Why Team Building Activities are More Important Now Than Ever

Dolena-MatthewsPodcast speakers: Savannah McIntosh (Purplepass Marketing Director) and Dolena Matthews (Senior Event Manager and coordinator at Outback). Jump to the show notes below. 


The EventBuzz podcast: Outback Team Building & Training

presented by Purplepass


Show Notes

Topic markers:

03:13 - Long-term benefits of team building events. Are they worth it?

06:47 - Virtual team building ideas

11:00 - Working with international teams and time zones



Outback Team Building & Training


The benefits of team building activities: 

"Like there's a buzzword, you know, company culture that people say a lot. But it really is true, like company culture is so important in small and large companies, because people want you want your team to want to go to work, like people want to enjoy what they do. And I think a big part of that is feeling like the company or the business that you're working for actually appreciates your hard work and celebrates your hard work and wants everybody to have a sense of community."


"If you're just driving the hammer, getting everybody heads down at work, you're not going to have good retention with your team, you're going to have to continuously retrain people you might have, you know, people just aren't going to enjoy what they do. Like they want to feel cared about. They want to feel like their job matters. Not that they're just like you said earlier, like a number."

Dolena Matthews Quote


Podcast Transcript: Purplepass + Outback Team Building & Training


Savannah (Purplepass):

Welcome back to another episode of The Event buzz podcast presented by Purplepass. On today's episode we will be talking with the Dolena Matthews, one of the Senior Event Managers at Outback. Not Outback Steakhouse but Outback Team Building and Training.

Matthews has been working in the events industry for the last decade in various roles. Her interest in events stemmed from her teenage years as an Army Cadet. And those experiences influenced her to join the military where she has been a reserves officer in the Canadian Armed Forces for eight years, where she has planned and facilitated events from formal galleries, and fundraisers to outdoor expeditions.

Matthew started working with Outback Team Building and Training in 2013, as a full time employee, and over the past several years as a contractor, event manager, and product developer.

Hi, Dolena. We are so excited to have you on the show. How are you doing this morning?


Dolena (Outback): 

I'm good Savannah. Thanks for having me.



I'm so excited to talk with you today. Because usually we talk kind of to production teams, tips about like virtual planning and different things like that. But you're kind of on the back end, you kind of work with a team. So I think it's going to be a cool perspective.

I would like to start out with kind of letting us know just briefly like how your guys's program works and your role.



Yeah, sure. So um, Outback Team Building and Training; So we have a whole slew of programs that we run things from social activities, entertainment activities to team building. And then we also have a training area. So all of our events, we have virtual options. And we have in person of course, previously it was basically all in person, but we've had to adapt over the past year and a half.

I personally been working with Outback since I think it was 2013. So it's been some time. And I've had various roles I guess in the organization's I started as a full time employee, with the company, being an event manager coordinator for sort of the Central East side of Canada when our team was a lot smaller. So running, planning, facilitating all of our in person team building events on the side of the country.

And as we've grown throughout the years. Now, I'm a contractor. So I'm an event manager, and event coordinators, I also run the activities, and then I also assist with product development and copywriting.

So I had been in and out of the company for all these years. And yeah, so now I've got sort of a couple different hats that I'm operating in the company.



Yeah, I was gonna say you're doing a lot. A lot of different roles.



That's right. That's right.



Yeah. Awesome. Yeah, it sounds pretty cool. When I was looking into everything you guys, do you do a lot of different, like, really unique activities, which I think is great for teams. I wanted to ask, if you have like, notice, like, what do you think are the biggest benefits you see from businesses hosting these types of team building events? Because I know people are like, you know, is it? Do we need to do is necessary? Like do you see, like long term benefits from it?



Yeah, that's a really good question. And I think that is a really common question, especially when companies are paying for these services like worth it? And I would say, well, obviously, maybe I'm a bit biased. But absolutely, I would say it's worth it. And it really does help the team.

Like there's a buzzword, you know, company culture that people say a lot. But it really is true, like company culture is so important in small and large companies, because people want you want your team to want to go to work, like people want to enjoy what they do. And I think a big part of that is feeling like the company or the business that you're working for actually appreciates your hard work and celebrates your hard work and wants everybody to have a sense of community.

