Most tech companies are pro-active when it comes to team building activities
For most technology companies, often it's not the individual effort that counts but the team. “You are only as good as your team. You may be an exceptionally brilliant individual, but it's better to be part of a less talented team than stand out like a lone ranger. At the end of the day, your team is your bedrock, your 3 a.m. friend. That's why it's absolutely important to have a good rapport with your team,” says Bijoy P.I., an account manager with SunTec Business Solutions. And that's why most tech companies are pro-active in conducting a whole gamut of team-bonding activities that range from the zany to the cool, from the mundane to the adventurous.
Generally, most of these activities are divided into inbound (within the respective campuses) and outbound (day trips and overnight stays) and they are planned depending on the needs and requirements of individual teams that may have anything from a handful of employees to 100-plus members; some activities such as online scrabble, hangman, crossword, and so on are meant for the entire organisation.
Tata Elxsi, for example, has something called ‘Fun at work' where they encourage employees to participate in a number of informal group games and competitions. “We often get teams of 10 to 15 to play games such as tug-of-war, kabaddi and ‘Bombing the city' (a game that's kind of like musical chairs, where, once the music is stopped, you'll be eliminated if you happen to stand on the city that has been ‘bombed'), to name a few. Not only are these games stress-busters, they also get the employees to forget their inhibitions,” says Anjana Rajesh, associate manager, Employee Connect, at the company. “In larger teams, especially, we often group within the group – women and men tend to stick to their respective genders or college/school mates and friends prefer to be together. These games open it all up, and later that camaraderie helps when the team faces some critical situations,” adds Bijoy. It's the same at Ernst and Young (E&Y), UST Global, and many other large and small companies. “One of our most popular team building games is building a tower with straws, a game that tests everything from team coordination to respect for each other,” says John V.K., a trainer with the learning and development team at E&Y.
Of the outbound team building activities, trekking and adventure camps seem to be the preferred choice for many companies. And it's no ordinary walk in the park, but hardcore two- or three-day treks, complete with camping in the jungle and a plethora of challenges to overcome. One of Tata Elxsi's signature outdoor activities, for instance, at such adventure camps, is raft building. “It tests one's leadership skills, ingenuity and practical problem solving skills,” says Anjana. UST has an outbound programme called Vanavas, where they take groups of up to 30 people for an adventure camp. “Apart from regular three- to four- hour trekking session every day, we get the team to participate in challenges that build trust and leadership skills such as blindfold trek (where half the group will be blindfolded and the other half leads the way), trust fall (where each person will have to jump off a platform onto a net which the other team members holds), Burma bridge (crossing a rope bridge that's been hung across the river), and so on,” says Benny Joseph, head of Alpha, leadership programme at UST.
But it's not only about having fun and games. These activities are also about testing an employee's personality and leadership skills and encouraging self-development, especially that of new recruits. “Freshers, generally, tend to be a bit sceptical about their abilities. For example, most people balk at the thought of scaling the ‘Commando Net' – an outdoor challenge borrowed from military training, wherein participants have to scale a 30 to 40 feet high net made of rope. The challenge helps them to overcome their fears and helps in self-development and realising their potential. They soon realise that what they are actually capable of doing is so much bigger than what they think that they can do. It's a mantra that we keep telling our employees,” says Dr. Benny, who has scaled ‘Commando Net' over 70 times! Adds John of E&Y: “These activities are also a great way to monitor various parameters: Is each individual accepting change? Are they willing to hear other people's opinions? Are they being heard? Is everyone being given a fair chance? Is everyone being respected?...”