How We Introduced Team Development Days
In Q3 2017, I decided to introduce what I call “team development days” to Ballyhoo, giving us a regular outlet to impart and get feedback on key company strategy and performance, and ultimately create a stronger team dynamic.
To give a bit of background to this, in May 2016 I had my first child and subsequently took a year off on maternity leave. Coming back to work was always going to be a bit of a shock to the system, but a lot had changed in my year off, including the introduction of two new staff members. My role had also changed shape, with a bigger focus on developing the company and operational management.
Following a whirlwind couple of months and yet another new member of staff joining the team, I felt we needed a space away from the everyday to bond as an effective team and make sure everyone is on the same page about where this company is going and how we’re going to get there.
We’ve now held three team development days. I consider them to be hugely beneficial to our business so please read on to find out more and how you can incorporate them into your own strategy.
What is a Team Development Day?
The aim of a team development day is to foster personal and team development and encourage everyone to be a stakeholder in the future of the company.
A day of discussion, self-evaluation and 1:1 meetings help us to establish how we can be better team members and make progress. It’s a chance to step away from project work and the daily grind to remember why we are here and why we love (or at least like!) our jobs and our industry.
Team development days can take place as often as you require but I recommend quarterly as a good frequency. There’s enough time between days for real progress to be made yet they’re not far enough apart for everyone to forget what we were trying to focus on last time or lose momentum.
Don’t hold them at your office if you can help it, being in a space away from our daily work stations helps the team to open up and not get distracted by any current work-related stresses or to-dos. If you have an enclosed meeting room large enough then this could be suitable as it’s unlikely your whole team spends a lot of time in there, if not hire a local meeting room or even a private venue.
At lunchtime, we have some downtime to order in a couple of pizzas and have a few beverages. It’s easy to get bogged down in work, and we don’t have many opportunities throughout the year to just gather together and have a chat. We keep the room well-stocked with snacks and drinks throughout the day too.
It may take a few tries to hone the process and learn what you need to allow (or not) to get the most out of your team. However, some simple rules to follow... no phone calls, no emails, no client meetings; turn the out-of-office on and dress comfortably.
Team development day is built around a number of key areas, with an agenda to follow so everyone has an overview of what’s trying to be achieved. However, we do allow wiggle room to go with the flow if we need more time on something as we don’t want to stifle innovation. You can see an example agenda here.
Visioning is a process whereby we evaluate where the business stands today and where we want it to be. Imagine that in a year’s time you are describing how successful the company has been to a journalist, then imagine the same thing but now in 5 years’ time. What do we want to have achieved? By painting a picture of where we want to be, we can then work backwards and figure out how to get there. We also take this opportunity to recognise successes, what we’ve achieved since the last team day in terms of clients won and projects completed, as well as be open about any challenges the company currently faces, including a high-level overview of our finances and target performance.
Empowering the team to weigh-in on company strategy, points of interest and any challenges we are facing is an essential part of the day. We then use their feedback (there are no bad ideas) to map out a plan of action for the coming months and assign or delegate responsibility so we can make real progress before the next team development day.
Some of the discussion topics we’ve covered so far are outlined below, each to be discussed in turn throughout the day with a timer set for twenty minutes each. If we’re still going strong when the alarm sounds, we get a grace period of ten minutes to wrap things up.
|New Technology||Customer Service||Productivity||Accessibility|
|Working Environment||Corporate Social Responsibility||Design Systems||GDPR|
|In-House Projects||Home Working||Software||File Management|
As a small company with less than ten staff, we have been able to incorporate our usual quarterly 1:1 employee reviews, although these have changed format slightly so they fit better within the ethos of team development day. They are still an important part of the day, allowing staff the opportunity to have a frank discussion with management, albeit with more onus on the employee to shape the conversation and identify areas for improvement or acknowledgement.
While 1:1 reviews are taking place this is often an opportunity for the team to take some time on their own to take an inward look at how to improve themselves professionally and identify any areas to explore further. Personal progress is important - not only for Ballyhoo as a company but also for our team’s future. We hope that during your time with Ballyhoo you can honestly say you’ve come out the other end better at both your job and being a member of a team.
Something we’ve only done once so far, but would like to do again in future, is invite a guest speaker to present to the team. In this case, a business development advisor presented the results of the team carrying out a Belbin Team Roles exercise prior to the day, explaining how the strengths and allowable weaknesses of each of our roles can help us form a successful team.
As mentioned earlier, after team development day we map out a plan of action for the coming months and assign responsibility for each task with the aim of making discernible progress before we meet again.
By allowing ourselves time to think bigger and gain input from the team, the following are examples of what we’ve managed to achieve so far:
- Implement key new software packages, improving communication, project management and customer support.
- Launch two new services, GDPR Website Audits and Consultancy
- Participate in two ERDF-funded business development programmes
- Initiate more regular management strategy meetings
- Identify opportunities impart our knowledge and expand our network