The Power of Shared Experiences in the Workplace

shared experiences such as community service as a team is a great way for colleagues to engage and enjoy each other

Community service is a great way to get your team out of the office and bond over a project that makes everyone feel better. (Photo via Rocco Rossi, Flickr)

Shared experiences among co-workers are instrumental when it comes to building strong and effective teams.  Don’t forget to include remote workers when communicating, collaborating and creating shared experiences – they are an important part of your team too!

In an article on shared experiential learning on HR Dive, author Tess Taylor explains the basics:

Employees benefit from having a common experience during the learning process. This social interaction helps individuals digest new concepts and gives them an opportunity to learn from each other.

When employees have shared learning experiences, this can create a common experience that generates conversation and learning even after the event has passed.

Shared experiences give people a chance to learn about each others norms, emotional cues and working habits.  Apparently experiences that combine the right balance of meaning and stress seem to be the most effective.  For example “light meaning” and “light stress” events like a happy hour can produce small increases in bonding while others with “high stress” and “high meaning” like boot camp can quickly achieve exponential affects in bonding.

Activities like team dinners, intense workout classes, improv classes and volunteer events can help team members learn about each other’s personalities and break down some of the awkwardness of working together. An engaged team is a strong team. They understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can problem solve more effectively.

On the flip side, shared experiences that are high stress with little meaning like hazing are negative, not appropriate and should be avoided.

Stages of Team Formation

Many articles on shared experiences refer to the research of Bruce Tuckman, a psychologist whose 1965 article, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups,” identified distinct phases of team development.

Forming – most members positive and polite (possibly anxious and excited as well) as they get to know each other.  Leadership plays dominant and must help define roles.

Storming – team members can start to push against boundaries and this is the time that teams often fail because there can be conflicts regarding differing work styles.  Leadership’s authority might be challenged.

Norming – differences begin to be resolved as team members get to know each other and maybe be socializing together and asking one another for help and feedback.  Expect some overlap with storming phases if new tasks are assigned.

Performing – hard work combined with minimal friction often leads to achievement of team goals.  Ideally leaders can now delegate work and focus on developing team members.

(Later, in 1977 Tuckman added “adjourning” to describe the phase when teams disband.)

A MindTools article describes how adjusting your strategy depending on these phases can help you more quickly get teams to the performing stage.

Let’s Talk More About Remote Workers

Technology has obviously changed the shape of workplaces and how employees interface with on another.  Remote workers can be based nearby or across the globe.  It’s crucial not to overlook them when designing shared experiences, even it is a “virtual” shared experience.

Some strategies suggested by experts in a Forbes article about keeping remote workers engaged include:

  • Reaching out to individual team members regularly to solicit opinions on decisions
  • Making an effort to chat about non-work related things
  • Assigning collaborative tasks that encourage team members to work together so they stay connected
  • Considering budgeting for an occasional trip so team members can get together in person and have those shared experiences that build trust and rapport
  • Using video conferencing to create a forum for sharing updates about employees’ business and personal successes
  • Considering starting meetings with each employee sharing two good things – one business related and one personal.  This can help everyone learn about each other and increase bonding
  • Asking open-ended questions so you engage with all employees and understand their state of mind and state of work

Keep it Light

In Augusto Giacoman’s article for Strategy-Business.com, he explores the importance of creating shared experiences in the workplace.  He cites a 2016 Yale study which suggests that experiences are amplified and more meaningful if they are shared.  He underscores the importance of figuring out which type of activity will work best for your team and then referring back to it to remind team members of it once its occurred.

…a manager is usually better positioned to know what kind of event will resonate with her team members and can create a variety of formal and informal shared experiences.

Managers should realize that it’s not enough simply to offer or host an event. Once the shared experience has occurred, they should tell meaningful narratives about the experience. This can be done for any activity, even social and hobby activities.

Giacomo recommend that management remind team members about the event by sharing stories from it which may lead to interesting conversations. Or by writing about the event in a newsletter or sharing photos on social media.  He said:

Recalling the event will spark greater bonding among team members, which will lead to increased emotional intelligence and improved performance.

Resource: Creating Shared Experiences in the Workplace

Consider creating a shared experience for your employees based on some of the fun and inspiring ideas in gThankYou’s popular and free, “2018 Day-to-Day Employee Celebration Calendar”.

Download your Calendar Resource today and plan a seriously fun team experience!

Download gThankYou's 2018 Employee Appreciation Calendar Now! Free from gThankYou.

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