So when you go to work, it's you know, it's a it's another great day at the office, working with colleagues that you enjoy being in an environment that's fun and cares about you. So from a team building aspect, yeah, I mean, it's pretty important because having a chance or an opportunity for team members to work together in a not-work related setting, that's something you know, fun, has maybe some fun problem solving skills, an opportunity to get to know each other. All that really does is it really, you know, breaks down silos, it gets everybody to get a better understanding of where people come from who they are a little more about each other's personalities, which it just only improves communication throughout the business throughout the companies throughout the teams.

It instills that collaboration with of course, from work perspective is really important because how often is one person working alone on one project or in one role, it's it's very uncommon. So having that teamwork and being able to talk to somebody that you have a little bit more of an understanding, you know about them is, is just really benefiting the whole workflow of the team, which makes, you know, more production, better production, more efficiencies. So it's a win win win all around.



Yeah, and I was thinking about this too, because you guys have kind of shifted from in person to more virtual with COVID and stuff. We've done some team building stuff and it's actually really nice, because you're messaging this person online. And you don't really even know who you're talking.



Oh so true. Yeah.



You know what I mean. Because you're talking to this person, you know them, but you don't. And then you meet them. You're like, Oh, hey.



That's true. And so many people have been hired in new roles over the past. What is it, I guess, year and a half. Now, I can't believe how long it's been since everyone has been remote. But so many people haven't met their boss, or their peers, or their direct reports. They've just seen maybe seen them in the screen, just their face, and just email. So there's like a huge disconnect right now, with people actually knowing who they work with every day. It's crazy. Like who? Who would have thought that we'd be kind of at this point? It's, it's pretty intense.



Yeah, it's definitely weird if you think about it. But yeah, I totally agree. It's kind of like you're investing in your employees, and just showing them that they're not just a number that you actually care that, you know, it's more of a community, and I can see how it would like, make communication so much better.

So I think it's definitely a great idea to do these types of activities with your team. And I wanted to ask them, as we talked about, like virtual, what are, like some different types of virtual experiences, people you've done with remote teams, that kind of work? Because it's hard? It's, it's hard, you know, that's a challenge. 



Oh, yeah, I think the what is it called the screen fatigue, it's real, it's a real thing, especially at the beginning of this pandemic, like nobody wanted to sit in front of their screen anymore to have another work related activity.

But I'm very happy to say from all of the different events that we've offered, virtually one of the biggest pieces of feedback is that, you know, people didn't feel like they were sitting in another meeting, another Zoom meeting, it felt like they are more in a room with their peers, with their colleagues having fun, doing something enjoyable.

So it's interesting when, right before the pandemic, actually, we started offering a lot more remote hosted activities were our coordinator would be up on a screen and everybody would be in person. So that was something that was being offered to be a bit more flexible for our customers. And we were talking about getting some of our activities to be virtual. And then boom, the pandemic happened. And it was like, oh, I guess we got to get on that a little faster.

A lot of our sort of app related activities was pretty, it was pretty quick for us to turn them around to make them completely virtual, which was huge. So we started with, I think about four of our events that we were able to transition. And now we have, I don't know, maybe around eight to 10 ish, maybe including some holiday events and that sort of thing.

But yeah, it's um, it's nice, because we have a variety of options. So for example, you can do anything from an escape room to a clue murder mystery, to some photo, and like media challenge type activities. And then we also have our entertainment activities, which is like trivia based, but it's a really fun entertaining host that sort of takes you through this experience.

Yeah, so we've got quite a wide variety. And I would say like, kudos to all these businesses and companies, because everybody's been getting so creative with virtual options to do fun things with their teams, like there's cooking classes and cocktail classes. And yeah, people just been doing all kinds of interesting things. But I know for us for our, you know, at Outback, we have a really good diverse type of activities that people you know, have been coming back for different ones, which is great.

And everybody's been loving them.



Yeah, you guys do when I was looking - It's so creative, because I think this is a struggle with a lot of our event. Planners when they switched virtually like you said, we don't people are working now remote. And then it's like, now I have to sit another hour to either go to this event or do this thing. And it's like, the big question is how do you make it more engaging? Like how do you make it, You know, hands on when really, hands on? You know, that's the hardest part.

And I think just scrolling through your guys's activities, could even offer great ideas for event planners on what to do. Like you said the escape room That's pretty creative. I wouldn't even I don't how does that work? I'm curious.



