Particularly in the digital age, skills in the business world cannot be allowed to stagnate. People who fall behind the times rapidly see their usefulness ebb away, turning themselves into burdens on their employers and colleagues alike. But the resources aren’t always there for individual training — and even when they are, how can supervisors be sure they’re being used correctly?
This is why any individual training must be supplemented with team training. Team members can support one another throughout the training, and supervisors can communicate a concept very articulately just once instead of needing to explain it to each staff member separately. Team training is also great for overall team morale and productivity (after all, a close-knit team is only as strong as its weakest link). But how can supervisors encourage their teams to learn as a group?
Let’s take a look at four collaborative tasks that can boost team learning:
Organizing a charity event - Business isn’t all about profit (at least, it shouldn’t be if you want to avoid burnout and disillusionment). When employees are putting long hours in the office every week, supervisors need to give their team opportunities to get out of their regular mindsets and do new things. Something that can prove very effective is to get everyone involved in organizing some kind of charity event.
Why is this useful for team learning? Well, there several reasons:
- They’ll try harder for good causes. For everyday business, money is the prime motivator, but for a charity event the entire team will be giving 100% out of pride and basic altruism. This level of effort will sharpen their attention and get them working hard.
- They’ll have set criteria to focus on. Without indefinite time to make a plan and execute it, they’ll quickly need to know what charity the money is going toward and what the event is going to involve. This will prevent procrastination.
- They’ll want to carry their weight. Everyone wants to feel useful, and no one wants to feel like the most useless part of a charity event drive, so team members will be more willing to pick up new skills to carry their weight.
As for the specifics of the charity event, it’s entirely up to the supervisor and the team, and I have included extra tips in this fundraising article. If anyone has a sentimental attachment to a particular charity, give that a try, or even choose one at random.
Carrying out mutual training - One of the best ways for someone to develop their knowledge on a particular topic (even one they know fairly well already) is to teach it to someone else. This requires them to clearly and succinctly articulate thoughts that may previously have been only partially formed. And if team members get on fairly well, then they’ll want to help one another. More benefits and mechanics are outlined in this mutual training article.
To that end, supervisors can task each member to host a training session on a relevant and useful topic (they can choose which one). Not only will people not want to look as though they don’t know that much about their “expert” topics, but they will also want to impress their teammates by proving to be effective teachers and adding value to the pool of knowledge.
And if there’s a particular presentation tool that a supervisor would like everyone to learn how to use, they can mandate that each educational presentation be created using that specific tool. In that way, everyone on the team is incentivized to pick up a new skill while they look to share their existing skills.
Launching a joint venture - Joint Ventures, hereafter referred to as JVs, are great ways to motivate company loyalty and incentivize extra work. The point of a JV is for a company to partner with its employees on a secondary business project of some kind, committing a certain amount of time and money to getting it set up and making it a success. Because everyone who participates shares in the profits, everyone has a great reason to work hard.
Deciding what to pursue in the JV is up to the supervisor and the team, so have a discussion about it and get an idea of everyone’s interests. Something that would use existing skills and develop others would be perfect. To get employees to think like entrepreneurs, try selling a business as a group, polishing it and aiming to make a nice profit. To expand upon a team’s networking skills, launch a consultancy operation.
The worst-case scenario is that the JV completely fails and loses the money invested in it, but even then the team will have learned various things they’d do differently given another opportunity, and identified some of their professional weaknesses. Setting aside enough time and money to pursue a JV can prove highly beneficial for morale and expertise.
Grouping up for a game - Escape room games have become very popular recently. If you’ve never participated in one or read about the practice, an escape room game locks a team in a small mystery-laden room and challenges it to find a way out within the hour. The team members must work together to locate clues and piece them together, typically to identify the combination to an electronic lock.
You can think of escape rooms as more engaging updates of old team-building exercises (exchanging trust falls, building makeshift bridges, etc.). They’re great for team learning because they encourage and hone communication. When someone finds a clue, they need to be able to explain to their teammates exactly what it is and what they believe it to mean.
Escape rooms aren’t the only viable games, though, because you can also try video games, or even board games, as long as they’re cooperative. The actual goal is immaterial. It’s the process of working together in a lightly pressured environment that’s unique to cooperative gaming. No one needs to worry unduly, but no one wants to let the team down either.
These four collaborative tasks have different goals — charity, teaching, profit, and entertainment — but each one is an excellent accompaniment to a general push towards team training. Why not pick one and give it a try?
Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert for Ecommerce Tips. He knows how important strong teamwork is to company efficiency. Visit the blog, and check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.
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