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Team Building Articles, Industry Insights

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Regardless of what the economy does in the near term, workforce retention and engagement challenges will be part of life for years to come. Fortunately, there are positive ways employers can respond to these issues that will benefit everyone involved.

Slower population growth combined with a lower labor force participation rate (due to the aging population in the U.S. as well as in most developed countries) will keep conditions tight in the labor market. Organizations of all types will be challenged to recruit and retain talent.

That means even with a slowing economy, phrases like “the Great Resignation” and “quiet quitting” will remain concerns for business leaders (as well as their peers in the government and nonprofit sectors). What’s behind these challenges, and how can organizations respond? A number of recent research studies identify the underlying factors.

Recruitment and Retention Challenges

People keep quitting at record levels, yet companies are still trying to attract and retain them in the same old ways. Research from McKinsey shows that 40% of US workers are “somewhat” to “very” likely to leave their current jobs within the next six months. How can employers keep them?

Of course, considerations like total compensation, workplace flexibility, and leadership matter. But employees also place a high value on opportunities for career advancement (professional development), meaningful work (giving back), and support for health and well-being (fun, workplace relationships).

Another McKinsey study suggests that part of the reason so many employees are leaving jobs is that returning to the office after the pandemic-caused disruption of the past two years is somewhat like returning from an overseas military deployment. Employees crave the normalness of pre-pandemic life, but going back to the office feels awkward. It’s not the same. Employers need to recognize this, take steps to address it, and help employees adjust to workplace changes.

As noted here previously, team building has never been more critical than today, as businesses struggle with the “new normal” of the post-COVID economy. Team building activities should be job #1 in the post-COVID return to work—whatever that return looks like. There are lots of options for productive and fun programs, in-person or virtual, to help get your team back together.

A third study, this one focused on how to play the new talent game and win back workers, notes that “Nearly half of the employees who voluntarily left the workforce during the pandemic aren’t coming back on their own. Employers must go and get them.”

There’s a lot of overlap between the reasons workers leave their jobs and why they choose new ones. That is to say, they are likely to leave jobs that lack certain characteristics and are attracted to roles they believe offer those attributes, among them: opportunities for career advancement, meaningful work, reliable and supportive coworkers, caring leaders, and support for employee health and well-being.

Engagement Challenges

According to reporting from Axios and Gallup, “At least half of American workers say they’re ‘quiet quitting’ — performing only the tasks they’re required to, giving up on going ‘above and beyond’…The proportion of ‘actively disengaged’ workers is now at 18% — the highest it’s been in nearly a decade.”

The number one reason? Poor leadership. As Axios also observes, “The least effective managers have three to four times as many people who fall in the ‘quiet quitting’ category compared to the most effective leaders.”

That contention is further supported by reporting from SkillSurvey, finding that “those who are doing the ‘bare minimum’ at work—meeting the criteria for ‘quiet-quitters’—now comprise 21% of the US workforce.”

The least engaged employees blamed micromanagement along with a lack of guidance and trust from leadership for their attitude towards work. But among the most engaged workers, notes SkillSurvey, “the one engagement driver that correlated the strongest with manager ratings of their work behavior was how supported the employee felt by their manager.”

Loyalty Challenges

In summarizing research from Great Place to Work, which publishes the annual list of the 100 Best Places to Work, the Miles LeHane blog notes there are several reasons why workers remain loyal to their employers: good pay and benefits, transparent communications, strong leadership, and the opportunity for advancement.

But the number one factor underlying employee loyalty is purpose—the degree to which an employee feels that their work has special meaning and isn’t “just a job.” People want to feel that they are giving back to their communities, and that their employer has a mission and vision beyond simply making a profit.

The Seven Factors Behind Retention, Engagement, and Loyalty

Examining all of the research cited above, these seven factors overlap in helping organizations attract, retain, and get the highest levels of performance out of their workplace talent:

  • Opportunities for career advancement
  • Meaningful work/sense of purpose
  • Support for health and well-being
  • Adapting to change (the “new normal”)
  • Reliable and supportive coworkers
  • Strong, effective leadership
  • An inclusive and welcoming community

Here’s how employers can improve in all of those areas, and specifically how to use team building and professional development programs to help address each of those seven factors.

Opportunities for Advancement

While this factor certainly isn’t new, the way we need to think about it has changed, according to team development professional Steve Ockerbloom. The days of working for only one or even a few employers over the course of one’s career are long gone.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median job tenure for all employees is 4.1 years. But that number varies considerably with age. Workers aged 25-35 have a medium tenure of just 2.8 years, and the average person works for five different employers during the time between graduating from college or trade school and celebrating their 34th birthday.

As Steve puts it, “The classical way managers think about providing opportunities for career advancement is in the context of the good of the organization. That’s fine, but today’s younger workers are asking about WIIFM (what’s in it for me?). The ‘good of the team’ is all well and good, but I may not be here very long.

“So, in thinking about how to motivate and retain people, managers need to be thinking a lot more about their employees’ individual goals. Are they given opportunities to learn a new skill, become subject matter experts in a particular area, or do work that really aligns with a strength or passion of theirs? Leaders need to think about that a lot more.”

