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Team Building Trends for 2018

Published Date: November 18, 2018

Team Building Trends for 2018

Our Team Building Trends for 2019 are now Live

10 Team Building Trends for 2018

Download: 10 Team Building Trends for 2018 (PDF Version)

Almost every year since 2013, we’ve released our annual forecast of team building trends based on what we are seeing in the marketplace.

This year, we’re pleased to release our trend forecast on our main website instead of our blog. We hope that this will make it easier for you to find tools and strategies to ensure that team building and executive retreats are effective in 2018 and for years to come.

As in previous years, not all trends are positive. Accordingly, we have divided the 2018 list into Best Practices and Pitfalls to Avoid.

Best Practices

  1. Team Building that Generates Revenue
  2. Team Building That Transforms Corporate Culture
  3. Masterminds for Executives and Entrepreneurs
  4. Smaller Groups
  5. Gamification
  6. Virtual Reality for Team Building Pitfalls to Avoid (Including Cringe worthy Moments)
  7. Short Team Building, Less team building and fewer off-sites
  8. More Foolishness and Folly #baaadteambuilding
  9. Danger Up Ahead
  10. Sex Scandals

Best Practices

Team Building Trends2018 4

1. Team Building that Generates Revenue

Team building can be a revenue centre.

Often, team building and executive retreats are perceived as cost centres. This approach is short-sighted. As companies face the challenges of thriving in the midst of uncertainty and finding new sources of revenue, team building can generate bottom line results.

There are 2 approaoches to making this happen:

  • Integrating revenue generating projects into team building that give teams the opportunity to design and create:
    • guerilla marketing events
    • viral videos (Toronto)
    • flash sales
    • pop-up events
  • Designing team building to address specific business challenges and generate solutions:
    • re-engineering time consuming processes
    • identifying new target markets to replace segments that are declining
    • identifying new uses for existing products or services (think 3M)
    • uncovering hidden business opportunities

Either of these approaches will produce results that can be measured. We have done this for a number of our clients and one of them has given us permission to share video footage from their executive retreat.

Revenue can be generated for the company, a charitable cause (CSR), or both. In this example, revenue was generated for the company and there was a CSR component.

Visexecutaries: The Boardroom

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….a strong, differentiated company culture contributes to a strong, differentiated brand…

Harvard Business Review

2. Team Building That Transforms Corporate Culture

Ensuring Alignment Between Branding Corporate & Culture

Some companies are recognizing the importance of a vibrant corporate culture to foster innovation and as part of their branding.

Harvard Business Review’s Why Your Company Culture Should Match Your Brand highlighted the importance of an alignment between corporate culture and branding.

As a result, some corporate culture transformation initiatives are now spearheaded by the CMO rather than HR. More and more, team building facilitators will be working in tandem with Marketing to:

  • ensure that the entire marketing team is pulling in the same direction
  • break down silos and strengthen cross-functional teamwork between marketing, sales, and other key departments
  • design and facilitate OD initiatives to accelerate the culture transformation process
  • brainstorm and design strategies to improve branding and foster a vibrant corporate culture to support it

Companies that invest in long term team building or OD consulting facilitated by team building facilitators will likelihood that these initiatives will be successful.

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3. Masterminds for Executives and Entrepreneurs

“This form of cooperative alliance has been the basis of nearly every great fortune.”

Mastermind: “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.”

Think and Grow Rich

Team building isn’t just for corporate teams that work together day by day. The same tools that assist corporate teams in improving their effectiveness can also add tremendous value for entrepreneurs and groups of executives from different companies who meet together in mastermind groups.

Professional facilitators can help the groups gel and remain targeted and focused.

Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich was the first to highlight the power of mastermind alliances that meet on a regular basis to provide support to members.

The brainstorming tools and processes that create effective corporate team building can also contribute to the effectiveness of mastermind groups for executives and entrepreneurs.

Today, in a growing trend, groups like Vistage, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and Tec Canada (the Canadian wing of Vistage) apply the mastermind alliance principle.

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Team Building Trends2018 1

4. Smaller Groups

Shrinking teams…..an opportunity

Working with smaller teams makes it possible to see the mastermind principle in action and use it to address departmental issues. It is easier for introverts to open up when the group is small. When groups are small, team members tend to relax, open up and go deeper during team building. As a result, it is important to allocate more time for the individual sessions.

Some organizations that used to host team building initiatives at the director and VP levels are now dividing up the budget and distributing it to departmental managers.

