Facts, Firms, Feedback: Team building

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    > FACTS

    By Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.

    Do firms have a team environment?

    A team environment is important to employees of civil engineering firms, according to the Engineering Business Institute (EBI).When civil engineering firm employees were asked how important a team environment is in their workplace, it received a median rank of 6 (standard deviation of 0.70) on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 being very unimportant and 6 being very important.

    Knowing that this atmosphere is important, it is good to know that, according to EBI data, employees in the civil engineering industry are generally satisfied with the quality of their firm’s team environment, as shown in the table below. Additionally research indicates that they feel positive relationships exist among employees at their companies.

    When asked to rank how much they agree with the statement, "I feel positive relationships exist among employees at my company," on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 being strongly disagree and 6 being strongly agree, the median rank was 5 with a standard deviation of 0.928. Of course, there is certainly room for improvement!

    > FIRMS

    By Jennifer Goupil, P.E.

    The KPA group encourages camaraderie

    The KPA Group—a 25-person, engineering, architecture, planning and management firm headquartered in Oakland, Calif.—provides many opportunities for its staff to interact with one another and build strong personal connections to each other. In addition to its philanthropic endeavors such as sponsoring and participating in fundraising golf tournaments and Habitat for Humanity projects, the firm’s external social events include company trips to Lake Tahoe and luncheons at nearby restaurants. Internally, The KPA Group provides a plethora of social outlets including Monday morning pastries, Friday wine and pizza, a company picnic, a Christmas party, and most importantly—a pool table in the office recreation room. It is all about "fostering creativity, growth, and challenging engineers to excel," says Marketing Manager Carolynn Smith. The firm placed eighth in the 2004 Best Structural Engineering Firm To Work For Contest.

    Team building activities offered at other firms include the following:

    • Corporate-sponsored sports teams
    • Participation in athletic events (such as road races)
    • Happy hours
    • Corporate retreat
    • Attendance at professional sports events
    • Break-room celebrations (such as birthday or retirement)

    > FEEDBACK

    By Saman Chaudry

    The importance of team building Strong, effective working teams can greatly impact and increase staff productivity, employee morale, and overall staff retention rates. Bonds amongst team members and team leaders can be strengthened through the development of their relationships with one another. The deeper the connections, the higher the level of commitment, loyalty, and accountability team members experience with each other. The thing to remember is that there is a strong emotional component that gets team members working with and for each other smoothly. Here are some teambuilding tips that can get your group running more cohesively.

    It goes both ways—Keep in mind that relationships develop both up and down "the food chain." It’s important for team members to develop sound relationships with each other, but it’s equally important for them to develop relationships with their leaders and vice versa.

    It happens at work—Give your staff more opportunities to work with and get to know each other. Simple steps like having lunch together once a week or even changing the seating configuration can go a long way in giving people more of a chance to interact with each other.The setup of project-based teams can also give staff a chance working with one another.

    It’s not all about work—Spending time together outside the office can be a great way to further develop relationships. Events outside the office are also a great way to reward staff for their achievements or a job well done! Consider planning an interactive off-site event for your team at the local amusement park, golf course, or bowling alley.

    Saman Chaudry is a principal with ZweigWhite in San Francisco. She can be contacted at info@zweiggroup.com.