Professional development programs from Best Corporate Events, such as Developing Emerging Leaders, help managers develop the skills and get truly committed to figuring out the WIIFM for their teams. Our DiSC Profile Workshop helps leaders understand the motivational and communication differences that are important among their people.

Work with Purpose

In his book, Drive, bestselling business author Daniel Pink identifies what he calls the three elements of true motivation:

  • Autonomy: the sense that we are in control of what we’re doing;
  • Mastery: the ability to get better and better at something; and
  • Purpose: the idea that what we’re doing isn’t just a series of tasks, but it is actually fulfilling to other people on our team or in our community.

While there are many ways organizations can integrate a larger purpose in their mission and vision, one popular, effective—and fun—way is through corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. Activities like our Bike Build Donation®, Build-a-Wheelchair, or other programs that benefit local or national charities create a sense of purpose. They demonstrate to employees the importance their leadership places on giving back to the community, which is incredibly motivating.

On the professional development side, there’s our Competition to Collaboration program. As Steve explains, “When people have a chance in that program to help each other out, to provide information that’s going to set up other people for success, and when people feel a shared sense of success as a team, it can be incredibly engaging. Participants make the connection to the purpose-driven work they are actually doing.”

Support for Mental Health and Well-Being

Across society, there’s an increasing awareness of and importance placed on good mental and physical health. While going to work is a lot different from going to the gym, it shouldn’t counteract efforts made to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Forbes points out, “With many people spending one-third (or more) of their day working, the workplace plays a significant role in employee health. Employers who prioritize both mental and physical health within their companies’ cultures through health and wellness programs can provide a strong foundation for employees to thrive.”

Again, there are many ways for employers to promote well-being at work, from managers checking in on stress levels to formal wellness programs to the use of apps such as BetterYou.

Professional development programs like our Manager’s Guide to Business Coaching teach proven coaching practices that can strengthen relationships, bolster trust, and realize the benefits of open and positive communication in the workplace. Team building programs, particularly CSR activities, also contribute to workplace well-being by reducing stress, getting participants active, developing healthy workplace relationships, and giving employees a sense of larger purpose. And, they’re fun.

Adapting to Change

Though the phrase “new normal” has been grossly overused, it can’t be ignored. Workplaces have changed for almost everyone. Some employees are still dealing with changes in their structure of work: they are going back to the office full-time, taking roles that are fully remote, or adjusting to a hybrid work structure.

Significant turnover means many people are collaborating with new coworkers. Many businesses are still struggling to recruit enough workers, which means current employees may be asked to take on more tasks.

Management support is the most important element in managing change. But team building programs can also play a beneficial role in terms of building relationships with new team members, welcoming new people to the team, improving communication and collaboration, and jump-starting conversations about working together effectively in this new environment. Programs like Momentum challenge participants to collaborate and strategize, reflecting real-life challenges in a fun and engaging way.

And, of course, team building programs can be delivered in the format that works for your work environment, whether that means in-person, virtual, or hybrid events.

Reliable and Supportive Coworkers

As noted above, the combination of pandemic-caused workplace changes and ongoing labor shortages means that many employees are being asked to do more, to take on additional tasks at work. In this environment, it’s vital that everyone is “pulling their weight” in order to make the team successful.

There are many different types of negative issues that may arise among coworkers, but two that stand out are bad attitudes and slackers. Steve refers to employees with corrosive attitudes as “negative viruses.” These are people who are constantly whining, complaining, and seeing the glass as perpetually half-empty. Like a virus, left unchecked, their bad attitude can infect others.

Slackers (who may be “quiet quitting”) put in the absolute minimum level of effort required. They’re unhelpful to coworkers, and often leave it to other employees to pick up extra tasks to compensate for their poor performance.

Team building activities can play a powerful role in counteracting both of these headaches. As Steve points out, positive viruses can be infectious as well. “When people exude positivity, it spreads tremendously well to others. One of the great things about team building activities is that they create positivity, which can be incredibly productive.

“To pick one great example, our Igniting Team Performance Series™ does more than enhance individual and team performance; it ‘infects’ people in a good way with positive energy, good feelings, and great experiences that carry over into the workplace and last a long time.”

Programs that help counteract quiet quitting and improve team collaboration include Bridge to the Future and Pipeline. As Steve explains, “In Bridge to the Future, each team is split into smaller groups, each charged with building a section of a bridge built out of cardboard and duct tape that needs to be strong enough to hold the weight of the entire group standing on it.  The thing is, my section can be great, but if another group doesn’t make the effort or do their part, the bridge will completely collapse.

“In our Pipeline activity, the objective is to transport a series of marbles dropped from above and continuing along sections of the pathway that must perfectly connect with each other in order to eventually guide all of the marbles into an end container.

“What’s great about both activities is that if somebody isn’t doing their part, or if a team of people isn’t really talking about how to connect and move things forward, it highlights clearly how they’ll fail to reach the goal. They’re not going to get (that golf cart) their entire group  across the bridge or the marbles into the end container.

“These activities put the failure of one team to do their part into stark visualization. It’s not just that metaphorical idea of, ‘I’m just working in my department or my office, and that’s not going to affect anyone else.’ I can actually see the results right there.

“And what’s most powerful is we do a debrief on the other side about those themes. We have conversations about how we set up each other for success, and how we can make sure everyone is doing their part to help the team reach the end goal.”