One thing to keep in mind is that, when groups are smaller, the per person fee for faclitation and meeting venue rental will be significantly higher. For this reason, some teams end up using recreational activities as a substitute for team building. This does not address or resolve the team’s challenges.

One way to make team building facilitation available to small groups is to enter into an agreement with a team building consulting firm and sponsor these initiatives at the VP level. Economies of scale can be realized to keep team building facilitation affordable even for small teams.

The kick-off meeting, activity portion of the team building or OD initiative, or the celebratory social after objectives have been achieved can still involve the larger group.

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Team Building Trends2018 3

5. Gamification

Games add the fun factor to team building.

Games have many benefits for learning and team building. Not only can they be used as energizers, they can also help convey content that is complex and deliver it in a user-friendly manner that is easy to master.

Games can take many formats: card games, board games, game shows, and computer games. With the right graphics, they can be customized to fit just about any theme.

To deal with the challenge of covering content in compressed timeframes, some companies have used gaming to create team building simulations that work with large groups.

It is a theme that is sure to continue in 2018. Look for giant board games and more simulations delivered through video and digital games.

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6. Virtual Reality for Team Building

The next frontier….

Last year, we highlighted virtual reality (VR) as a top team building trend. While team progress has been slower than anticipated, venues and services that provide VR are gradually coming on board.

The main area for development is interactive simulations in VR. As more of these programmes come on stream, we will definitely see more team building with VR.

Once Linden Labs’ Sansar comes on-stream, there should be significant improvements in programming.

One ground-breaking development this year was at the 2017 YPO EDGE in Vancouver. Mobileye teamed up with YPO and broke the Guiness Book of World Records by demonstrating that 1,867 attendees could participate simultaneously in a shared VR experience.

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Pitfalls to Avoid (Including Cringe worthy Moments)

7. Shorter Team Building, Less team building and fewer off-sites.

When budgets are tight, the tendency is to become penny wise and pound foolish.

We’ve addressed the pitfalls of short team building so many times, we’re starting to bore ourselves. In fact, we’ve addressed the pitfalls of short team building in about a dozen blog posts since 2011. While this is not the best approach to team building, this trend and shrinking budgets are likely to continue. We’ve made some suggestions for getting the most of short team building sessions in:

The main take-away is that these sessions need to focus on ONE specific issue or opportunity that the team is facing. It is essential to provide some information ahead of time and give participants an opportunity to think, reflect, and come prepared with ideas and input.

Consider a series of short, on-site, sessions for best results. This will at least give the introverts on your team the opporutnity they need for thinking time.

When time frames are short, many companies are shelving team building or replacing it with activities that are strictly recreational. Off-sites have been disappearing for some time now. Today what gets called team building is either a corporate play day or a boring meeting followed by a recreational activity.

Unfortunately, while this short-sighted strategy may provide temporary relief from budgetary pressures, the core issues that team building could help organizations resolve are never resolved.

Rather than scrapping team building, all or part of a session can be held on-site. The concern with on-site team building is that there will be too many interruptions. Some alternatives are to use a branch office at the same company, swap meeting spaces with a supplier or client, and using a hybrid format.

Alternatives: Hybrid Formats and Creative Venues

Hybrid formats integrate on-site and off-site team building and sometimes integrate virtual presentations. To stretch budgets, groups can hold the activity portion of team building off-site. Consider summer camps during off-season, college or university campuses, acting studios, art galleries, community centres, churches (mid-week), and movie theatres.

For multi-national corporations, the format can work like this:

  • Virtual session to kick off team building. This is an ideal format for CEO or executive briefings that set the context.
  • Facilitated on-site sessions with facilitators at each location.
  • Off-site team activities that fit the theme.
  • Facilitated on-site sessions with facilitators at each location.
  • Debriefing
    • Debriefing preparation
    • Mini-debriefs at each location
    • Full debriefing and take-aways – virtual format
  • Business application exercises at each location.
  • Follow-up

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Team Building Trends2018 4

8. More Foolishness and Folly #baaadteambuilding

From rage rooms to axe throwing the folly continues? What’s next? Pie throwing?

Last year, we devoted a full section to foolishness and folly. Some of the trends we predicted are in full force. In fact, rage rooms even made it onto Shark Tank.

There is nothing much to add to what we have already shared.

We were among the first to sound the alarm about this issue. We are pleased that it is now being addressed by the media. In fact, our President has been quoted a number of times in articles.

