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The Science behind Team Building

While team building and group work are known to play a crucial role in shaping corporate culture, have you ever wondered what it takes to create a truly successful and meaningful team building activity?

With an average budget per pax per quarter of about $50, team building events may cost companies up to $20,000 a year for a medium team of 100 employees. For multinational companies with a more generous budget pool dedicated to employee welfare, this could amount easily to more than $500,000 annually. Understanding what makes a team building event successful not only helps justify the investment, but also enables companies to retain talents, improve collaboration and productivity and build a strong foundation for culture and workplace dynamics.

According to Diazgranados et al. (2009), there are 4 components of team building activities that help bring about meaningful company outcomes:

  1. Goal Setting

  2. Interpersonal Relations

  3. Role Clarification

  4. Problem Solving

Let's dive deeper into each of these components

Goal Setting

Goal Setting is the process in which team members are involved in planning and managing resources to determine how they could best achieve the group's objectives. It is believed that by involving team members in this process of the team building activity, they would become more immersed in the group, emotionally invested in the outcome and therefore, taking more ownership in ensuring the group's success.

Most team building activities nowadays certainly have this element, with various goals set for teams such as becoming the earliest to finish a task, completing something before time, gaining the highest points and so on. This is especially competitive when more expensive prizes are at stake.

However, aligning the interests among all team members and involving everyone in the goal setting and decision making process could be tricky, especially when it could be the first time they get to talk to one another. With the onset of COVID-19 that causes everyone to only interact virtually, this is even harder to achieve as the quieter members may find it challenging to speak up and become involved in the process.

“Groups don’t become teams because that is what someone calls them"

Interpersonal Relations

With fewer personal conflicts, it is easier for the team to function and effectively reach their goals - this goes without saying. However, what does it take to ensure members open up to one another, build trust and create harmony among themselves?

Conflicts hinder groups' efficacy | Credit: Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

Researchers Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith once famously said, “Groups don’t become teams because that is what someone calls them" - it takes effort to bridge misunderstanding gaps and bring members together. As such, for team building activities, the role of a facilitator is crucial and sometimes, indispensable, especially at the beginning when they are yet to become familiar with one another. For every team to get closer and eventually build up rapport and support for one another, it requires a leader, a facilitator, a medium to help develop mutual trust and set the tone for open communication.

Role Clarification

Have you ever felt lost during a team building activity, unsure of what to do? Or sometimes you felt as though the team could still achieve their goals without you?

It is not uncommon to feel this way when some team building activities are not designed with clear roles for each individual, or in a way such that you need only a few members in the group to do the task.

Salas, Priest & DeRouin (2005) defines a group as a set of overlapping roles and these "are characterized as the behaviors that are expected of each individual team member." To bring about successful group work and collaboration, it is essential to reflect upon the earlier stage if each individual is aware of their respective parts and what is expected of them from the beginning.

This element is, especially important as it is found that “all the components (i.e., role clarification, goal setting, interpersonal relations, and problem solving) of team building had a moderate effect on outcomes but the goal-setting and role-clarification components had the largest effect.” (Diazgranados et al., 2009). It is crucial for companies to evaluate team building options to ensure that the nature of the activity and goals could naturally allow each individual in the team to assume a unique role, enhancing their sense of belonging to the team, while allowing them to learn to collaborate from various perspectives.

However, agreeing on roles and responsibilities is easier said than done. What happens when conflicts arise?

Setting clear roles and responsibilities for each member | Credit: Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

Problem Solving

Problem Solving is, inevitably, a process that all teams would go through. It is important to empower team members to identify and evaluate major task-related problems to work towards, and in the process, acquire creative and critical thinking skills.

Team building activities, therefore, could not be too easy nor difficult. The level of difficulty is ideally at a level where it brings groups together to discuss and explore solutions, but not too hard to put people off. Companies should not be afraid to introduce fun challenges as they design their team building activities, as it takes some "problems" to spur creativity, inspiration and foster true camaraderie.

Designing Team Building Activities

In order to ensure the highest outcome from team building activities, companies should be on the lookout for the 4 elements before embarking on their Away Day: goal setting, interpersonal relations, role clarification and problem solving.

Given the onset of COVID-19, it is, all the more, easier for employees to feel detached from their teams and the company's mission and spirit, to lose that sense of belonging to their organisation. Hence, this unique circumstance serves as both a challenge and an interesting playground for HR and company leaders to re-imagine team building activities on the virtual stage, and re-define how they incorporate the above 4 elements in their plans and initiatives.

Our latest product, AveLIVEX - a Multi-player, Multi-Perspective Virtual Escape Room is designed with these considerations in mind. Through an interesting gameplay lasting from 60 to 90 minutes, teamwork is put to a test with unique puzzles and challenges, as well as role-specific characters for each player. This concept requires everyone to communicate and work together to help solve both common puzzles and each individual's unique puzzles for the game to move forward. Our facilitating team would also be welcoming players to the game and remain just a message away! Click here to learn more about our flagship game "Guardian of the East: The Awakening" and reach out to us to enquire for your next team building event!

About Us

Avenevv is a one-stop platform for event venue search and venue booking. Last year, we have also launched our virtual event solution AveLIVE and virtual escape room game AveLIVEX.


Klein, Cameron & DiazGranados, Deborah & Salas, Eduardo & Le, Huy & Burke, Shawn & Lyons, Rebecca & Goodwin, Gerald. (2009). Does Team Building Work?. Small Group Research. 40. 181 - 222. 10.1177/1046496408328821.

Salas, E., Priest, H. A., & DeRouin, R. E. (2005). Team building. In N. Stanton, H. Hendrick,

S. Konz, K. Parsons, & E. Salas (Eds.), Handbook of human factors and ergonomics methods

(pp. 48-1, 48-5). London: Taylor & Francis

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