Strong, Effective Leadership

As noted in Forbes, “It’s almost a cliché to say that employees don’t leave companies; they leave bad bosses. However, this happens all the time. A top talent will resign, and in the exit interview, it’s confirmed that their manager was the root cause of their departure.”

This is certainly backed up by research from McKinsey, Gallup, and others (and for many readers here, likely their own experience).

As the Forbes article continues, “Managing people seems easy from afar. It’s actually a difficult skill…When you’re in a management position, there is an initial belief that your staff will automatically respect, listen and follow your directions…It’s not that simple, and it hardly ever works out that way. In fact, it’s exceedingly difficult to earn the respect, admiration, and loyalty of your team.”

The good news is that leadership is a skill that can be taught and learned. Becoming a great leader, like excelling at a sport, requires a combination of instruction in the basics and then ongoing coaching to reach ever-higher levels of performance.

Professional development programs such as Developing Emerging Leaders noted above, Emotional Intelligence Training, and our Strategic Leadership program, together combine training in essential skills with ongoing learning and coaching sessions to help individual contributors make the transition to effectively getting work done through others.

An Inclusive and Welcoming Community

Starting a new job is often difficult and awkward. People are more likely to join an organization if it has a structured onboarding process in place, and more likely to stay in a job where they feel welcome and supported.

Unfortunately, employers don’t typically do a great job of making new employees feel welcome and comfortable with their team—and they pay for it in the high cost of turnover. Research shows that 22% of new employees leave within six weeks of being hired, 30% within 90 days, and 50% within the first two years.

These statistics bolster the case for making team building part of your new employee orientation process. Team building helps make new employees more productive, faster (as well as happier in their new roles) by breaking down barriers, aligning actions with team goals, building relationships with coworkers, and creating shared experiences.

While there are lots of great options for new-employee team building activities, Steve recommends CSR programs. “When you’re part of an activity that is giving back to the community—whether it’s something like Bears and Blankets for children who are hospitalized or in crisis centers, or Donation Nation Care Packs for homeless shelters or nursing homes—that creates a strong, lasting connection and powerfully emotional shared experience with coworkers.”

In diverse work environments, the experience of working together for a great cause helps people look beyond their differences and focus on their efforts to collaborate in accomplishing something very positive.

Wrapping Up

With slow projected growth in the labor force over the next several years, businesses and organizations of all types will face continued challenges in attracting, retaining, and engaging talented employees.

Fortunately, the factors that most strongly influence employee engagement (or the lack of it) are well understood from research. Enterprises that invest in professional development and team building to improve the quality of their leadership and team collaboration will win the battle for talent and continually improve their operational performance.

With pandemic concerns receding, how should you structure your organization for the future of work: everyone back in the office, fully remote, or a hybrid approach? The latest research suggests that for enterprises focused on optimizing operational performance (i.e., pretty much everyone)—that’s the wrong question to ask.

Different employers are taking different approaches, and doing so successfully. There is no one-size-fits-all best model. There are pros and cons, for both workers and the organizations they work for, to every approach. 

For employees, remote work offers greater flexibility, plus freedom from commuting and dressing in office attire. On the other hand, working remotely can make collaboration with coworkers more challenging, and lead to a sense of isolation. Research confirms that we humans are intensely social, and that isolation is bad for our happiness and emotional well-being.

For organizations, having workers in the office improves collaboration, provides opportunities for serendipitous brainstorming, and is vital for mentoring and developing younger employees. But a remote structure expands the talent pool because employers can hire workers based anywhere, while reducing the need for expensive office real estate.

Obviously, enterprises need to consider a wide range of factors in designing their workplace structure for the future. But what’s vital to keep in mind is that for optimizing performance, workplace structure isn’t the most important factor.

The key to maximizing productivity and effectiveness is improving employee engagement—and according to research from The Conference Board, “Work location—whether on-site, remote, or a hybrid blend of the two—has no impact on self-reported engagement levels.”

The Importance of Flexibility

Study after study identifies flexibility as one the most critical factors for increasing employee engagement.

According to Future Forum, “Flexibility improves work-life balance, decreases stress, and increases overall satisfaction.” Their research also found that:

  • 80% of all knowledge workers now want flexibility in where they work.
  • 94% of employees want flexibility in when they work (e.g., the freedom to deviate from a preset schedule).
  • Employees with rigid work schedules and structures are three times more likely to look for a new job in the coming year.

Forbes echoes these findings. Reporting on studies from Gallup, McKinsey, and Kings College, the publication noted:

  • Roughly one-third of employees would prefer to work remotely all or most of the time.
  • Only about 10% want to go back to the office full time.
  • 60 to 65% prefer a hybrid structure, with more than 50% wanting to work less than half-time in the office.
  • 25% of respondents say they would quit if forced to return to the office full time.

Finally, the 2022 State of Talent Optimization Report from The Predictive Index concluded that:

  • The number one driver of attrition is inflexibility.
  • “Companies that prioritize the employee experience—whether through benefits, flexibility, inclusion, or a sense of purpose—see clear reductions in turnover compared to their peers.”
  • Remote-friendly companies are experiencing 33% lower turnover.

