4 Unique Team-Building Activities HR Professionals Should Use More Often

professional skills

Are your employees tired of the same old team-building activities? Check out these four unique options that will help your employees bond as a team without boring them to tears.

Human Resources

HR as a profession has a long history, which has both its pros and cons. Today's HR professionals can draw from a backlog of many effective HR strategies, theories, and approaches. However, coming up with new, fresh ideas isn't always easy. Employees tire of the same old activities, especially if they've experienced them (maybe multiple times) at past companies.

If you're looking for unique team-building activities for your organization, look no further. We've gathered four here that your employees are sure to appreciate.

Pictionary Telephone

Here's how it works:

  • Split your team up into groups of 4-8 members.
  • Give each employee on each team a stack of papers or index cards. These can be pre-filled with office-related phrases of your own choosing, or you can allow employees to come up with the phrases themselves.
  • Give each employee one minute to move the top index card to the back of the stack and translate the phrase into a drawing on the next card.
  • Have each employee pass his or her stack to the person on the left, drawing the card facing up.
  • Next, each employee must translate the drawing he or she sees into a phrase. And so on and so forth until everybody has seen every stack of cards.
  • At the end of each round, employees can share their stacks of cards with the group and show how they progressed between pictures and phrases to their final iterations. If you've ever played Telephone, you know how funny this tends to be.

Two children communicating through tin cans

Pictionary telephone is an entertaining HR team-builder because it encourages creative thinking, engages multiple modes of expression, and relies entirely on the ability of its players to understand one another.

Eyes and Ears

Here's how it works:

  • Split your employees up into groups of 9-15 members.
  • Split each group into thirds. One third of each group will be blindfolded, one third will have their hands tied behind their backs, and one third will not be allowed to speak.
  • Hand each group a set of written instructions for an activity they must complete within a certain time limit: for example, they must build a specific structure out of Legos in five minutes or less. Naturally, the activities should be more or less complex depending on the size of the teams.
  • Start the clock and watch as the teams struggle to work through these handicaps to produce a satisfactory final result.
  • After the game is up, remove the blindfolds and untie everybody's hands. Then bring the entire company together to discuss their results, for example, what worked, what didn't work, and why.

Women playing a team-building game with a blindfold

This game is an effective team-builder in HR because it replicates, in an exaggerated way, the experience of working on a team. Though not everybody shares the same abilities and knowledge, they must collaborate to achieve a common goal. This activity can be made more or less fun/serious depending on the objective you give each team. The options here are endless: cookie decorating, Play-doh figures, fort-building, or even a project more relevant to the office, such as coding a game. For a fun twist on the game, consider making the instructions a little trickier to see how the teams respond to frustrating project requirements, which we know are an inevitable part of real work.

The Great Outdoors

Though the image of a disconnected team being forced to bond in the great outdoors over a humiliating and gravity-defying ropes course is something of a filmic cliché, we've found that few companies actually commit to this type of team-building activity. Think about it: have you ever actually done this type of activity? Probably not. So why does Hollywood portray it so much? Because it's visually evocative. The vast, spacious outdoor setting creates a notable change in energy from the office, which cues the audience to recognize that something is going to change.

The silhouette of a man climbing on a ropes course

This psychology applies to your HR employees, too. Simply moving them out of the usual office environment and into someplace new sets them up for being open to new possibilities. The human instinct to feel more alive outdoors is also helpful here, as it's much easier to be emotionally vulnerable and open when one's environment is as freeing as nature. The team-building advantages of an activity such as a ropes course are obvious, but that's not the only activity you can choose to employ outside (especially if you have employees who are afraid of heights). Nature walks, scavenger hunts, and even off-site cabin retreats are all options that take advantage of the outdoor setting.

Company-Wide Hackathon

A hackathon is an event in which a team of employees works quickly and collaboratively to develop innovative projects. Traditionally, these are software projects where the teams are made up of engineers, developers, and designers. However, hackathons don't have to be limited to your most technical employees. In fact, you can get your entire company in on it. Employees can self-organize into cross-functional teams of anywhere from 2-10 people and brainstorm innovative ideas to better the company. They then work for 1-3 workdays (Study.com's hackathons are 24 hours, for example) to bring them to life.

Cross-functional team collaborating during a hackathon

Hackathons are effective for team-building for several reasons. First, they offer an opportunity for employees in totally different areas of the company to work together even if they never would have otherwise. They also put the agency into the hands of the employees to ideate and execute projects that they are passionate and excited about, meaning the hackathon experience is uniquely suited to each employee's interests. And finally, they're fun!

Throughout our biannual hackathons, Study.com offers meals and activities (like karaoke) to keep employees engaged. Some very authentic team bonding happens in the middle of the night on a break from an exciting but difficult project. These hackathons have been a major success for Study.com, and we highly recommend you try them.

If you try any of these unique team-building activities, tweet us @studydotcom and let us know how they went! We'd love to hear from you.

Looking to learn more about the HR profession? Check out Study.com's business courses.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
June 2018
professional skills employee engagement

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