Yeah, well, there's there's a whole bunch of different kinds of escape rooms out there online. They've really taken off during the pin stomach. But yeah, but ours, the way ours works is very cool. You're in a virtual rooms will basically send a link out. We broke everyone up into teams, which, you know, utilize the virtual breakout rooms, which have been so, so great. And then you have one person who shares their screen, and they're responsible for clicking around in that virtual rooms. They click on clues, they pick up things, it gets stored into their inventory. And there's a series of safes that they need to unlock based on the clues and and objects they find in the room. So as they enter a safe, you know, they get closer and closer to ours is a jewel heist theme, so they recover the diamonds in the last safe.



Yeah, that's cool. And do you guys ever, I don't know how far you go in, like coordinating when everyone's online, because I know, like remote teams now are like, not just us base like they're all over the world. And dealing with the time difference, I feel like would be tricky to kind of coordinate these things.



Oh, my gosh, Savannah, yes. Time Zones can be very tricky. But I will say like for Outback, our team overall has, because it's grown so much, we're already in so many different time zones. Like we're East Coast, West Coast, we even have a coordinator who's located in Egypt right now. Um, so we have quite so that we've already gotten a bit of a an understanding of how that works.

But with the virtual events, like I think, I think it's fair for me to say that we've had more global teams, international groups now than we ever have. And so if you can imagine setting up like a Zoom meeting, right, you know, putting in the time, and then applying that time into different booking sheets and individual's calendars.

So you have to consider our head office is located in Vancouver, which is Pacific Time, and then the coordinator running, it might be an eastern time in North America somewhere. And then the actual event itself might be taking place in the UK or Singapore. So there's like, you know, it could be up to three to four different time zones. And in that team, maybe they have a global team, or they're in the US or in Canada, they're UK, there, Germany, all these different places. So it's, it can get a little a little tricky, but we do it we make it work.



So I have to ask the question, what would you say to someone that says, you know, these team building activities are waste of time? For the time they spent, they could have been getting their work done? Because I've heard this so many times when they say to someone that says that?

Because time is money, you know?



Yeah, well, to be frank, was, that was like, sounds like something like a senior person would say who has people working under them? And from a leadership perspective, I would say that is definitely not how you're going to have a solid, it's not a good outlook, on how to have a solid working well, well oiled machine team.

If you're just driving the hammer, getting everybody heads down at work, you're not going to have good retention with your team, you're going to have to continuously retrain people you might have, you know, people just aren't going to enjoy what they do. Like they want to feel cared about. They want to feel like their job matters. Not that they're just like you said earlier, like a number.



Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It's our, like, the work culture is definitely changing. And I think with COVID, like, I hate when I say like, you know, it kind of like, helped like, I hate hate when I find a positive out. It was such an awful thing about work definitely shifted to where people see like, okay, we can work remote now and we can kind of do different things.

And it's also made people be so much more creative and stuff, but I do think it's helped businesses like, become more open with, you know, their team and what their team can really do and how valuable their team is. 



And flexibility, I think, Oh, yes, right, because everyone, not just employees, like kids, everybody, family members, everybody's at home. So having a kid screaming in the background, someone having to dip out of a meeting to help their child with homework, or a dog barking, like these are just things that happen in day to day life.

And we've all had to kind of come accustomed to that and be okay with it, because that's just how the world works. And I think this is it's a good thing, you know, in the future. And it's clearly showing the work still gets done, right, like so many businesses have grown like huge growth in a lot of industries through the pandemic, and just telling you that people can make it work, people can take accountability and ownership of their role and their job and get the work done even if they're working from home.



Yeah, and I remember reading something a while back where people it's it's shifted, where people aren't really looking so much at the paycheck and what they're making versus flexibility. Flexibility is becoming a higher priority than, you know, the amount of money.



Yeah, I feel like that makes a lot of sense.



I feel like everyone is finally that we've finally been like, you know, this is great. Like, we can work but we can also be with our family. We can also, you know, have to like do this and stuff.



Yeah, that balanced life work balance. 



Yeah. So that's been nice. But it's been a weird year weird, I guess almost two years, which is wild to say yes. But yeah, well, you guys are doing is really cool. And I kind of just wanted to introduce that to people. So they see that, like, you know, make time for your team. Let them know they're valuable and do activities that can help people bond and communicate better because it's so important.



Yeah, Agreed. Agreed.



Yeah, but um, that's all I have for you. If there's anything else you want to add. You're welcome to but if not...



Well, thank you so much. It's been really fun and I'm always happy to chat about what I'm passionate about. So it was great. Thank you.




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