These findings reflect our own experience. Roy Charette, managing partner at Best Corporate Events, and our team of facilitators and trainers work with hundreds of organizations and thousands of individual employees every year.

According to Roy, “In my experience over the past year and in talking with facilitators, people love working remotely—but when they have a chance to come together in person, they really enjoy the camaraderie and the ability to have face-to-face conversations instead of virtual discussions.

“People really feel that the ability to occasionally work remotely gives them better work-life balance. They don’t have to get all dressed up and jump in a car to fight traffic to get to work every day. There’s a blend that people are feeling, the sweet spot of some in-the-office and some remote work. That’s the ideal scenario for many people, combing remote work with getting together in person for key meetings and specific training.”

Flexibility is clearly a key component of engagement and retention. But that’s only part of the story.

The Impact of Personality

The statistics above reflect the average feelings of workers across large groups. But it’s vital not to lose sight of the individuals who make up these groups.

People with outgoing, highly social personalities crave more in-person interaction. Even those who don’t want to go back to the office completely full time still want a significant degree of in-person interaction.

Roy notes that his team of Best Corporate Events facilitators “love the interaction they have with participants when they are delivering team building programs. They even enjoy the travel, just getting out and about. When everything suddenly went virtual back in 2020, and that situation lasted, some of the facilitators actually experienced something like seasonal affective disorder.”

But other employees prefer to spend most of their time working remotely and alone. There are workers who are very efficient, effective individual contributors who don’t always work well collaboratively, because they are more introverted. They are talented, but less comfortable in social settings.

The challenge for leaders who want to build high-performing organizations is to create a high level of employee engagement—regardless of personality types or workplace structure.

The Role of Team Building

Not every employee wants the same workplace structure. And workers differ in the value they place on frequent social interaction. But (almost) every employee worth having enjoys:

  • working collaboratively;
  • solving problems;
  • enhancing and expanding their own skills;
  • helping others; and
  • building relationships with coworkers.

All of those activities enhance employee engagement. And team building incorporates all of those elements.

Along with flexibility, employees value inclusiveness. The best team building programs are inclusive by design, with a variety of activities so that every team member can participate regardless of ability.

They are also designed to engage every participant—even those who may not be enthusiastic about being part of a team building exercise at the outset.

As Roy explains, “Some people will show up (and we see this a lot) with an attitude of ‘I’d rather be doing something else.’ But half an hour into the program, they love it. They’re having a blast along with everyone else.

“Some people arrive looking forward to the activity. Others will spend the first half hour making the facilitator ‘prove they can drive the bus’ before they will relax and enjoy the ride. Fortunately, one of the skills our facilitators have is that ability to prove themselves quickly, to open that door and break through any initial skepticism or emotional resistance.

“Our facilitators are used to that. They start with an icebreaker, then explain how the program will work, introduce the iPads, and then talk about the charity component if it’s a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. Almost everyone is connected by that point. Even the folks who weren’t initially excited about being there start enjoying themselves very quickly.

“I and all of our trainers have been approached, time and again, by people during the break or after the program saying, ‘I really didn’t want to be here. I didn’t think I would enjoy this. But this was a blast.’”

How Professional Development Training Can Help

Teams are almost always a mix of different personality types. Keeping every member engaged and making the most of their talents requires the leadership ability to recognize these differences and adjust communication style accordingly.

Professional development programs like our DiSC Profile Workshop, Emotional Intelligence Training, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Training help leaders identify different personality types, build trust, and improve group communication.

Team Building and Flexibility

In large enterprises, employees often collaborate with team members in other offices as well as those working remotely. One benefit for organizations of the rise in remote work over the past few years is the ability to expand their talent pool.

Companies have realized that just because the headquarters is in Houston doesn’t mean they can’t hire a talented developer in Denver and an expert marketer in Minneapolis. In these environments, enterprises will often bring everyone together, physically, on a periodic basis: at least annually, sometimes bi-annually, or even quarterly.

Those events are not only great for presentations and group breakout sessions, but also for taking a break from the lecture or roundtable style meetings and doing something entirely new and different for a few hours in the middle of the two- or three-day offsite gathering.

“If they’re coming together live, chances are the meeting planner knows exactly what they’ve done before, because meeting planners are really good about asking the right questions,” says Roy.

  • How well do the members of the group know each other?
  • How often do they get together?
  • How much time do we have?
  • How large is the group?
  • What other team building events have they done in the past?
  • What have they tried, if anything, that didn’t work?
  • What have they tried that has worked great?

“With all of that information, we can recommend a program that will be a wonderful fit,” adds Roy. “For example, we’ll introduce an activity like Pipeline or Competition to Collaboration® that is initially fun and competitive, then ultimately becomes collaborative.

“Our Bridge to the Future program is a great visual metaphor for the goals and aspirations of the organization, and for individual teams moving forward. The bridge theme is very powerful because the organization is bridging the gap between the prior year or period and what they want to achieve in the coming period and beyond.”

Team building programs can also be delivered flexibly, as in-person, virtual, or hybrid events. Professional development programs like Developing Emerging Leaders and Strategic Leadership combine an initial in-person workshop with a series of online sessions over several weeks.


