If you’re not careful, employee-bonding activities can be awkward and cheesy. But a cohesive, congenial staff is important. It strengthens relationships, stimulates better brainstorming, and creates an atmosphere of inclusivity where all personalities and ideas are welcome. And it takes a little more effort than simply asking everyone how they’re doing and sharing a joke or two before starting a meeting. Here are eight icebreakers to use for employee bonding.
Lunch discussion groups
Once a month or so, facilitate lunches in small groups, fewer than ten people. Randomly assign the groups so people are matched with people from other departments and parts of the building. Or structure the groups in a way that you think would encourage better collaboration across departments—pairing sales with marketing, for example. Provide relevant discussion questions aimed at brainstorming or problem solving.
Job sharing and mentoring
Learning from colleagues is always valuable, so encourage it. It might mean spending an afternoon shadowing a co-worker or observing another department for a few hours. Either way, it’s important to understand what other people in your company do and how they can collaborate and contribute to each other’s efforts.
Provide comfortable spaces
You can encourage discussions and collaboration by having lots of comfortable spaces for employees to hang out—break rooms, couches, snacks and drinks, even catered lunches when possible.
Facilitate a book club
You can either suggest novels and bestsellers or volunteer books that are related to your industry. Meet weekly to discuss one chapter at a time and have employees take turns leading discussions. Many books have discussion questions listed in the back of the books or online. Hint: people are more likely to participate if you purchase the book for them.
Icebreaking games and questions
Spend the first few minutes of a meeting talking about something different—it might be a word game, a pop quiz, a question about their childhoods, two truths and a lie or a “would you rather” question. These can be quick and easy and encourage some relationship building that has nothing to do with work.
Sponsor a team or hobby club
This might depend on your team’s interests. If you have a set of young employees with an interest in sports, you might consider sponsoring a softball team, bowling team or flag football team. You could also form teams for local 5k runs, host on-site yoga classes or sponsor memberships to a nearby gym. If you don’t have an overall interest in fitness or sports, consider clubs related to other hobbies, like knitting, photography, gaming or gardening.
Go off-site for lunch
You can tailor this one according to your budget—a potluck or cookout at a park or a pre-fixe menu at a fancy restaurant. Regardless, planning, coordinating rides, and holding unscripted conversations is all part of the bonding. Depending on the size of your team and budget, you might bring the whole group or just one department at a time.
Company picnics are pretty standard and appeal to all ages and demographics, but there are other options, too. Consider hosting a trick-or-treating event for your employees’ children, sponsoring a movie night on a big screen in the parking lot or having a watch party for a big sporting event, like the Super Bowl, World Series or NCAA Final Four. A holiday luncheon is another great way to incorporate employees’ family—any opportunity to cement work friendships, blend the people your team spends the most time with, and facilitate fun, congenial conversations.
For more tips on encouraging employee bonding, check out our website at http://www.icrjobs.com.