Team Development: Worth It or a Waste?

by on Jun 6, 2024

Leaders confronted with tricky team dynamics often schedule group activities to facilitate “team bonding,” only to be disappointed when nothing changes back at the office. These efforts start to feel like a waste of both time and money.

But the problem remains: your team isn’t getting along, and it’s affecting productivity. So is team development worthwhile, or is it a waste? It all depends on your approach. 

Yes, a standalone motivational event is often a waste

It is tempting in this era of remote-work culture to think that getting everyone in the same room will somehow fix all the problems at play in the workplace. But team-building in the context of a collaborative exercise or an outing to a bowling alley almost never singlehandedly fixes underlying problems among team members. It just brings the issues to a new location.

Even for teams that work in-person all the time, the statistics on team-building activities are not encouraging. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that in interviews with over 125 different teams, most employees named collaboration as an area of value that they knew they should engage in; they just didn’t do it. Team-building exercises of the ropes course or day trip variety did lead to a temporary increase in feelings of emotional cohesion among team members, but by themselves did not translate to greater collaboration professionally.

HBR concluded that while collaboration and trust are key components of a highly successful team, you can’t start there. You have to start by motivating the individuals within the team.

Building a collaborative culture is worth it

So if it all begins with individual motivation, that means team development is a waste, right? 

Not so fast. Poor team dynamics can lead to high rates of attrition, low productivity, and a worse reputation within your industry. All of these realities come at a cost you can avoid through effective team development.

It’s really an interweaving of collaboration and individual motivation that seems to be most effective at building a cohesive team culture. You can’t just name collaboration as a value and expect your team to pursue it on their own. They need a framework for collaboration that incentivizes them to work with their colleagues. And yes, this sometimes means monetary raises or promotions.

Additionally, you need to create accountability for inappropriate behaviors. Incentives are effective, but without cultural standards, existing destructive patterns may continue within the new collaboration framework. You don’t want to end up with groups of two or three people antagonizing each other while “collaborating” among themselves.

So how do you do it?

It can feel impossible to thread the needle of good team-building. Mastering the art of motivating individuals to collaborate while also holding them accountable for old habits is a big task.

This is why professional team development programs are a good investment. As a leader, you likely have enough on your to-do list without adding the creation of a collaborative and behavioral framework from scratch.

At Teamalytics, we’ve been helping leaders solve team dynamics issues for three decades. During this time, we’ve carefully aggregated what we’ve learned into proprietary analytics that yield proven results. Our program follows a three-step process: 

  • Awareness: Explore your team’s current behavioral data
  • Accountability: Create personalized action plans for individuals and the group
  • Acceleration: Execute action plans and get ongoing feedback

This approach combines the collaboration framework, individual motivation, and behavior accountability needed to effect real change. 

Rather than doing it all on your own, consider investing in an evidence-based leadership and team development program. For assistance calculating the possible return on investment, download our free guide, “Calculating ROI: A Practical Guide for MEasuring Return on Human Capital Investments” today.