As organizations balance competing priorities in developing their workplace structures of the future—remote, in-office, or a hybrid combination—there’s a strong link between employee retention and flexibility.

What matters most for developing a high-performing operation, however, is employee engagement. And research shows that engagement has essentially no relationship to work location.

Flexibility is one important component. But others include inclusivity, sense of purpose, workplace relationships, and leadership. Team building supports all of those elements.

Professional development programs help leaders to better understand different personality types and the role emotion plays in team dynamics, and improve communication with and among team members to help optimize performance.

Incorporating team building programs within all-company offsite meetings helps build relationships, improve collaboration, and enhance employee engagement. Fun, challenging team building activities can win over skeptics to create emotionally powerful shared experiences.

In business as in sports, high-performing teams aren’t built on talent alone. While a certain level of individual talent is an essential element, teams that ultimately win championships—or outperform the competition in business—have talented members who work together and collaborate as a cohesive group. And the key element in creating that collaboration is emotional intelligence, or EQ.

Per Wikipedia, “Emotional intelligence (EI, or emotion quotient—EQ) is most often defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions. People with high emotional intelligence can…adjust emotions to adapt to environments. The term…gained popularity in the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, by science journalist Daniel Goleman. Goleman defined EI as the array of skills and characteristics that drive leadership performance.”

How can you visualize EQ? On the Miles LeHane blog, Evan Watkins and Dr. Jean Greaves, authors of the book Team Emotional Intelligence 2.0: The Four Essential Skills of High Performing Teams, share this powerful graphic illustrating the four “roots” and 20 visible signs of teams with high EQ.

To help corporate and other organization teams improve their EQ and team performance, Best Corporate Events offers an Emotional Intelligence Training workshop within our professional development programs. We asked team development professional Steve Ockerbloom to explain how our EQ training supports elements in the Watkins/Greaves model.

The Roots of EQ

“There’s a great phrase, ‘IQ will get you hired. EQ will get you promoted,’” says Steve. “To go a step beyond that, EQ not only gets you promoted, but EQ helps you and the rest of the team more generally achieve high performance.

“When you think about what EQ does, looking at the roots of that tree, it starts with awareness about yourself and awareness about other people. One of the nice things about emotional intelligence is that, while it can help leaders maximize team performance, EQ is also great in terms of learning how to work more collaboratively with team members, for their benefit and mine as well.

“Because if our team doesn’t have high EQ, we’ll be constantly butting heads, failing to maximize our potential, not being resilient through challenges and problems…and that’s incredibly stressful for all of us.

“In our Emotional Intelligence Training workshop, we really take a look at those four facets of the tree root system. How aware are we of ourselves and about the people around us? Are we strong in terms of being able to manage stress in the moment and in our lives more generally? What are some tools we can use to build and strengthen relationships with each other, as well as with our clients and other external relationships?”

The Visible “Fruit” of Strong EQ

“For example, understanding more about how we can innovate,” Steve continues. “How can we avoid ‘idea duck hunting’? That’s when somebody floats up an idea, but before it really has a chance to take off, someone else shoots it down. It really doesn’t feel good, and it makes everyone in the group hesitant to express new ideas.

“That’s a classic example of a lack of emotional intelligence about how easy it is for us to judge the ideas of others based on our own experiences and biases before anyone has a chance to really explore, discuss, and talk about why they think it’s going to be potentially useful.

“So, our emotional intelligence can help us improve at innovation by actually creating a better brainstorming process, whether as a leader or a team member. With higher EQ, team members improve their listening skills and collaboration, and become more inclusive, leading to better decision making.

“What are some things that we can do in the moment from an emotional intelligence standpoint when we’re dealing with a client who is unhappy, upset, very vocal, perhaps even angry and aggressive? How do we remain rational?

“It’s challenging because when our emotional side is engaged, we often have a ‘fight, flight, freeze, or appease’ (create artificial harmony) reaction. When we’re incredibly emotional, it’s really hard for us to be reasonable and rational.

“Our Emotional Intelligence Training workshop teaches participants how to get back to engaging reasonably and rationally when they’re in a highly charged emotional situation, how to ‘lower the temperature’ and de-escalate, handle that stress, express empathy, manage conflict, and deal with emotional clients, being able to understand and to establish more elements of trust.”

For some people, trust is as simple as “do what you say you’ll do.” But for many others, Steve points out, trust is more than that. “Trust is showing an element of vulnerability. One of the points Patrick Lencioni writes about in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is that 87% of people feel like they can establish more trust when their colleague shows an element of vulnerability. For example, vulnerability can be as simple as saying, ‘I need help with this issue,” or admitting, ‘I’m not a subject matter expert in this area, and I value your opinion here.’”

There’s a limit to this, of course. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean being helpless. But, Steve explains, “Our emotional intelligence workshop talks about how we can show an element of vulnerability that can actually help and strengthen the team, and establish greater trust.

“In general, the Emotional Intelligence Training workshop gives us many tools we can use in our next meeting, in our decision-making, in cooperating with and influencing others, whether or not we’re leaders. Those tools are great for helping us assess problems, situations, and opportunities better as a team and to work together more productively.”


The most successful organizations are not simply collections of high-performing individuals, but rather teams of talented people who work together effectively and collaboratively to make and implement the best decisions.

