Away days range from the brilliant to bizarre, and from the totally pointless to the absolutely indispensible. We talk to Malcolm Taylor, Director at Your Excellency Ltd and co-founder of the Oarsome Team Development Programme, to sort the wheat from the chaff.
1. Have you been taken on any brilliant away days yourself? Any disastrous ones?
I spent 25 years in the “corporate world” prior to setting up Your Excellency and attended team-building events and away-days that gave me some really fun memories. Whilst I wouldn’t say they were 'brilliant' they were a great opportunity to work with my team in an environment outside of the office – you know the thing, archery, building a raft, monkey-canopies, go-karting and building a marshmallow tower, to name but a few.
There were no real disastrous ones. But in hindsight, knowing what I know now as a trainer and coach, all the events could have been better thought-out and organised so that learning from the event could be applied back in the workplace.
Team building events and away days are ideal opportunities to learn, grow and develop as a team and it makes sense to tap into that opportunity and extend the learning beyond it just being a fun day out of the office and a 'jolly'.
2. Have these experiences helped form your idea of what does and doesn't work?
Absolutely. Team building and away days are going to work best if you get the buy-in and commitment from every team member. Each individual employee needs to understand what the purpose of the event is, what they’re going to personally get out of it, how it’s going to help their team work better together, and ultimately how it is going to impact positively on the company as a whole.
Many companies are missing out on using the learning gained at their away-days and team building events and applying it back in the workplace.
They are an ideal opportunity to identify and offer feedback on behaviours which you notice during a fun out-of-office experience that also occur in the workplace.
3. Are there some basic principles for getting it right, or does it depend on the company?
'Getting it right' means different things to different companies.
The basic principles for 'getting it right', in running a truly successful event, has its foundations in exploring your outcomes. You need to be able to identify what will 'create the difference that makes the difference' to your organisation and run an event that matches those outcomes. You need to be able to articulate what you want to get out of the event, what the benefit will be to each individual employee, to the team and to the business as a whole and run an event that meets these outcomes. Then you’ll be providing a true return on investment.
4. Do you think there are any major misconceptions about away days?
I think the main misconception is that away days are purely for fun and fun alone. The benefit of away days are that you get to work with your team members in a different environment and really understand more about each other.
5. What, in your view, is the main aim of away days? Or is that up to the group?
Again, this depends on the outcomes of a company as to what their main aim is. I think realising that this is a great opportunity to extend the learning beyond just having fun away from the office is crucial. Away days are a great opportunity to emphasise the work ethos and culture of your organisation. They are an ideal opportunity for each individual employee to have their say and demonstrate how they are contributing to the team’s success.
More than anything, they are a great opportunity to understand how you and others 'tick' and then to use this knowledge and apply it back in the workplace.
6. Describe to us the perfect away day.
Well, of course I’m going to say our Oarsome rowing day! It’s a great metaphor for ultimate teamwork. We’ve all watched the Boat Race or Steve Redgrave’s famous 4 at the Sydney Olympics and seen great crews making it look easy. In practice, in order to deliver a good performance a crew must train to work in total sync with each other, every movement needs to be in time, every stroke placed together. This demands individuals to collaborate like in no other sport – one person out of line and the whole boat is held back.
With the Oarsome programme, your team spend a day on the river – a combination of having fun and recognising how rowing is like operating within your business. During the rowing day we maintain a direct link to your business activities and outcomes, as well as having fun. A few weeks after the rowing day we visit your work environment to further support your team and embed the learning to ensure they are an 'Oarsome' team. Maybe the Hire Space Team want to give it a try?!
To find out more about the Oarsome Programme, or for away day venue hire, get in touch at hirespace.com