Employers are always looking for ways to increase employee engagement in the workplace—and with good reason. According to Gallup, just 1 in 3 employees in the U.S. describe themselves as “engaged” in their jobs. More than half say they are “not engaged,” and an alarming 16.5% say they’re “actively disengaged.”
If you own a business, you know what those numbers mean. They mean your workers arriving every morning unmotivated, glassy-eyed, not really interested in the latest quarterly financial statements, thinking less about increasing profits and more about their plans for the weekend.
You also know that those metrics hit your bottom line because “disengaged” employees are far more likely to leave your company and join the team at one of your competitors. If that’s your problem, you’re not alone. On average, employers lose almost 20% of their workforce every year, and the average cost to replace each of those workers is almost $5,000, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Time to take it outside?
Business owners know the value of getting their workers back on track, and of creating opportunities and activities which boost engagement, increase involvement, ramp up productivity and foster collaboration in the workplace. For many, that means things like advanced training, recognition of accomplishments and financial incentives.
For an increasing number for forward-leaning companies, however, it means getting employees involved in shared activities. Among the best are those which take place outdoors—things like hiking, camping, cycling, rafting, caving, horseback riding, clay shooting, kayaking, and alpinism.
Here’s how the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness describes the benefits of shared outdoor activities for increased employee engagement and bonding:
“Corporate outdoor games, sports, and activities are becoming extremely popular among companies, across the world. Employers are understanding the importance of incentive travel as a means to get their employees to bond with their colleagues and feel refreshed after a long, hard week in the boardroom.”
How can time outdoors help your business?
OK—so that’s the corporate take on things—lots of numbers lots of persuasive arguments. But what do they mean for your business and your employees? How can spending time hiking through the woods or climbing a mountain take your business to the next level?
Some of the answers might surprise you. You might find that when your people get to the top of that mountain or finish that hike, they’ll be less stressed, more self-reliant and work better together as a team. You might discover that the employee who never speaks up in meetings is a natural leader and problem solver once he or she tackles the hands-on challenges you’ll only find outdoors. And you might discover a host of other benefits to shared outdoor activities, including the following three:
1. You’ll learn new things about one another
Everyone knows Bob. Bob’s the sales guy who never seems to make his quota. Bob is the guy who never seems to know why he doesn’t quite get it. Bob is one who never steps to the plate. Bob is a follower.
But now your whole team is in unfamiliar territory, maybe rafting through some heavy white water, and no one wants to call the shots—except Bob. Bob, the guy who’s never been a leader in the office, has no trouble taking charge. He’s telling everyone what they’re doing wrong and how to fix it. Turns out Bob is a natural leader and problem solver.
But the really great news is that Bob might just take that newly discovered leadership ability back to the office after your rafting adventure is over because his office mates now know something about Bob they didn’t before. Bob’s getting respect, and he’s discovering the value of accomplishment.
When you engage your team in outdoor activities, they’ll discover things about each other they’d never know if they stayed inside—and that can do more for your business than 100 indoor training seminars.
2. You’ll build trust
You know how important trust is to the success of your business. You might have better products and marketing strategies than the competition, but if your workers don’t trust you—or each other—you’re going to have a hard time accomplishing your top business goals.
It’s one of the reasons Forbes calls trust a “critical factor” for business success—but also concludes that there’s a widespread lack of trust in the workplace. In other words, businesses large and small understand the value of building trust among their workers but don’t always know how to achieve it.
Here’s the thing: people act different sitting around a campfire than they do sitting in a board meeting. They tend to open up more and share things they wouldn’t otherwise share. n other words, they tend to be more honest—and that makes them trust each other more. They’ll also trust you more for making that increased honesty possible.
3. You’ll foster collaboration
What kind of skills do your employees need to do their jobs? Obviously, they need to have the kind of skills that show up on a resume—things like programming a computer or being fluent in another language.
But an increasing number of businesses are recognizing that those so-called “hard skills” aren’t enough. They also want employees with “soft skills,” things like the ability to solve problems and the willingness to cooperate. Those are skills, just like the hard ones, that require continual sharpening and honing. The question isn’t whether skills like collaboration are important—the question for business increasingly is how best to develop them.
One of the best ways to foster team spirit and collaboration is through shared outdoor activities. Let’s go back to that mountain climbing adventure. Your team isn’t going to get to the peak if they don’t work together, helping one another over the next crag, encouraging each other along the way and congratulating one another over every incremental accomplishment. Think of what that feels like. Think of how you and your team will feel when you take that spirit of collaboration back to your business. That’s the value to your business of getting your workers out of the office and into the outdoors.
Reap the Rewards
Taking your people into the outdoors is arguably the best way to make them feel like the team you want them to be, to boost morale, build trust and promote collaboration, but you need to be prepared to do it right. To make sure your team is fully prepared, check out KÜHL men’s and women’s gear that will make your outdoor adventure the success you want it to be.
Featured image by Natalie Pedigo.