10 Simple and Effective Team-Building Strategies

Andrew Moran
Andrew Moran

Business and Finance Expert

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

People putting their hands on top of each other's and engaging in team-building

There is an old adage in human resources: “People don’t leave companies; they leave managers”.

In today’s ultra-competitive labor market, where young professionals are job-hopping more than ever before, good management is essential. Without it, your company’s turnover rate will remain high, and this could ultimately impact your bottom line — US businesses alone lose about $11 billion a year from employee turnover.

In the absence of effective leadership, you breed a toxic work environment. Productivity levels diminish, teamwork is nowhere to be found, and communication between departments doesn’t happen. These trends in the workplace do not exactly elicit confidence in young people entering the workforce.

The first step is to establish your role as the leader of the ship. The next step is to improve teamwork in your company at all levels, from management to entry level. Only then can you ensure that your employees are happy with the manager, content with their colleagues and pleased with their jobs.

Here are 10 simple and incredibly effective team-building strategies to help you improve teamwork — and boost morale in the process.

1. Adopt an open-door policy

Over the years, multiple studies have found that employees feel as though their company’s HR department doesn’t listen to them, that management doesn’t acknowledge their hard work, and that the boss doesn’t respect them. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if workers are doing their best day in and day out.

A simple but effective strategy is to adopt a companywide open-door policy. You want every employee to feel heard and part of something meaningful, and you can achieve this by:

  • communicating with your team on a regular basis
  • listening to various ideas and concerns
  • updating personnel on corporate changes
  • taking action should a staff member report harassment.

It is crucial that you embrace clarity and refrain from being ambiguous and vague.

2. Set boundaries and give direction

Many businesses are experimenting with a diverse panoply of office dynamics to see what works and what doesn’t. A common trend that some new entrepreneurs and enterprises are trying is a business without management and bosses. It may generate headlines at first, but these companies inevitably flounder because every office needs a leader.

Let’s be honest: most employees need to be given boundaries and direction. Without these two pertinent elements, the team will not produce or achieve corporate goals. At the same time, you can still extend guidance with respect and consideration.

“If you want everyone to accomplish their best job, they must understand the overall picture and the direction you want to take the organization,” says Jeremy Clifford, the founder and CEO of RouterCTRL. “Organize your team around a shared objective, mission, or vision. Set milestones along the way so that team members can see how they're doing.”

By outlining objectives, being more transparent, providing consistent feedback, and leading by example, you can help your team stay motivated and focused.

Jess Munday, the cofounder and People & Culture Manager at Custom Neon, also notes that employees need to be aware of the big picture and what the organisation is working towards. By setting out common goals and objectives, they can feel valued and also be assured that “company values align with their own”.

3. Be transparent

Transparency is an essential ingredient when you’re working towards creating an effective team. Unfortunately, this is rarely the norm in most organizations, which tend to withhold information from their staff while the senior managers call the shots.

“Managers sometimes strive to defend information with zeal because they intuitively believe knowledge equals power,” says Clifford. “Information is actually designed to be shared when it comes to a team. The team will not progress without the correct knowledge and a precise, common aim.”

If you want your team to share common goals and objectives, then you’ll need to let people in on the company’s aims too. Your team’s feedback should always be a considerable element in every decision-making process.

4. Manage sensibly

A 2014 survey of employees discovered that 59% of workers have been employed by an overbearing, domineering, micromanaging boss at some point in their professional lives. There is nothing more stressful and frustrating than working with a micromanager who doesn’t trust their staff to get the job done. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that one-fifth of employees are displeased with their manager — after all, no employee enjoys having their boss look over their shoulder the entire workday.

This needs to change immediately, and it starts by motivating, encouraging, trusting and empowering your workers. This is done by laying out ideas, lending a hand from time to time, taking a step back, and allowing your employees to work in their own style and at their own pace. If you make a conscious effort, then you will be rewarded with a dedicated and confident workforce.

5. Gamify work

It may surprise business owners, but employees are more motivated by recognition and appreciation than by monetary rewards. In other words, if you acknowledge the individual’s hard work, determination and punctilious nature, the employee will be incentivized to take that extra step. This is sort of a gamification inside the workplace.

One important feature of gamification is to provide instant feedback, which is something that experts say that today’s generation of workers require. When you’re considering gamification, you need to further install the social experience because it spurs healthy competition, keeps workers engaged, and allows staff members to continually learn and hone their craft.

