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The development of an algorithm in order to assign team building activities according to the needs of teams

The individual needs of teams

Team building is in demand for very different reasons. Either because of problems in cooperation, a lack of team spirit or because a common group activity should offer a change to the daily work routine. When booking a team building activity, the individual needs and expectations of a team play a decisive role.

At the same time, there is a wide range of different team building activities that address different skills and competencies of a team. Communication and cooperation play an important role in the mastering of an escape room, while virtual yoga focuses on relaxation and reward. But how to choose the right team building activity that addresses the needs of the team?

Because of the diversity of team needs and the wide range of team building options available, the most important thing to consider when planning an activity is to know the individual needs of the team and select a suitable event accordingly (see Kaevney, 2016 & Lacerenza et al., 2018). In order to facilitate the planning and especially the selection of the appropriate team building activity, each individual event on www.grewp.de is awarded with five needs, which are most strongly addressed within the activity (see Figure 1). Customers should thus be able to compare which needs are particularly addressed by the event and which are more likely to be addressed by other events when searching for an activity.

Grewp Needs Skala for beer tasting
Figure 1. Liste needs and their respective fit, indicated via stars from 0 to 5, for the activity “virtual beer tasting”.

Up to now, this assignment was based on an experience-based subjective assessment. Which means the events were intuitively marked and evaluated with regards to the needs. The goal: to develop a uniform system for the automated evaluation and need-assignment of team building activities.

From subjective assessment to an algorithm
For the development of this algorithm, we defined the needs and how events can be automatically linked to them. In the first step we created a pool of possible needs, fed by experience-based knowledge and theoretical research in the field of team building. After reducing and summarizing repeatedly, we defined 12 different team building needs, including e.g., improving communication, integrating new employees or having fun. We have categorized these 12 different team building needs into three areas. These relate to the different phases in which a team may have a need for teambuilding:

Plant – the initial foundation phase. The team must come together and create basic conditions for further cooperation.

Grow – the growth phase. The team exists, but wants to improve in order to work together even better.

Earn – The team functions and has earned a reward.

Each team can slip into any of these phases regardless of the time of its existence and is dominated by corresponding needs.

In the second step we have defined characteristics that are applicable to team building events. The selected 18 characteristics, including, for example, creativity required and fun, can be specified as applicable or inapplicable to each individual activity. This results in an individual profile of characteristics for each event.

A matrix was created to link needs and event characteristics. The resulting value in each cell indicates the type of relationship between a corresponding need and a characteristic. For instance, consider the need improve communication and the characteristic communication-intensive. Here it becomes clear that a team building event should be communication-intensive to stimulate and strengthen the communication of the team.

The opposite relationship is for example the one between the need integrate new employees and the characteristic creativity required: integrating new colleagues into a team does not necessarily require a team building event that requires creativity. With four different specifications, the different relationships between the 12 Needs and the 18 characteristics were assessed in a multi-stage process. The resulting 216 values form the basis for the system.

The result is the needs scale of GREWP. Those needs that are most strongly addressed by an event are determined and prioritized according to their “fit”. The scale is displayed for each team building activity in the event’s profile.

Create added value through automation
The automated assignment of team building needs to corresponding team building events was successfully accomplished by developing this systematic approach. It required a definition of different needs and different event characteristics in advance, as well as a realistic connection of these two variables. The final result is an algorithm that can be fed with the description of an event and outputs the needs that the event serves. Thus, a tool has been created with which team building needs can be assigned to events in a consistent and systematic way. Until now, this process was based on largely subjective and inconsistent assessments.

Through this automation and the continuous development and optimization of the algorithm, the linking of events and needs can be mapped more and more precisely and the selection of the appropriate team building measure can be facilitated considerably. As a result of this innovation, team building can be used much more strategically by companies. GREWP aims with this tool to make long-term positive developments in teams predictable and controllable.

Keavney, A. (2016). Team building strategies. Training & Development, 43(2), 26. Available at: http://elemental-projects.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Team-Building-Strategies.pdf

Lacerenza, C. N., Marlow, S. L., Tannenbaum, S. I., & Salas, E. (2018). Team development interventions: Evidence-based approaches for improving teamwork. American Psychologist, 73(4), 517. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000295
Rasmus Sinn | Working Student Business Psychology at GREWP