Team Building Gaining Popularity in Russia

St Peterburg Times, 13 ноября 2013

Team building is quickly gaining popularity in Russia as more and more organizations start to utilize it to create stronger work environments. According to data compiled by HeadHunter, a quarter of all Russian companies organize team-building events while more are planning to do so in the near future. Team building is designed to bring employees closer together through various activities. Human resources specialists believe it increases worker efficiency. The concept, however, is not widely known in Russia. Large and mid-sized Russian companies have been the first to try using such exercises after the idea first blossomed among Western companies in the 1960s and 70s in efforts to build more efficient and positive work environments. "Team building is not just a one-off event but the result of the long and careful process of putting individuals into a team based on their education, motivation and management," said Alexander Yegorov, division director at the northwest branch of the ANCOR recruitment agency, speaking to The St. Petersburg Times. "Team building as an event improves employee relations since it helps them better understand not only each other but both team and corporate values. It also allows for better communication and cooperation." "A company can determine the purpose of team-building events by understanding which form of team-building is best-suited for them," said Maria Protopopova, head of the Business Class event agency, speaking to The St.Petersburg Times. "A company might organize a team-building event for 100 employees to improve company morale. If this is the case, they might schedule mandatory outdoor activities on work days at a holiday village in order to achieve their goals." "If only people fr om a single department are involved and the goal is to increase communication and cooperation, team building can be held at a restaurant or somewhere similar. If the goal is to motivate employees and give them an opportunity to communicate in a less-formal environment, they can have a billiards competition with an additional interactive program," Protopopova said. Although team building is not widely used by Russian companies, Business Class has seen an increasing demand for such events. Companies that hold team-building events tend to continue using them. "The most popular team-building exercises are active tasks focused on closer cooperation between team members, the successful completion of tasks and working together. These are the most common types of team-building activities," said Protopopova. Not all team building is active though. Some agencies provide more creative and intellectual team-building exercises such as master classes.

"Some of the more popular and cost-efficient team-building formats are one-day programs beginning in the morning and ending in the evening," said Nikolay Zagrebelny, the head of Team Building Club, speaking to The St. Petersburg Times.

ANCOR believes human resource employees should sel ect which activities best fit their company's desired goals. It is the responsibility of the CEO, however, to make sure employees get the most out of the training. "The most important thing is to choose a program that is interesting," said Zagrebelny. The price for team-building events, according to Team Building Club specialists, can vary from tens of thousands to millions of rubles. "The price depends on how many people participate, the amount of activities and what sort of equipment is used. Prices usually start at 40,000 rubles ($1,229) with a price of 1,000 rubles ($31) per person," said Protopopova. Team Building Club not only offers in-house training but special expeditions to exotic locations for employees as well. "We organized a crossing through a high-mountain pass to a remote Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, a crossing of the Sahara desert with sports utility vehicles and camels in Morocco, a safari in Kenya and a hike to Machu Picchu in Peru," said Zagrebelny. Business Class organizes similar thematic exercises both in St. Petersburg and abroad. They organized a medieval-themed, team-building exercise in Vyborg, a military-themed one and another involving yachts. Cooking classes, wh ere participants work in small teams under the supervision of chefs, are popular as well. "Cooking classes are an alternative to just sitting with colleagues in a restaurant or team-building exercises with tests and games," said Aleksandra Stambrovskaya, Swissam Hospitality Business School Kitchen project manager, speaking to The St. Petersburg Times. "These courses offer everything: Food, wine, teamwork and even a competitive element. "People's true personalities come out in the kitchen. Two cooks in a kitchen can be dangerous: Imagine 40 people trying to get along with one another in one kitchen - this is a real challenge. They need to assign roles to people so nothing is overcooked or burned and so that, in the end, they can enjoy eating what they make. Culinary team building is fun, creative and delicious," Stambrovskaya said. Culinary team building is becoming more and more popular. Swissam now receives applications from all types of companies including technical, IT and pharmaceutical companies. The frequency of team-building exercises within a company varies. Events can be as regular as weekly events for various departments or as infrequently as twice a year. According to Zagrebelny, team building is conducted at a minimum of once a year. "An event once per quarter would be best for the average company, as long as the exercises focus on different tasks. Repeating the same exercises can be demoralizing," said Protopopova. "The regularity of team building is determined by the company. Team building is definitely necessary when a negative attitude is apparent within a company," she said. Team building exercises are especially important when there is an influx of new employees, a change in leadership or when a new project is started. According to HeadHunter research, 45 percent of people polled regarded team building as useful, while 17 percent felt the opposite. Younger specialists are more willing to participate than older employees who consider them a waste of time. ANCOR believes that the willingness of people to participate depends on the corporate culture, style of management, and the age of the staff in a company. "It's more difficult for employees fr om companies with a strict and authoritarian style of management to be active participants in team building. It is best to first try to recognize any existing tension and address those issues," said Yegorov. A properly organized event can improve communication and develop greater trust, help and responsibility. Employees who enjoy the activities will encourage others to attend the next event. While such results can make a company more innovative, poorly organized events can have a detrimental effect instead. "Conflict can emerge within a group that isn't resolved until the end of a program. More often than not though, in spite of everything, participants become closer but it takes longer than it would if the event was well organized. The efficiency of the event is reduced," said Zagrebelny. "It's like sewing a suit or dress," Protopopova said. "The pattern is designed according to the figure. One can always use previously successful patterns though".