Team ‘jollies’ won’t fix business culture

By Chris Sheppardson, CEO and Founder at EP Innovates (  

There’s an issue in the team and people aren’t connecting or working together as they should. Team culture, morale and community of spirit are simply a shadow of the past; so what’s the answer? One thing’s for sure, it’s not another team-building event, away day or company jolly. The sad fact is, the steady demise of strong teams and business cultures is becoming a way of life today and this needs addressing urgently if we are to re-shape the future of the workplace for the better. But something so crucial to the lifeblood of the business like culture and people isn’t going to be solved with a quick fix.

People can be lazy, and many leaders still associate the team building ‘jolly’ and ‘away-day’ (a trend popular in the 1990s) as the solution to boosting team spirit and culture. The truth is, if there is an underlying issue in the team or the company is suffering with a lack of culture, it is likely to be far deeper rooted and something that cannot be simply masked by a nice day out of the office.

Fake teams?

Away days for the sake of away days are rarely effective because time away from the office environment only works for a team that is already a team. If team spirit is at risk or at an all time low, the away day experience becomes a stressful one for the individuals involved because they are essentially being asked to ‘behave’ like a team which frankly, feels unnatural and fake.

Team building should be about a good shared experience, it could be anything from a skiing weekend to a sponsored charity walk, the point is it is about people being outside of their normal environment with a group of like-minded individuals who will all benefit from a rich social scenario, one that encourages the development of new skills that they can later translate into the workplace. But you have to be in the right place first if you are to make team building truly successful – it won’t happen overnight.

This means going back to basics. Teams will only grow in a stable, trusted environment with consistency and strong, open cultures. To create any kind of culture in the workplace you have to allow people to fall. People need to make mistakes, to fail, to learn and to express themselves freely. This means being brave and open as a leader and instilling a culture or ethos which accepts people for being different – people are the key differentiator in business today, the growth of technology has seen to that.

Natural not stifled

The problem is, there is a major issue with trust in leadership today, so leaders need to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit and to show their belief, compassion, care and integrity if they are to rebuild that much needed trust within their teams again. If a strong culture and happy, productive team are in place is quite simply shows that the company values its people, if not, it screams the opposite.

Teams have to feel natural, not stifled or forced. Working as a team is about working as one and it’s also about individual expression. This doesn’t happen without the team evolving through a range of scenarios. A good analogy is, the England Rugby Word Cup team was a great team but not all of the individuals respected one another. One only has to read up on this to realise that there was a myriad of jealousy and friction amongst the team players but its ‘hardened’ characters learned how to work effectively together.

So for teams it’s not about being the same as each other, or even about strong friendships, but it is about common shared goals, about finding a thread that essentially binds the team together and one where every individual can flourish and feel valued as part of that community. Get this right first and a company away day event can be a fantastic approach to the consistent fostering of teams and culture.

Taking a step backwards

But before you take the leap and book your next team day out, maybe it is worth considering the fact that developing team spirit and nurturing a strong culture means taking a step backwards first. Lack of trust creates constant stress and it is difficult to have strong and vibrant cultures within that kind of environment. Just as they did in days gone by, employees want to belong to something bigger and to feel valued. Business has become far too focused on compliance and process today and as a result somewhere along the line the people issue has become a major problem for businesses today. We are constantly told about a skills shortage, about employees being signed off work from stress, mental illness and depression, not to mention the stats that suggest 40% of the workforce will be freelance by 2022 – this cannot be healthy for businesses.

Lack of freedom and increased pressure

There is simply not enough freedom in the workplace today and the younger generations are feeling far greater pressure at work – it stands to reason that a day out of the office won’t change that. It is logical that when one feels under that much pressure, it is near on impossible to be creative or productive let alone bond as a team – and this is usually the point that people choose to leave a company. Sadly this simply exacerbates what is a self-inflicted problem from businesses and something has to change.

About EPinnovates (

A shop window for entrepreneurial innovation, EPinnovates has been created to showcase exciting innovations, new products, services, concepts and businesses for larger companies to discover and explore.  Designed to recognise and support the innovation that entrepreneurs and smaller businesses bring to the future economy, EPinnovates tells stories about entrepreneurs; each has a different tale, adventure and overcomes diverse obstacles, but all are looking to improve business and create value.  Accessing these ideas and innovations can be difficult for businesses to truly discover so EPinnovates acts to bridge that gap and help to engineer the future for the better by introducing larger companies to entrepreneurs through the principles of trust, community and relationships.

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