Perhaps it is time to incorporate gamification in your management techniques. It is indeed a creative way to enhance teamwork.

6. Organize a corporate retreat

Did you know that leaders have fun, too? It isn’t all just business. By maintaining a stuffy environment, you potentially risk minimizing bonding between your subordinates. And this isn’t something you want to achieve, because an indifferent team affects the dynamics of your office.

The best way to facilitate interoffice relationships is to go on a corporate retreat. For years, offices have utilized offsite team-building activities to enable trust, understanding and likeability among colleagues. Everything from participating in sporting activities to partaking in a philanthropic initiative, there are many events that you can take advantage of in your city, or at least in your region, that can help you cultivate teamwork.

You don’t even need to travel into the woods to have a corporate retreat. An inexpensive event is to have some downtime at the office. Meetings, deadlines, appointments — these can produce stress and anxiety, but giving everyone some free time can organically allow your staff to converge and talk about the latest Netflix show, play a game of Gin Rummy or even learn about each other.

7. Give employees autonomy

Why do we fall? To learn to pick ourselves up. Legendary economist Milton Friedman may have said it best: an economy works best when we have the freedom to try, the freedom to succeed, and the freedom to fail. This also applies to the office. Trial and error is a strategy that should not be avoided, but embraced. After all, if you don’t experiment and try something new, then you can’t flourish.

A great managing method is to give your staff some level of autonomy on any project. By extending this independence, you’re highlighting your trust in each and every one of your employees. Sure, some workers will experience hiccups, but others may take the ball and run with it, helping the company develop a new scheme or gain some market share over competitors.

Munday emphasizes that employees “need autonomy to grow and innovate, without being fearful of repercussions if things don't go to plan, and they need to feel heard, inspired and motivated”.

If your workers are walking on eggshells and they’re afraid to stray away from the book, then the status quo will reign supreme. You don’t want that, especially in today’s ultra-competitive global economy. Take a chance on your staff, and they will take a chance on you.

8. Solve team problems

Will all coworkers work in harmony? That’s wishful thinking. Unfortunately, no matter how many team-building exercises you implement, there will be at least two employees who can’t work together, either because of professional differences or clashing personalities. It’s hard to manage, but it’s possible.

Clifford cautions not to “expect issues to go away on their own. When a slight problem arises, individuals often overlook it, hoping that it will disappear. However, most minor concerns grow into large issues over time. When you notice a problem forming within your team, move quickly to address it before it becomes a bigger issue.’’

The rudimentary solution to solving team problems is mediating the situation. It is up to you as an owner or head of HR to sit down, air out grievances and resolve personal issues. By getting these petty differences out of the way, the group can concentrate on what matters most: getting work done.

In the end, it comes down to communication on your part, making compromises with the group, and knowing how to respect each idea, recommendation or personality. Mediating is all about actively listening, not ignoring concerns and complaints.

9. Invest in training

Development and training opportunities are not just a great way to help your team sharpen their skills and expertise. They are also fundamental for building rapport among team members.

Attending trainings — whether they’re directly related to the industry and role, or broader and more centered around general team-building — will help your staff develop more trust, which will in turn allow them to work more effectively together.

However, before signing up your team for any trainings and team-building activities, make sure that everyone is on board and that they will be able to get something out of this by ensuring that the aims of the training align with your team’s own objectives.

10. Utilize available resources

In order to set up your team for success, you must use the right tools and resources.

Whether that is a collaboration platform that helps remote teams communicate better, or project management software that allow people to keep track of each other’s progress, it’s important to invest in the right resources.

A good way to determine what is currently needed is through a needs analysis and a feedbacking session with members of staff. By allowing your team to contribute their ideas and share their insights with you, you’ll be able to ensure that everyone is equipped to undertake their duties and work as part of a team.

Final thoughts

As you can see, employing effective team-building strategies can be done with the right leadership. The modern crop of entrepreneurs and managers do a great job of ensuring projects are completed on time, the right marketing campaign is released, and the books are balanced. However, many corporate heads fail to build up the team, whether it’s 10 employees or 100 employees. If you become a real leader, then you will have your workforce behind you through thick and thin.

Join the discussion! Can you think of any other effective team-building strategies? Join the conversation down below and let us know.

Originally published on 25 May 2018. Updated by Melina Theodorou.