A Team Building Guide for Tech Teams
Team building is something that might seem gimmicky or overrated, but it plays a vital role in bringing people together and helping them focus on the common good.
Why Team Building Matters
In most people’s minds, team building comes with some negative connotations. They picture cheesy icebreakers and cringeworthy activities from The Office. But team building doesn’t have to look like this. And if you learn how to leverage it in an effective manner, it can actually be one of the smartest investments you ever make.
“It builds trust, mitigates conflict, encourages communication, and increases collaboration,” entrepreneur Brian Scudamore writes. “Effective team building means more engaged employees, which is good for company culture and boosting the bottom line. It can also be adventurous and enjoyable if you do it with a little pizzazz.”
For tech teams in particular, team building provides a solid foundation upon which future results can be built. It teaches people to understand one another and to rely on each other’s strengths (while quickly picking up slack where others have weaknesses). The only question is, how do you initiate effective team building that doesn’t come across as being cheesy or forced?
7 Team Building Tips for Tech Teams
You know your people better than most, so it’s up to you to choose which types of activities you believe will produce the best results for your team. Having said that, we’ve compiled a list of some of the top options and how you can execute them with precision.
1. Play Games Together
Teams that play together stay together. In fact, if you study any successful team of coworkers, you’ll almost always find that they have elements of gamification and/or competition in their DNA.
Playing games together could look as simple as having board games or arcade games set up in the break room. Or it might look like having a monthly poker night outside of work. You could also try establishing friendly competitions in the workplace - tracking important metrics like support tickets processed or continuous uptime.
2. Find Common Passions Outside of Work
There’s only so much bonding you can do over servers, computers, or software. At the end of the day, every person on your team is an individual with personal interests. Help your team explore these interests as a way of growing closer together.
If two people on your team discover that they have a common passion for something outside of work - such as woodworking or writing poetry - they’ll be much more likely to have a strong work relationship, too. Try to naturally facilitate as many of these bonds as possible! One way you do this is by regularly encouraging people to talk about themselves in meetings, asking questions, and setting employees up on platonic “lunch dates” with people they otherwise might not interact with much.
3. Take People Out of Their Comfort Zone
People are less likely to bond when they’re going through their same old routines and doing the same old tasks. You can speed up team building by taking people out of their comfort zone and putting them in an environment where they must work together.
Rock climbing and obstacle courses are pretty cliche (and can be restricting for certain people). Try something different. For example, you could take your team to a shooting range and show them how to use different firearms. This teaches people to prioritize both focus and safety in an environment that may be unfamiliar to them. You’ll see true strengths and weaknesses emerge.
4. Move Toward Common Goals
Did you know that happiness and learning are closely tied together inside the human brain? In other words, people are often at their happiest when the learning process is activated. It even has a name. Psychologists call this state of losing oneself in an activity being in “flow.”
While it’s possible for your employees to experience a state of flow on their own, there’s something exponentially more powerful about an entire team of people reaching a state of flow simultaneously and together.
You can’t force a team into a state of flow, but you can set them up in such a way that they’re more likely to reach “corporate flow.” Do this by setting shared goals that are challenging yet rewarding (both in terms of the work to achieve the goal and the actual accomplishment on the back end). These goals could be work-related, or they may involve something outside of work. Either is effective in bringing your team together and developing a more cohesive unit.
5. Leverage Tech for Around-the-Clock Bonding
There’s something to be said for work life balance. Your team should be able to step away from work and enjoy a bit of separation and space during their time off. However, this doesn’t mean employees can’t or shouldn’t interact outside of work. You can make it easy for them to do so on their own terms by leveraging certain technology for around-the-clock bonding.
A simple communication app like Slack is a great place to start. It’s easy to use, distraction-free, and can be organized with different threads and channels.
6. Let Your Team Talk
It’s important that you listen to your team, ask questions, gather feedback, and actually implement their suggestions. This shows that you trust and respect them, which makes them more likely to feel loyal to the team.
7. Hire Cultural Fits
You never want your team to become too “cliquish” or homogenous. However, there is something to be said for hiring people who are cultural fits for your organization. At the very least, stay away from hiring anyone who would directly oppose the personality and goals of your team.
Spend a great deal of time discussing hard skills and technical requirements in job interviews. But if you find yourself in a situation where you have two or three candidates who are basically equal in their skillset, let cultural fit make the decision for you.
Set Your Team Up for Success
It’s easy for tech teams to get too caught up in cultivating hard skills. And while technical competency is obviously integral to success, there’s also something to be said for paying attention to soft skills and interpersonal relationships. Ideally you’ll be able to pull out some of the methods discussed in this article and incorporate them into your management style moving forward.