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9. Danger Up Ahead

Extreme activities that pose a risk of injury have no place on the corporate agenda.

What’s coming next?’ ‘Poison darts? Machetes to the face? Acid in the eyes? Disembowelment?’

A.J. Jacobs

In team building trends for 2017, we addressed this emerging trend: danger on the corporate agenda. We cautioned organizations against the use of these activities, which are now being marketed as team building, during company time.

The headlines speak for themselves:

Gym enthusiast mother-of-two, 35, needed £27000 worth of surgery.

How a trendy endurance race left me needing £5000 of surgery….

Injuries at Florida obstacle course not covered by insurance

….Maimed and left in agony: Military-style obstacle courses are the new craze among competitive women – but many weekend warriors live to regret it… The Daily Mail

So does this documentary.

There is really nothing to add to the concerns we have already expressed.

Our position is unchanged. What grown adults elect to do on their own time after weigh the risks is their business.

Extreme activities have no place on the corporate agenda. Employees to go work to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families. There is no reason for them to be coerced into putting their lives at risk or face being ostracized for not being a “team player.”

This trend is growing and it will take some hefty lawsuits from those who are injured to put a stop to it.

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10. Sex Scandals

It is essential for organizaations to set clear guidelines for appropriate behaviour during retreats.

“….during a BetterWorks two-day off-site retreat at a camp….Duggan allegedly assaulted Kim. He’ s said to have consumed alcohol aggressively, danced inappropriately with female co-workers and draped his arm over a female employee inappropriately. ”


Stories about sexual misconduct in Hollywood have been dominating the headlines in recent months. There have been some scandals from the corporate world. More and more, incidents that have taken place during off-sites and other corporate retreats are coming to the fore.

Sexual harassment is finally starting to topple Silicon Valley’s powerful male elite

Tech’s Alcohol-Soaked Culture Isn’t a Party for Everybody (WIRED)

Uber will try to change its ‘bro culture’ by cutting down on alcohol at work

UCD investigation into wild retreat results in stricter policies

Sex on the company dime (MacLean’s)

This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley My lawsuit failed. Others won’t.

Cocktail for disaster: Alcohol and business don’t mix (NY Daily News)

Sexual nepotism creates a poison work environment in which sexual harassment thrives. Yet, not since “Mary Cunningham”, has this dirty little secret of corporate life been explored by the media in any depth. Women who don’t play the game are passed over for promotions and other opportunities, even when they are well qualified.

Sexual nepotism needs to be addressed as it causes personal suffering and seriously erodes team, organizational effectiveness, and ultimately, the company brand. Incidents from Hollywood are now hitting the headlines. Look for sex scandals involving sexual nepotism in the new year as women who have been bypassed, finally speak out.

We have been sounding the alarm for some time about the importance of keeping alcohol under control and a leash on the libido at corporate events.

Few team building consulting firms have addressed these issues. Look for more allegations of sexual misconduct in the new year.

It’s time to re-visit protocols and policies re: appropriate behaviour at company functions. A clear message needs to be conveyed about what is expected and the steps that employees can take to ensure that their rights are protected.

Here is how one organization approached this in an email and communique that was distributed to all employees and members.

Sexual harrassment policy and workplan

Failing to do so can result in lawsuits, negative publicity, and irreparable damage to a company’s brand.

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Hot off the Press!

Our new e-book is now ready for purchase.

Team Building and R.O.I. for Executives (PDF)

Team Building, Innovation, and R.O.I.: An Executive’s Guide to Boosting the Bottom Line is a call for a return to sanity in team building.

For a fraction of the cost of a consulting session, this 55 page e-book is designed to stimulate discussion and an exploration of how team building can, once again, be used by executives to produce bottom line results. You’ll walk away with tips, tools and proven strategies to improve the effectiveness of team building and executive retreats.

Download a Preview (PDF)

Purchase the E-book (PDF)

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Anne Thornley-Brown, M.B.A. @executiveoasis is the President of Executive Oasis International.

Executive Oasis International

Survive, Thrive, & Grow
Even in the Midst of Turbulence

Executive Oasis International, a Toronto team building and management consulting firm, designs and facilitates virtual team building, executive retreats, team building retreats, and business team building simulations for organizations facing rapid change.

Services are available globally including Canada (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa), USA, Dubai, Oman, Caribbean (Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla), Europe (Germany, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Italy), Japan, Singapore, Malaysia.

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