But achieving that level of coordination and cooperation can be challenging. Everyone brings their own perspectives, biases, opinions, and emotions into the mix. Team members who are unable to recognize their own emotional reactions and empathize with others can derail progress and cause unnecessary, unproductive conflict.

Authors Evan Watkins and Dr. Jean Greaves have developed a helpful visual model of EQ, with the sources of emotional intelligence illustrated as tree roots and the benefits and effects of higher EQ as the tree’s leaves or fruit.

Emotional intelligence training can help individuals become more aware of and better manage their emotions, and use those skills to improve relationships with coworkers, customers, and business partners. Teams with high EQ among their members can perform at a high level across many metrics, from clearer communication and lower stress to greater agility and better decision making. 

Our Emotional Intelligence Workshop teaches participants about the components of EI / EQ and how to apply them as tools for professional growth and building high-performing teams.

Every enterprise today has access to technology, information, capital, and even talent (though they may have trouble retaining it). So what is it that separates high-performing organizations—those able to retain and engage the best people, and operate at a consistently high level—from their struggling peers? Recent research studies from Harvard and the U.S. Surgeon General agree on the answers.

Two closely related workplace factors have an outsized impact on organizational performance: relationships and well-being. These intertwined elements have huge effects on employee satisfaction and engagement as well as team communication and collaboration, all of which are critical ingredients in the high-performance mix.

Here’s a closer look at the research, the elements of workplace well-being, and how team building and professional development can help organizations improve in these areas, and ultimately perform at higher levels.

The Value of Workplace Relationships

Harvard Business Review reports that workplace friendships are anything but trivial: “By fueling our basic human psychological need for belonging, meaningful workplace connections drive many of the outcomes central to high-performing teams…Employees with close connections at work are more productive, creative, and collaborative. They also report being more satisfied with their job, are less susceptible to burnout, and are less likely to leave their organization to pursue another role. In other words, not only are they better contributors, they provide more stability to a team.”

Relationships have far more value than just their contribution to employee retention. They are the secret to happiness. As Inc. magazine notes, “Personal connection creates mental and emotional stimulation, and those things are automatic mood boosters, while isolation is a mood buster. Humans are an intensely social species.”

The Inc. article goes on to explain how modern technology, for all of its benefits, plays a big role in increasing isolation. Technology is vital to high business and operational performance. But to optimize both performance and employee happiness (which are closely linked), organizations have to foster human connections as well.

The Elements of Workplace Well-Being 

Based on extensive research, the Surgeon General has created a framework for workplace mental health and well-being. In introducing the framework, the Surgeon General’s website states, “Work affects both our physical and mental well-being—in good ways and bad. (In recent surveys) 84% of respondents said their workplace conditions had contributed to at least one mental health challenge (while) 81% of workers reported that they will be looking for workplaces that support mental health in the future.

“These five essentials support workplaces as engines of well-being…Creating a plan to enact these practices can help strengthen the essentials of workplace well-being.”

Note that workplace relationships (Connection & Community) are one of the five critical components in the model, working with and supporting the other elements.

The Role of Team Building and Professional Development

Obviously, applying this model in the workplace requires many things: leadership, executive buy-in and commitment, investment, and creativity among them.

Team building and professional development programs can also play vital roles in enhancing workplace relationships as well as the four other elements in the Surgeon General’s model. Here’s how.

Protection from Harm

Physical security is a big consideration of course, particularly given recent stories ranging from rude restaurant patrons to abusive air travelers.

But psychological security is also crucial to workplace mental health and well-being. Our Emotional Intelligence Training workshop helps participants better understand their own emotions and the emotions of others to manage them constructively. The application of EI at work helps create a culture of trust, loyalty, enhanced social awareness, and honest and open communication.

Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable, but our Conflict Resolution Training teaches participants strategies to handle disagreements with respect and professionalism. Finally, our DiSC Profile Workshop and MBTI Training enable employees to better understand their own personalities and recognize key traits in others, to eliminate bad habits, minimize conflict, and improve communication.

Connection & Community

As noted in a previous post here about how team building jumpstarts employee morale, every team building program incorporates four fundamental pillars: communication, collaboration, problem-solving, and leadership. Those pillars help employees build and enhance workplace relationships by working together to solve problems in a fun and challenging way, outside the normal context of work.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs specifically, in addition to incorporating those pillars, create a connection between the workplace and the wider community. Working together at events that benefit deserving nonprofits creates an emotionally powerful bond and shared experience among employees.

Work-Life Harmony

So many factors play into healthy work-life balance, from management to company policy to workplace structure.

Team building also can also play a role in fostering this harmony. According to Roy Charette, a leader in the fields of team building and professional development training, and managing partner at Best Corporate Events, the takeaways from corporate team building that transfer to life outside of work help bridge that gap.

“When a team building activity really resonates with a participant, the lessons they experience are often the ‘24/7’ variety in that they apply to all aspects of both personal and professional life. Enhanced active listening or conflict resolution skills, for example, will transcend the workplace and brighten interactions at home with friends and family.

“Participants will sometimes feel so connected to the lessons from a particular activity that they want to replicate that experience with their family, church group, or other organization they are associated with. It reminds them of a struggle they are having or a problem they need to solve outside of work.”

