When should you run a team building away day?

Organising an away day that will hit the mark  

Many of us working remotely have missed out on the social side of being onsite during recent months. We’re pack animals, and operating in isolation isn’t in our DNA. Now that it is possible to gather teams in the same physical location, many organisations are trying to catch up on a year’s worth of ‘getting together’ and organising team building away days.

The thing is, rushing this exercise in the hope of magically engineering connections and improving communications may not be the best way to go about it. Don’t get us wrong, at Let’s Talk Talent, we are big fans of using team building events to strengthen team dynamics.

But there is a time and a place to hold them, so that you can get the best results possible. That time? Well, that’s a trick question, as finding the best time to set up an away day is about what you want to get out of it. 

We believe the timing of your team’s away day should be led by your overall objective or purpose. So start by thinking back to the end of the day and what do you want your team to think, feel and do as a result of their time together.

Some teams may need to get to know each other a little better, others may need to focus on getting out of the business and breaking up their usual routine, and some may just be plain struggling to get along.

Each of those teams will require a different type of event, with a different purpose, agenda, setting and format. But one thing is clear: they would all benefit from getting together to deepen connections and generate trust and collaboration. As such, we’ve laid out the various stages your team may be going through to determine how a team building away day may help them progress towards becoming the kind of high performance unit every organisation dreams of. 

Set your intention for your team building event 

Away days can always be beneficial to your team, no matter where it stands on Tuckman’s team development timeline. Whether your event is organised quarterly, annually or on an ad hoc basis, the important thing to remember is to create it with your current context in mind, and to ensure it forms part of how you lead and manage your people. Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve, why now, and what should be different by the end of it. 

Determine your away day’s format

Once you’ve had this reflection, it’s possible you’ll come to the conclusion that a single day isn’t enough, or that it isn’t the right format for your particular purpose. That’s ok. Don’t get stuck on the traditional team away day template, and don’t hesitate to think outside the proverbial box.

Some clients, for example, have chosen to split their sessions into shorter recurring meetings held over several weeks to create momentum, and what we like to call ‘stickability’. Others have adapted a more agile approach and use the sprint methodology to generate short bursts of focused action, review results and course adapt along the way. 

Organising an away day during the forming stage

Teams in the forming stage may not always be newly set up teams. Some employees could have started working remotely during the pandemic and never gotten to meet their colleagues in real life. Some may be struggling to adjust to a new hybrid schedule. Some teammates could have been working together for years, but a new recruit has joined their ranks and disrupted the ecosystem. It could also be that the team’s purpose has been reset.

Whatever the situation, those at the forming stage do need to get to know each other better in order to fully understand each other’s strengths, challenges and ultimately work better together. When used right, away days are a great tool to use to kickstart the trust building process. Make sure you create an event that will facilitate connections, and include activities that allow everyone to get to know their colleagues a little better. 

Away days for storming teams 

Company events are not just fluffy marketing exercises to celebrate company results. Sometimes, they can be much needed interventions to get things back on track as your team hits a rocky patch.

This could be the case for many organisations as they get ready to come back to a hybrid reality mixing both onsite and remote working, and potentially hitting a few bumps along the way. Other storming teams in need of a refocus could be going through a change of leadership or staff turnover, or they could simply not be communicating effectively. In short, something is wrong and it needs to be fixed. 

Running an away day to get your team out of the storming phase will require a different agenda. Your event should be about boosting morale, re-energising the troops and making sure everyone understands where you are going as a team, and what each person needs to do to get you there.

It’s about getting everyone working together and moving as a tight-knight unit by gaining absolute clarity on roles, responsibilities and team objectives. Use this time to establish communication lines, review processes and iron out any kinks. As a team leader, you will need to showcase the kinds of behaviours you wish to encourage on the day: honesty, transparency and active listening skills. 

Team building events during the norming stage 

If your team has reached the norming stage, they are communicating well, respecting each other and relying on one another. You may therefore think you’ve got nothing to worry about, and that a team building event isn’t needed.

At Let’s Talk Talent, we believe in always challenging ourselves. If you find your team is reaching targets, but not quite exceeding them, or they are stuck in a rut, an away day focused on ideation, innovation and finding new ways to encourage creativity could be just what you need to finally break through to the performing stage. 

It’s also a great time to pause and have fun, and enjoy each other’s company. Add activities to your agenda that aren’t solely about work objectives, but do take your audience into account. Cocktail making and team treasure hunts may sound like a laugh, but if your team is made up of a bunch of shy introverts, you may be missing a trick. Make sure there is something for everyone to enjoy, including quiet comfortable spaces for those who need to recharge, or process information. 

Performing team building away days 

Again, you may ask why you may need an away day if your team is doing great. Well, whilst we believe in always striving for more, sometimes it needs to be about celebrating successes too. Your team may have spectacularly hit targets, or delivered an important project. They may have won an award or some recognition from the company. It’s important to take some time out of your daily routine to recognise everyone’s contribution.

These events could be built around the idea of spending time with each other, having fun and deepening connections on a social level. However, you could also use them to move away from the Business As Usual (BAU) humdrum and into the art of the possible. Bringing in external speakers to energise your people and getting them looking forward to what’s coming up next is a great way to drive high performance.

You may have guessed that we are big fans of using away days to generate trust, create cohesion and improve working processes. The key takeaway from the many events we’ve organised for our clients? Don’t follow a set format. Carefully craft your agenda based on which stage of the team development model your team is at, and your specific organisational context.

At Let’s Talk Talent, we are yet to get involved with an event that didn’t yield positive results for the future.

So if you’re wondering if a team building event would be the answer to your big question, have a look on our website for more information on our team building away days or read one of our case studies of how team building days can boost teams.

We’d be happy to help you organise a team building away day that will truly hit the mark. 

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