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Remember the days when directors, managers and staff embarked on team building exercises? No one was spared. The meek, the mild and the starkly terrified were forced to abseil down vertiginous climbing walls or emerge bruised and battered from paint-balling games. It’s little wonder such events are dreaded by many. So are new style corporate social responsibility (CSR) days taking over where team-building terror left off?
Businesses are finding that there is added value to be gained by locking up shop every now and again to focus on giving something back to the community. Whether it’s a chosen charity or a local project, there’s an impressive array of tools to help your employees retain a feel-good factor for the rest of the year, while at the same time helping a team bond to improve working relationships.
Companies who’ve already made the switch to community action-type CSR days include BT, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Mazars, Unilever, Visa, Yahoo, Knight Frank and the National Lottery Commission.
Organising a community action day is not as complicated as it seems. As an example of how it can be achieved, Linda Broomfield, Tax Manager at the Mazars Poole office, explains the thinking behind her company’s first CSR day in March this year and how it worked in practice.
Having elected Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) as their chosen charity, the Mazars office in Poole spent their CSR day helping to clear an area of Upton Heath of gorse, pine and birch which has to be controlled regularly to stop it taking over the natural vegetation. Last year, part of the heath had undergone a fierce blaze requiring more than 185 firefighters, 30 fire engines and a police helicopter to douse a 30ft wall of flames. The arrangement involved Mazars paying for corporate membership to the charity, which covered the cost of the all-important team-building day.
“Three rangers directed our work and we broke up into small groups of threes and fours with partners and staff all mixed up. Out of a staff of 48 in the Poole office, 32 turned out. Some couldn’t make it because they were booked with clients, but we were all impressed by how much our working teams managed to clear in the one day. It felt like a real achievement. And we all felt much better for doing something for our community. Rather than just spending the day focusing on personal development, we did something worthwhile as well.”
Dorset Wildlife Trust rangers turned the event into a memorable experience by providing bonfire-cooked jacket potatoes at lunchtime and a guided flora and fauna tour of the Heath along with the area which had been destroyed by fire at the end of the day. “What’s so good about this type of team-building day is everyone does what they can. No one’s under pressure to carry out a task they don’t feel personally equipped to do. So some did the chopping down while others did the clearing away.”
An important point for companies to remember is to ensure all staff are given the choice to participate. This often involves some administrative effort, particularly when dealing with part-time staff. In the case of Mazars, Friday was chosen as one day in the week when most staff could accommodate a day out of the office into their schedules and part-time staff were allowed to swap their days to fit it in. “So if their normal work day was a Tuesday, they could swap that for the Friday CSR day,” explains Broomfield.
Nor should such team outings put a stop to more focused work meetings. Mazars, for example, continues to undergo its more company-focused team meetings, which take place three times a year. But this year’s was the first community action team-building day and, in one form or another, it will be repeated next year. “We haven’t decided among us what we’ll do. Maybe we’ll set about clearing beaches, or doing something for one of the local hospices. We’re all keen and looking forward to it,” confirms Broomfield.
The new-found appetite for company team-building through community action breathes energy and commitment into working relationships in the office, and guarantees participants an enduring feel-good factor. What could be better than being paid by your company for the day out of the office getting to know colleagues while doing something constructive for the wider community?
Nothing like it, according to just under 3,000 company volunteers who took part in last year’s Give & Gain Day in London established by Business in the Community (BITC). Swapping their corporate skills and professional know-how for the chance to get their hands dirty in their local neck of the woods painting and repairing community buildings, playing sports with school kids or helping senior citizens beautify their gardens.
Managing Director Simon Lucas says highlights of what’s going on in London include the BITC-SportInspired Community Games where 100 business volunteers and 200 school children take part in a multi-sport festival. Chelsea Football Club is putting on a football tournament that will see vulnerable citizens team up with business volunteers supporting the importance of teamwork and communication. There’s art sculpture and gardening in Newham, more digging over in Westminster and painting happening in Hillingdon to list just a few Give & Gain events.
And this year participation is open to non-London based companies. And it’s not too late for your company to take part. This year’s works’ day out takes place on 18 May and interested companies can check out participation at http://www.bitc.org.uk