Mattering at Work

Team building impacts this component of workplace well-being in a couple of different ways. First, CSR activities help employees see a larger purpose in their work. They see their organizations making an investment in giving back to the community—whether it’s a Bike Build Donation® or Bears and Blankets program to help kids or a Build-a-Wheelchair® activity to help seniors, veterans, and others with mobility impairment—and are powerfully impacted by the opportunity to play a part in that.

Second is the feeling these activities create in terms of making a difference. For the sake of mental health and well-being, employees need to feel a purpose larger than just crossing items off an (often ever-expanding) to-do list.

What precisely will make employees feel like they’ve made a difference will vary among people. It may be making a difference for customers or clients. For some workers, it’s about making a difference in helping out their team. For others, it may be taking on a big challenge that no one has been able to figure out, or becoming the go-to subject matter expert in a certain area.

“What’s great about the programs at Best Corporate Events,” says team development professional Steve Ockerbloom, “is there are so many different team building activities that help accomplish those goals, that help employees connect the exercise to their regular work and feel that sense of making a difference.

“In a program like Crack the Case!, groups of employees compete to solve a series of puzzles and challenges designed to test creative thinking, problem-solving, ingenuity, and deductive reasoning, in order to ultimately crack the case before competing teams.

“CSR programs like Build-a-Guitar® and the Mini-Golf Build Food Donation present challenges that produce a sense of accomplishment as well as giving back to the community. So if we think about meaningful work in terms of being purpose-driven, or solving challenges that seem impossible, or becoming the subject matter expert, these team building activities give people an opportunity to latch onto that aspect, which can be incredibly motivating.”

Opportunity for Growth

Performance coaching and feedback isn’t just for helping struggling employees get up to standard and feel like they are contributing what’s expected. It’s vital to also apply this to top performers to help them understand their opportunities and perform at an even higher level.

“Development coaching” is a skill taught in our Managers Guide to Business Coaching program. It will look different for every employee. For some, it will be about preparing them for a leadership role. Other employees may not be interested in a supervisory position, but will want to learn a new skill set, or make a lateral move to gain experience in a different part of the organization, or get involved in a new project. The key is to provide employees with a path to growth within the organization—rather than watching them walk out the door for a new job offer.

One more key point here: leadership training isn’t just for current or aspiring leaders. It can benefit virtually every employee. Attending our personality assessment workshops or other professional development programs can help employees understand different perspectives and learn techniques and insights to influence peers within the organization, even without taking on a management role.


Studies from Harvard and other sources show that developing strong workplace relationships helps employees be more productive, collaborative, engaged, and happy at work, all of which contribute to higher levels of organizational performance.

The sense of connection produced by those strong relationships with coworkers is one of five essentials in the Surgeon General’s framework for workplace mental health and well-being. The other essentials identified in this model include a sense of safety and security, work-life harmony, a sense of mattering at work, and opportunities for advancement.

Implementing the full model requires top-level leadership and commitment, investments, and creativity. Team building and professional development programs can also play a strong supporting role in all of these facets of workplace well-being, ultimately leading to greater employee retention and engagement, and improved operational performance.

The bad news is the state of corporate training in the U.S. today is abysmal. The good news is, this is fixable. And companies that do it well will reap multiple benefits.

First, the bad news. According to recent studies, six out of 10 employees say they’ve had no formal workplace training; they’ve had to learn the job on their own. Only a third of employees say they are “very satisfied” with their job-specific training, and less than 30% are very satisfied with their career advancement training and opportunities.

Yet more than 40% of workers say that training and advancement opportunities are very important factors in their job satisfaction; more than six in 10 say career training and development opportunities are important when evaluating a prospective new employer, and more than three-quarters say a company is more appealing if it offers skills training.

Poorly trained or untrained employees are less efficient and productive than their properly trained peers, and in certain roles, can even cause safety risks.

In a nutshell, most workers say their employers do a poor job of corporate training. Those employers will find it harder to retain employees, attract new talent, and get the most out of their current workforce.

Benefits of Improved Corporate Training

Beyond the statistics cited above, other research has found that:

  • 34% of employees who left their previous job were motivated to do so by more career development opportunities.
  • 68% of employees say training and development is the company’s most important policy.
  • 70% of employees would be somewhat likely to leave their current job to work for an organization known for investing in employee development and learning.
  • 93% of employees said that well-planned employee training programs positively affect their level of engagement.

And an astonishing 94% of employees say they will stay at a company longer if it invests in training and development.

Clearly, providing training opportunities is vital not only to retain your current workforce but also to attracting new employees.

Not only does training help you hang onto your smart and capable staff, but it also enhances engagement and improves their skills, making them more valuable and productive. Just as top-performing organizations make team building a regular event, they also weave training and development opportunities into the fabric of their operations.

Strive to Improve Inside and Out

Optimizing your organization’s performance requires a combination of external training workshops for skills development and internal training to expand job-specific knowledge.

One challenge faced by internal trainers is that they often aren’t taught how to be instructors. It’s frequently simply a matter of seniority: Bill has been running the warehouse for years, so he can train anyone in on any function there, while Sheila has worked her way up through the finance department to a leadership role, so she can teach new accounting professionals all they need to know.

