, CEO AND COFOUNDER OF THE LEADERSHIP GROUP: Outward Bound and that type of stuff, you have people show up as who they are. I find it powerful, in that sense, but the challenge is we don’t make that connection when we come back into the office. That’s where I like to look: how do we have people bridge the gap?