The Single Best Investment a Business Can Make? Team Building

There’s a good deal of conflicting advice out there, inked in many business blogs and industry publications, about where your money is best utilized as a business. Some say investing in new technologies is the way to get ahead. Others expound the virtues of investing in clear and actionable business strategies. And some just advocate for the straightforwardness of investing in sales and finance.

These are all great investments, and they’re all probably necessary as well. But no single investment is quite so important to the wellbeing of a business – no investment has quite the overall positive effect – as teambuilding. And, ironically, it’s the investment that most often goes overlooked.

Perhaps that’s because team building is an “intangible investment”. It’s difficult to see your return on investment without methodically tracking all relevant KPIs, and even then it’s tough to attribute their success to team building efforts. But, rest assured, it’s real… and it’s effective.

Article about investing in team building - image 49939949As Patrick Lencioni notes in his seminal work, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, it isn’t finance or strategy or technology that gives businesses the greatest competitive advantage – it’s teamwork. That’s owing to two critical realities: one, that a unified team working together in the same direction is far more potent than a fractured one; and two, because great teamwork is rare, its existence provides an immediate competitive edge in an industry.

The bottom line is, teambuilding is very important. But how do you go about investing in “teambuilding”? It’s sort of a vague term, right?

How to Invest in Teambuilding

Teambuilding can be broken into four main goals: mutual trust, healthy competition, interpersonal communication and satisfaction. You want a team that trusts one another. You want a team that competes with one another in a non-toxic way. You want a team that can communicate their needs – both business needs and emotional needs – clearly and effectively. And, finally, you want a team that’s happy. Happy people do the best job, hands down.

Activities for Teambuilding

Trust falls and “pass-the-pen” conversation circles tend not to be effective anymore. People see right through them, and they seem more like labor than actual fun (remember, one of the chief goals of teambuilding is happiness and job satisfaction).

Recently, savvy businesses have been turning to out-of-office activities for their teambuilding. Instead of framing it to employees as “mandatory teambuilding” they pitch it as a fun retreat – they book an awesome party and encourage everyone’s attendance.

Activities like axe throwing, for instance, are popular because they tick off a lot of those goals above. Axe throwing is healthily competitive, requires mutual encouragement and communication, and is just all-around a fun time. Employees leave feeling closer to one another, and with a renewed sense of drive and competition. Plus, it’s accessible – regardless of ability, gender or age, it’s possible to partake in, and excel at, axe throwing. Which leads us to the following point…

Encouraging Inclusion

When choosing a teambuilding activity, it is paramount to create a level playing field, where everyone can feel able to participate – where everyone can have fun. If you choose an activity that inherently discriminates against people with disabilities, or is inherently optimized for one gender, you risk alienating a portion of employees and potentially creating further tension.

As mentioned, axe throwing is a level playing field; most axe throwing facilities pride themselves on creating an space inclusive of different abilities, ages and genders. Escape rooms – provided that the facility in question is accessible – is another inclusive option, and is fantastic for encouraging group problem solving. Whatever you choose, just give thought to whether the teambuilding is truly inclusive of all your employees. If it isn’t, it isn’t worth doing.

Final Thoughts

More than any cutting edge technology, more than any shrewd investment or mix-up in strategy, it is ultimately your employees that make or break a business. If they are a cohesive, motivated, happy team, they will singlehandedly ensure your business’ success. If they are fractured, siloed, prone to in-fighting and toxic competition – if they aren’t working together the common goal of supporting the business – you’ll never catch up to competitors.

So when managers and c-suite ponder the million-dollar question, “what’s the best investment this business can make” the answer should be obvious. While it’s not as quantifiable as other KPIs, teamwork will pay off every single time. Pick an activity that encourages communication, competition, trust and overall satisfaction and you’ll see your ROIs with each passing day.


Interesting related article: “What is an Investment?