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From Disengaged to Dollars: The Team Building Payoff

Did you know that disengaged workers are 18% less productive than their engaged counterparts? Conversely, engaged employees are 23% more profitable than their disengaged colleagues.

Let’s do the math: If someone makes $100k, it costs the company $18k for that person’s disengagement vs. the potential gain of $230,000 if that person is engaged. That’s just one employee! Imagine the untapped potential within your organization if your employees are disengaged compared to the potential gains for your company if the reverse were true.

If engagement leads to productivity and profitability, every business should be asking, “How do we get engaged employees?” That’s a good question. But let’s take it up a notch. How do we get employees to not only be engaged, but collaborate well with each other? Now that’s a “Wheely Good” question!

One of the ways to get teams to communicate and collaborate well is through team building. I address this in my latest book, “Wheely Good Team Building” which takes place at a roller skating rink. It’s a fable about a small-sized company that goes on a retreat guided by Charlotte, an insightful business consultant that’s not afraid to address challenges head-on. Through the story, the reader learns vicariously about employee engagement.

Each day starts with a roller skating exercise. It’s a way to challenge the team and observe how they handle stress, communicate with and support one another, and have their personalities emerge on the rink. We see the difference between the perfectionist and the daredevil, between the observer and the person who needs reassurance and approval.

Following the morning session, the team goes into a conference room to debrief and reflect on their experiences on and off the rink. That’s where the learning happens.

You certainly don’t have to do a team building retreat on roller skates to get your team engaged. In fact, I don’t even think the idea exists outside this book. The point is to help you the reader start to think creatively about how to bring your employees together, to help them become more self-aware, for them to understand their teammates and learn how to work together.

If you want people to collaborate with one another, they need to learn first to communicate effectively. Any time you put a group of people together, however, you are likely to get conflict. This happens in families all the time. We think the person meant one thing but either we misunderstood or they poorly communicated and things fall through the cracks.

Teams need to establish clear expectations on how to communicate, when to communicate, and how much to communicate. But to do so, they need to trust one another. Trust is the bedrock of any successful team. Without it, collaboration and engagement falter. Trust is built through consistent actions, transparency, and reliability. When team members trust each other, they are more likely to take risks, share innovative ideas, and support one another through challenges. Building trust takes time, but its impact on team dynamics and overall performance is profound.

Trust builds communication. Communication leads to collaboration. Collaboration increases productivity and profitability. But there’s more to the equation.

In today’s fast-paced business environment, the ability to pivot and respond to change is essential. Easier said than done. That’s because when faced with volatility or ambiguity, people often become anxious. It is natural for us to want to know what to expect, but for those who are too resistant to taking risks without having all the facts in front of them will become stuck. Teams that embrace adaptability can navigate uncertainties and seize new opportunities more effectively.

Not only do we have to expect the unexpected, we also have to expect that if we don’t take care of ourselves but instead focus solely on work, our performance will suffer along with our well-being. People often think they can’t afford to take breaks, but without balance, we can’t sustain our results long-term.

Companies that care about longevity need to not only provide benefits like sick days and vacation days to their employees. They need to actively encourage their employees to take time off from work. Leaders play a pivotal role in modeling and promoting well-being practices within their teams.

In the same way that employees often believe they can’t afford to take time off from work, companies often believe they can’t afford to take their employees away for a team building retreat. Quantifying the ROI of team-building activities can be challenging, but several case studies provide evidence of positive returns. For example, a global technology firm found that after implementing a structured team-building program, the company experienced a 10% increase in productivity and a 15% reduction in employee turnover. Another study from the Journal of Applied Psychology found that team-building interventions led to a significant increase in team performance, with an average ROI of over 200%.

How can this be, you might wonder, especially since these retreats are as short as a half-day to just a few days at most?

Think about the last time you went on vacation with your family. Normally, you might see each other for a couple of hours a day, but on vacation, you’re all together 24 hours a day.

Similarly, on a team building retreat, not only are you together, but you’re together in a structured format. You’re actively working on skills, talking about things you otherwise wouldn’t be talking about. Just like in therapy, bringing up these topics can help you get to the root of the issue. When we communicate, we understand. When we understand, we can empathize. When we empathize, we connect. That’s engagement.

If that weren’t enough, engagement also increases innovation and creativity. Team-building exercises often involve problem-solving and creative thinking tasks. Brainstorming gets employees to think outside the box and collaborate on new ideas. The more innovative your company, the more potential you have for creating new products and services that add to your revenue.

When we talk about engagement and productivity, it’s crucial to recognize the importance of minimizing distractions. In today’s world, constant notifications and interruptions can derail productivity and focus. Implementing strategies to minimize these distractions, such as setting clear communication protocols and designated quiet times, can significantly enhance employee efficiency and satisfaction. This helps create an environment where deep work and creativity can flourish, ultimately contributing to better performance and innovation.

Prioritizing effectively is another cornerstone of a productive team. Teams that can clearly identify and focus on their most important tasks are far more efficient. Using tools like the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize tasks by urgency and importance can help teams stay on track. Clear prioritization reduces overwhelm and ensures that the team’s efforts are aligned with the organization’s strategic goals, leading to better outcomes and a higher ROI on their work.

Effective scheduling strategies can also make a big difference. Encouraging the use of time-blocking techniques and allowing for flexible work hours can help employees manage their time better. Flexibility can accommodate different personal rhythms and peak productivity times, making the team more adaptable and resilient. This approach can lead to increased satisfaction and reduced burnout, ensuring that employees remain engaged and productive over the long term.

Aligning culture and goals is vital for ensuring that every team member feels a sense of purpose and direction. When the organizational culture supports the company’s goals, it creates a cohesive and motivated workforce. Regularly revisiting and communicating the company’s mission and values helps reinforce this alignment, making it easier for employees to see how their individual contributions make a difference. This sense of purpose can drive higher engagement and better performance.

I firmly believe that when companies invest in team-building and fostering a supportive work environment, that it pays off significantly. Trust, communication, adaptability, well-being, balance, focus, prioritization, effective scheduling, and cultural alignment all contribute to creating a high-performing team. These elements not only enhance productivity and profitability but also ensure that employees are engaged, innovative, and committed to the organization’s success.

Ultimately, investing in your team’s engagement and collaboration capabilities is not just a nice-to-have; it’s a strategic imperative that drives long-term success. The ROI from such investments, as evidenced by various studies, is substantial. Increased productivity, reduced turnover, enhanced innovation, and better overall team performance are just some of the tangible benefits. So what are you waiting for? Get rolling!

Sharon Grossman

The biggest performance challenge businesses have is getting more done without overloading their team or increasing their workforce. As a psychologist with over 20 years of experience, Dr. Sharon Grossman gets it. She partners with small to medium sized businesses to take their teams from overwhelm to optimal performance. Her unique approach centers around cultivating a culture where employees not only succeed but genuinely fall in love with their workplace so they stay long-term.

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