[btx_image image_id=”2169″ link=”/” position=”overlapright”][/btx_image]How to get the most out of your company’s team-building events

By Jessica Iannetta  – Associate Editor, Baltimore Business Journal

Read at BizJournals.com/Baltimore

At many companies, the phrase “team bonding activity” elicits eyerolls or conjures up images of ropes courses or trips to the bowling alley.

But despite the stereotypes, these activities can be successful at boosting team performance when done right. That means thinking outside the box with activities such as building a community table, harvesting honey from beehives and white water rafting.

As the owner and founder of Active Excursions in Gwynn Oak, Steve Kopelman has organized all of those activities and more for companies and said he consistently sees the benefits of not only getting employees out of the office, but doing so in a meaningful way.

For many companies that means looking beyond the typical mainstays of holiday parties, summer cookouts and happy hours. While these activities are important and many companies don’t always have the time and resources to plan anything else, they can also start to feel less special over time, he said.

“Most people mail it in and end up doing the same old stuff and no one is showing up,” Kopelman said.

Kopelman said he runs through a long list of questions on topics such as the team’s activity level and characteristics, to help customize a team-building event for clients. For example, Kopelman helped facilitate a soccer game for a team from Under Armour, which has a highly-competitive atmosphere, but for a team of accountants or lawyers, he might suggest something more cerebral, Kopelman said.

One of Kopelman’s favorite recent excursions is when he worked with Maroon PR to help the Columbia company build and decorate a community table for its new offices. The team members worked together to figure out how to put the table together and then helped decorate it. Active Excursions recently delivered the table to the company’s offices, where it will be put in a community room to be used for meals and meetings, Kopelman said.

“Now how cool is that? They can go in there every day and be reminded of that [team building activity]?” he said.

When executed correctly, Kopelman said he sees benefits in terms of employee morale, retention and, of course, a better functioning team. In many cases, these trips and activities can act as another perk — and another reason to stick around — for employees, Kopelman said.

In today’s hyper-competitive environment, companies and recruiters are spending a lot of time finding the right people for their team and then even more time training and developing them, Kopelman said. The best way to protect that investment and prevent people from leaving for another company is to keep them happy and out of the office trips are one way to signal that employees are appreciated and valued, he said.

But even if your company doesn’t have the resources to do something elaborate, teams can still see benefits anytime they step away from the office and get to see another side of each other, Kopelman said.

“You’re going to learn more about a person having fun with them in one hour than you are having meetings with them for a year,” he said.