According to our 2017 Employee Engagement Report, only 24% of workers feel connected to their peers — which means that more than three out of every four employees at the average organization feel at least a bit isolated.
Strong companies are fueled by teams that have enviable levels of camaraderie.
These strong bonds aren't forged overnight. Instead, they stem from ongoing personal and professional interactions experienced by each member of these teams over several months and even years.
While in many cases professional interactions are largely unavoidable — today's employees collaborate often and sit in on meetings together — personal interactions don't always occur as organically.
In such situations, not only can it be difficult for veteran employees to get to know their colleagues who work in other departments, it can be quite hard for new hires to transition into a company smoothly.
This is a big deal. As our previous research points out, coworkers are the number one thing employees like about their jobs. When companies don't support team-building initiatives — or at least when they don't prioritize them — both veteran and rookie employees alike are less likely to have friends at work.
Not only does that make it harder to build a strong team, it also adversely affects employee engagement, employee happiness, and productivity.
Since that’s the case, all business owners who wish their companies to be successful should take steps to ensure their employees get to know the people they work with — which increases the chances they are happy and are invested in the company.
The Case for Icebreaker Games
One of the easiest ways organizations can ensure their employees get to know each other is by making liberal use of office icebreaker games, which are short and simple activities created to help folks get to know one another on a personal level.
Funny icebreakers can be used to help new employees feel comfortable around their new coworkers. They can also be played to help veteran employees get to know their colleagues they may rarely or never interact with.
Beyond that, icebreaker games provide companies with a number of benefits:
- They're fun to play, making them a welcomed break from regular work activities.
- They break down barriers that might exist between employees.
- They can help kickstart major meetings or long training sessions.
- They make it easier for employees to communicate with one another.
- They encourage interactions that wouldn't usually take place in the context of a normal workday.
Whether you're looking for ice breakers for meetings or for onboarding new hires, we've got you covered.
Of course, these games can sometimes be awkward. But that's half the fun. Here are six fun icebreakers that your staff — from managers to employees — will enjoy.
01. Two truths and one lie
A bunch of new hires starting today?
If so, arrange a team lunch or take a break in the afternoon so that your existing staff can get to know the newbie.
Here’s any easy way to do that: once gathered, have everyone come up with two things that are true about themselves and another thing that's false. Then have each person present what they came up with.
Everyone tries to guess the right answer, which leads to stories about past life experiences and facilitates engaging and enjoyable conversation.
02. Find 10 things in common
Let’s say you run a large company where departments rarely interact.
To encourage employees to get to know one another better, host a company-wide lunch. After everyone eats, break them off into separate groups, making sure to include employees from all departments in each of them.
Task the groups with finding 10 things that all of them share in common (besides the obvious, e.g., that they are human). You might find out that a bizarre number of employees have all been to Keokuk, Iowa even though your office is based on the West Coast.
Split up your employees into groups (or pairs if you have a small company).
Have each person write down something interesting they've done on a note card (e.g. skydiving, have lived in ten different states, drank a gallon of milk in five minutes — the sillier the better).
Put the note cards into a hat, give it a nice shake, and have each person drawn a note card they will then read aloud.
The reader must then try to guess "who done it" and why they came to that conclusion.
04. The scavenger hunt
If you have a little extra time on your hands, you can always opt for a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt.
Depending on where your office is located, such an event can take place on-premises. Or, if you're feeling more adventurous, you can opt to send your team around the block — or even across town.
Not only are scavenger hunts fun, they will get each group talking with one another and working together to identify problems and come up with solutions.
Give the first team to gather every item a grand prize. A $25 gift card to Amazon or a nearby restaurant will suffice.
05. Human rock-paper-scissors
Even if you’re an artificially intelligent robot, you’ve probably played rock-paper-scissors at least once against a friend or foe.
But you probably haven’t applied the game to a group setting.
Here’s how it works: Break your staff up into however many teams. Let each come up with particular body signals for each move. Have each team face off in a best-of-five series and see who wins the tournament.
A word to the wise: Make sure everyone stretches beforehand, because things could get pretty intense. And beware: Employees may suffer from exhaustion after laughing too hard, so you may want a medic on hand.
06. The one-word icebreaker game
Are you looking for an incredibly easy icebreaker game to kick off a meeting or training session? Look no further than the one-word icebreaker game, which, like it's name suggests, doesn't need much explanation.
Break the meeting or training session participants into small groups of four or five people. Ask them a very simple question — e.g., "What one word would you use to describe our company culture?" — and give each team five or 10 minutes to come up with their answers.
Before finalizing their one word, teams will have rigorous discussions among themselves. Then it's time to ask each team to share their answers with the rest of the group — facilitating even more discussion.
07. The Marshmallow Challenge
Break your team into groups of four. Give each group 20 sticks of spaghetti, 3 feet of tape, 3 feet of string, and one marshmallow. Ask them to build the tallest freestanding structure they can. Sit back and see what happens. The Marshmallow challenge makes the perfect icebreaker and team-building hybrid. Here’s Tom Wujec, a business visualization expert, talking about the team-building virtues of the Marshmallow Challenge.
Remember, though some of your employees may be social butterflies, not all of them are. The easiest way to help your workers get to know each other better is to encourage interaction in a way most people are comfortable with. Because all participants are in it together, icebreakers are one of the quickest paths to a connected team.
There are a ton of work icebreakers out there that we definitely missed. Try one of the above and send a simple pulse survey to see if your meeting attendees enjoy the game and make informed decisions to improve the experience.
"What I love about TINYpulse is that every single week you're checking with your team members. And then we're able to respond and address things quickly instead of waiting until the annual survey."
--Adir Cates, Founder and CEO of Dynamic Events
If you have any other great ideas, please share them either in the comment section below or tweet us at @TINYpulse!
- The Ultimate List of Team Building Activities
- 3 of the Best Team-Building Games to Play at Work
- 8 Clever Team-Building Activities That People Actually Love