Staff Management

Why & How to Do Staff Team-Building Activities

By Jennifer Jabaley, OD

Nov. 14, 2018

Team-building activities can teach your staff members about one another, and provide insights into how they can best work together to serve patients and grow the practice.

Recently, I received a flyer announcing a contest sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce. The business that had the most lively, unique and beautiful fall decorations would win a year’s worth of advertising through the Chamber. Since I didn’t have the time, or knack, for decorating, I assigned the task to my staff. What followed was truly unexpected. I anticipated a few shopping trips, a hay bale, some chrysanthemums and maybe a scarecrow.

Fall decorations created by Dr. Jabaley’s staff for a local Chamber of Commerce competition, which the practice won. Dr. Jabaley says the shared activity ended up spurring bonding and team-building.

Instead, I was shocked and amused when my staff members decided they would each decorate a pumpkin that represented themselves. They stayed after work, giggling with glue guns and craft paint. They were having fun. They were bonding. And suddenly I understood, without even realizing it, that I had created a team-building exercise.

Team building. The idea sounds hokey, but these kinds of activities can be critically important to the success of your practice. How? The goal of team-building activities is to create bonds between your staff by improving communication, morale and helping employees get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Interestingly, there’s a link between personal bonds of staff members and their engagement level at the office. A recent Gallup study (State of the American Workplace, February 2017) found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction up to 50 percent. People with a good friend at work are seven times more likely to fully engage in work activities. Even more exciting, the Gallup study reported that businesses with engaged staff members consistently outperformed the competition in profits, productivity and turnover.

Better profits and happier staff lends itself to an overall happier work experience. So, what are some team-building exercises you can utilize to strengthen staff bonds?

There are several different types of team-building activities, which include communication activities, problem-solving, trust building and planning activities. The goal is to find an activity that is fun, but has the added benefit of building bonds between your staff members.

Communication Activities
Communication activities can easily be incorporated into a staff meeting, and usually take a short amount of time. A classic example of a communication activity is peer recognition. When the staff is altogether seated around a table, or in a circle, each person is asked to share something they appreciate about the person on the right. Sounds simple, and it is. But also, it’s exceptionally powerful. Everyone wants to feel recognized, and you can actually feel energy shift as positivity is spread throughout the staff.

Another communication activity that is engaging and fun is the old game of two truths and a lie. Each team member secretly writes down two truths about themselves and one lie on a piece of paper. Then each person gets an opportunity to say all three things and the staff has to work together to guess which item is the lie. The game is fun and helps encourage communication, as well enabling the staff get to know each other on a deeper level.

Problem Solving
Problem-solving activities require your staff to work together to solve a problem. In my children’s schools, there is a big shift toward problem-solving activities – a stem program – that forces the participants to think outside the box to achieve an outcome. You can create an activity specific to your office. For example, craft a way to get more frames on a frame board or redesign the reception area to accommodate more chairs. Or you can create an activity completely unrelated to optometry, but which still requires cooperation and creativity.

My daughter’s STEM class recently engaged in a classic problem-solving activity – the egg drop. Separated into groups, they each had the task of building an egg package that could sustain an eight-foot drop and keep the eggs intact. A variety of tools and materials were provided. In addition to teaching the groups how to work together and communicate, it also gave them a common goal of winning the competition.

Trust Building
There are lots of time-tested activities to build trust, but one of the most unique ideas I came across was the buddy system in which each new employee is assigned to a buddy to show them the ropes. The buddy’s job is to serve as a resource, a trusted friend to help them become acclimated to the office. The buddy system ensures that new hires feel welcome and cared for and have a trusted employee they can turn to with questions or concerns.

Planning Activities
Planning activities requires the staff to work together on a project. Like the decorating mission my staff engaged in, a planning activity brings everyone together for one event or project. Many offices partake in outside fun activities like a bowling night or a spa day or a group run at a 5K race. One of the best planning activities I came across was the idea of having your staff engage in a local charity event. One company had all their staff members deliver groceries and food to the needy for Thanksgiving. There’s nothing more uplifting than helping others. It’s an honorable feeling that brings everyone together.

Team building results speak for themselves. If you want an engaged, motivated staff and a happy workplace, set the bar for fun, memorable corporate team-building events and activities.

I’m happy to report that our office won first place in the county-wide fall decorating competition!

Has your practice ever participated in a team-building activity? Is there any advice you can give other practices on how to make team-building events effective–and fun?

Resources
“Do Team Building Exercises Really Work?”

Jennifer Jabaley, OD, is a partner with Jabaley Eye Care in Blue Ridge, Ga. To contact her: jabaleyjennifer@yahoo.com

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