A break from the work routine

Maria Zahra's article on The Times of Malta

It’s becoming increasingly accepted that team-building will always play an important part in the development of any organisation and its people.

“It’s amazing sometimes how a simple exercise or group task can lead people to coordinate all efforts to achieve the desired result or target,” says Maria Zahra, HR consultant and trainer at Misco. “Moreover, such exercises nurture a strong element of reciprocal trust.”

Misco makes it a point to incorporate team-building exercises in its courses for management teams and company employees in order to establish the level of teamwork and communication that exists between them. Teambuilding exercises can be tailor-made and focused around the qualities that a company would want from its employees.

“We organise specific exercises at the start of courses as these help us gauge the level of motivation and communication between the various team players. These team-building exercises not only act as ice-breakers but interestingly, they are also a way how people from the same company actually get to learn more about their colleagues.”

“The funniest thing is that from these teambuilding sessions, we also realised that at Misco, we too needed to start conducting such exercises internally. In fact I remember it was around three years ago when Misco was celebrating its 30th anniversary that we got together for the first time to commemorate this anniversary by baking cupcakes and organising a barbecue,” says Zahra.

Following that first event, Misco formed a fun committee with the aim of organising regular social activities both during and after office hours.

“We formed the first committee and defined our roles so that everyone knew what their duties were. We also established terms of reference and agreed that every year the committee’s members had to rotate so as to incorporate new members. This way, everyone gets to be involved and gain from the opportunity to experience active participation.”

Over the past three years, Misco’s fun committee has organised various activities such as treasure hunts, lunches and dinners as well as themed events at work, related to specific commemorations such as Easter, Mother’s Day and Halloween.

In many companies, employees tend to meet up on a social level only when one of them is about to leave the company. And in most of these cases, when the company is large, this would only involve few employees, mainly the closest colleagues in the same department.

Ideally team-building activities should include all the employees. But in the case of larger companies, different departments could organise their own respective initiatives or take it in turns to organise larger events that include more departments. But in Malta, where most of the companies are small and medium-sized, team-building efforts for all the organisation’s employees should be easy to organise as long as clear structures are in place.

“At Misco, we never needed something too elaborate or time consuming as long as the activities have something different. And since we specialise in market research, the best way for us to find out employee preferences for specific events was naturally the use of an internal survey. This helped us gauge employee expectations, event preferences and also to gather more ideas from them to see which activities they would be more inclined to participate in. This exercise ensured that our events are now always very well attended.”

Every employee at Misco has a number of assigned hours per year that have to be dedicated to other duties other than their everyday job. In fact, all employees have the opportunity to work in different departments and on different tasks, thus interacting with other colleagues. This also helps them get a better overview of how the company operates and how their work fits the rest of the operations.

Zahra stresses that teambuilding exercises are mostly successful when they find the backing and support of top management.

“Our directors value teambuilding a lot and even though they have a busy schedule, they too make it a point to attend most of our events. Their presence is a tangible show of support and this is why we always encourage other companies to make sure that they have the support of their management because these events not only foster better relations between employees but also bring management and staff closer.”

Misco’s teambuilding is also linked to the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts since proceeds from events are always donated to a charity.

“Companies are built on people, their skills and abilities. Team-building activities help bring out the real nature out of people. This makes team-building an excellent opportunity to understand what your people’s real strengths are and what it takes to bring these strengths out. Such events not only lead to better understanding of each other’s abilities but also act as a backdrop where team players rise to the occasion and show their leadership and problem-solving qualities.

“Breaking from the routine not only nurtures motivation but also contributes to identifying efficiencies and new ideas and encourage better teamwork. Interacting with other colleagues outside the context of work also nurtures closer friendships and builds new ones.

“Such outcomes not only benefit the respective employees by creating better working environments but also the employers and their organisation’s performance,” Zahra adds. “Ultimately, it’s a known fact that the team that learns how to play together, stays together.”

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