With so many new ‘ropes course’ programs cropping up, the challenge of selecting a teambuilding provider has gotten tougher than ever. It is important to distinguish between vendors who provide a recreational program and those whose goal is facilitating lasting change in your organization. Here are a few things to consider when selecting a provider and preparing for your teambuilding event.
- Recreational vs. Team Development – is your goal to make this a one-off, fun day out of the office, or are you looking to facilitate lasting change and commitment between the members of your team. Both goals can be valuable, but each requires a different level of facilitation, time investment and follow-up. Get clear on what your expectations are before you begin contacting team building service providers. This will help ensure that you are not being swayed into purchasing something that is not inline with your goals.
- Time Investment – if you only have 2 or 3 hours to commit for your team, then your goal should be a recreational teambuilder. Lasting change takes practice and 2 hours of focus is like cracking the window – you can get a little fresh air but not nearly as much as if you open the door (or knock down the walls!). The more time you can invest, the more likely you will be to see lasting change within your team.
- Facilitation Style and Experience – there are plenty of ‘team building’ companies that provide a ropes course experience, and the level of facilitator skill is one of the biggest factors in whether you should consider this a recreational or team development program. Proper sequencing, framing the activity and following up with a debrief that relates the experience back to ‘real life’ is the minimum that you should expect from a company that is selling ‘team development.’ Anything less is definitely a recreational experience.
- Budget – this is a tough one. You don’t always get what you pay for. Some companies charge very little for excellent programming, and other companies charge outrageous prices for mediocre programming. A good rule of thumb is to set your goals first, then contact a few vendors and find out what is offered. Make sure your goals will be met by whichever vendor you are contracting, and THEN discuss the price. If your goals are being met, then the price is worth it!
- Shop Local – there are a number of ‘national’ providers that offer team building in multiple states and countries. The reality is that most of these companies partner with local vendors or contract local facilitators to provide the actual programming. Naturally, this type of relationship with local providers has a price, and the big national company charges a price on top of that – which means you are essentially paying more for the same service you would receive if you went with the smaller local company. Sometimes it pays to dig a little deeper when searching for team building service providers.
- Preconceptions – so many clients come out to the ropes course with a preconceived notion of what the team building experience will be. Some participants bring wonderful memories of a ropes course activity that they enjoyed (“Do you have a zip line? I LOVE the zip line!”), while others might have a negative view of team building based on a poorly run program (“What a waste of time. Let’s skip the team building and head straight to the bar!”). Be sure to let participants know that this will be a unique experience, and what the goals are for the day, so that they are mentally prepared for what they will experience when they arrive.“You will get more out of the day if you are prepared to be open to the ropes course experience, and you leave your preconceived notions at the door.”
When it comes to ‘Return On Investment’, team building can be one of the most important yet relatively small investments that a company can make. If done right, team building endeavors can improve employee retention, increase company morale, increase innovation, and ultimately have a positive effect on the ‘bottom line.’ When planning for your event, knowing your goals and expected outcomes helps ensure that you are getting what you pay for.