By Rhys Tyler

Recently there has been much interest surrounding the BBC’s broadcasting of The Call Centre programme and particularly, the way in which specific motivational techniques have been highlighted. With the last episode of The Call Centre being aired last week, we thought that, as a company with an acute sense of intercultural awareness, we have been provided with a platform on which to compare our own style of team-building with others on a national and international level.

Footage from The Call Centre demonstrates what we might describe as a typically British approach to initiating motivational and team-building exercises. As we can see from the programme, such an approach involves frequent use of staff banter, informal language and greetings within the office, and most notably, meetings made up of karaoke singalongs!

This kind of technique used for team-building can also be seen in the current series of The Apprentice. In one of the episodes, the two competing teams were tasked with the challenge of organising a motivational training day for a large company. The most striking aspect of this episode was the fact that both teams decided upon a banter-filled, British approach focusing on getting staff to complete group tasks incorporating an army boot camp style on the one hand, and a back-to-school theme on the other. As is the case with The Call Centre, candidates of The Apprentice attempted to keep proceedings more informal and jovial in an attempt to bring company staff closer together, and ultimately boost morale.

Our approach

Here at Wolfestone, we have organised our own team-building day for the forthcoming period. Unlike the techniques used in The Call Centre and The Apprentice, though, we have opted for an approach that sees us focusing our efforts as volunteers for the day. During this event, we will also be rolling our sleeves up as we take on some nature-related tasks. In essence, then, our own motivational exercise is about contributing to a worthy, local and eco-friendly cause.

Team-building at a global level: the benefits of team-building within a community.

Moving onwards and looking at the bigger, globalised picture, we can see that team-building techniques vary not only according to culture but also according to entire continents.

A case in point is South America, and especially, the topical country of Brazil, which has, of course, just played host to the FIFA confederations cup and will also be home to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. In the country of samba, effective team-building is not just something companies strive towards but it is also a way of life. Take, for instance, the example of a conjunto habitacional in which houses are built to form and cater for an entire community.

More to the point, this type of community is founded upon solidarity and union – two key features of any effective team-building or motivational strategy – since members are equally divided into workers (i.e. people in jobs and people who maintain the conjunto)and non-workers (i.e. people who do not work and consciously decide to stay at home and look after the children). In short, then, in this instance, team-building is created upon mutual understanding and espect.

More generally, Brazil is known for being a musical country, and in this respect, team-building and community-building have been facilitated by quasi-processional get-togethers with the help of drums playing the Batucada, a substyle of samba referring to an African influenced Brazilian percussive style). Here, then, team-building and motivation are spurred on by the fact that every member of a Bateria (an ensemble band performing the Batucada) has a drum to hand and thus feels equal.

The Brazilian football team once again showed wonderful team spirit to conquer Spain in the recent FIFA Confederations Cup final.

The differing approaches in Asia

In China, a recent team-building exercise has been a nationwide source of controversy, with a reported two and a half million views on Youku, the Chinese equivalent of YouTube. To quote one observer, ‘the girls act like they’re in a paramilitary group’. It is worth noting that, in China, it is common practice for employers to organise rallies designed to raise spirits at the beginning of the day. However, this particular event caused a stir since employees appeared to be participating in strange sacrificial exercises. Perhaps the moral of this approach to team-building is an underlying sense of self-sacrifice.

Conversely, in Japan, where, incidentally, there is no word for team-building, such activities are carried out daily. These activities include a chorei (morning greetings and meetings to share the latest news), lunch spent together, and meet-ups drinks at the end of the working day.

Outdoors in South Africa

Team-building differs again in South Africa. Given its favourable and generally warm climate, companies often decide to organise outdoor motivational events since it allows for a certain degree of escapism from the office-based environment associated with the corporate life as well as affording employees the opportunity to let go and express their personality. Of course, such days would not be possible as regularly in the UK with its wet climate!

Top 3 Teambuilding Tips

Taking on board all of these different national and international approaches, what can we say to sum up? Perhaps there are a couple of general pointers that can be put forward when it comes to organising team-building and motivational events:

1) Do not choose an activity that is going to either violate someone’s personal space or discriminate against them in any way.

2) Try and come up with an activity in which all members of staff can be involved.

3) Make sure that the activity is related in some way to the tasks carried out by the employee in the workplace.

Overall, it is clear that in an increasingly globalised world, both companies and individuals need to keep developing their sense of intercultural awareness. One of the ways of doing this is indeed through the organisation of team-building or motivational exercises and events especially since larger companies are increasingly opting to employ multicultural, multinational teams of staff. With this said, provided that the three aforementioned criteria are adhered to, team-building activities can make a significant contribution not only to the welfare of companies but also to the welfare of communities and citizens.

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