While that approach is certainly better than counting on new employees to figure things out for themselves, it’s not a lot better. It’s just as important for Bill, or Sheila, or any experienced employee to understand how to teach as to know what to teach.

The statistics cited above make it clear that employees value training and want to be trained effectively. But too often, the subject matter experts—the Bills and Sheilas of the world—while smart and well-intended, lack the communication skills, or the knowledge of how to be engaging and how to structure the information they’re presenting, to maximize comprehension and retention.

Challenges Faced by Internal Corporate Trainers

Individuals who conduct training workshops, facilitate team building events, or deliver keynote presentations are professional communicators. They impart knowledge for a living.

But your internal subject matter experts, often tasked with training new team members, are experts in their respective fields: accounting, customer service, IT, HR, engineering, design, or whatever function it may be. They are, generally, not trained speakers or educators. Four specific areas that present challenges are:

Generational differences: Your senior staff members may be Millennials, but are more likely Gen Xers or even Boomers. Regardless, any of these individuals can potentially be called upon, at different times, to train and mentor members of these generations or Gen Z workers.

“A skilled trainer has to be able to work well with all of the current generations. No matter what age they are,  they must be able to speak to them where they are coming from, to impart knowledge effectively,” says Tom Leu, MS/CPC, who delivers a keynote titled My Generation. “Having trainers or instructors who are also skilled communicators who know how to teach people from multiple generations is not only ‘nice to have,’ but more necessary than ever.”

New technology: Experienced professionals know how to use current technology within their roles, of course, but may not grasp the way that different generations think about and view their devices and software.

For Boomers and GenXers, learning to navigate the web and their smartphones is something they’ve done as adults, or at least as teens. Members of Gen Z on the other hand, and most Millennials, haven’t lived in a world without these things. They have no memory of a time before these existed.

It’s important to understand these perspectives when training younger (or older) employees. GenZ office workers know where the “Save” button is in Microsoft Word, but many have no idea that the icon represents a diskette—because they’ve never used one.

Learning styles: Some people are auditory learners (they understand and retain information best by hearing it), while others are more visual or kinesthetic (hands-on).

Corporate subject matter experts who aren’t trained as trainers tend to teach in the style they learn best. But different styles, or a mix of different mediums, may work best for the employees receiving the training.

What’s in it for me (WIIFM): To maximize understanding and knowledge retention, it’s vital for professional teachers to communicate to their students why some particular information is important, and why it matters to them. Professional teachers, trainers, and instructors know how to communicate the WIIFM to their students. Corporate subject matter experts may understand this but often haven’t been taught the skills or tools to impart that knowledge.

The Solution: Train the Trainers

Fortunately, there are a variety of professional development workshops and programs that can help anyone in your organization become a better communicator, and therefore a better trainer. Anyone involved in delivering formal or informal, on-the-job training can benefit from these activities.

One helpful approach is to go through a personality assessment workshop, which helps trainers better understand their own traits and recognize how to more effectively communicate with colleagues. Three valuable programs are:

DiSC Profile Workshop: This workshop helps participants learn how their own behavioral and communication styles correspond to others, and how the management of those styles can significantly impact the overall success of the group. It teaches individuals to identify and appreciate the traits of their peers and replace poor habits with empowering strategies for communicating.

Emotional Intelligence Training: Emotional Intelligence (E.I.) is the ability to understand and effectively apply the power of our wide range of emotions in positive, productive ways. This training helps employees better understand how to manage their emotions, take responsibility to contribute, and use this knowledge to communicate more effectively.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Training: The MBTI training workshop will increase awareness of your team’s relationships by identifying the types of personalities that make up your group and demonstrate how awareness of personality styles can translate into positive behavior. It explains thinking, organization, and decision-making associated with each personality style, and demonstrates how knowledge of learning and communication preferences can affect others.

Beyond these workshops, your internal trainers can learn more effective one-on-one communication skills in our Manager’s Guide to Business Coaching program and group communication practices through our Presentation Skills Training.

Finally, as a follow-up to his keynote talks, Tom Leu can deliver a half-day in-person training program reinforced by one-hour to half-day monthly virtual sessions on strategic communication skills.


Employees place a high value on training, both in terms of evaluating prospective employers and remaining loyal to and engaged with their current company. Skills training is vital for enabling employees to increase their productivity and be prepared to grow in their careers.

Yet as important as training is, far too often, organizations fail to do a good job with it. Only a third of workers say they are highly satisfied with their internal training, while nearly six out of 10 say they received virtually no training; they were just thrown into a role and forced to figure things out on their own.

Even when businesses do make training a priority, the subject matter experts doing the training may not be optimally effective. They know the information and the role but frequently have never been taught communication or instructional skills.

Fortunately, there are a variety of professional development workshops and programs available through Best Corporate Events that can help internal trainers better understand the role that emotions, personality traits, learning styles, and generational differences can play in training and learning. By becoming more effective trainers, they can help their organizations improve retention, recruitment, and overall business performance.

In today’s tight labor market and challenging economic environment, it’s more vital than ever to not only attract great employees but also keep them engaged. So what’s the secret to building and maintaining extraordinary teams?

According to Harvard Business Review:

“When it comes to building extraordinary workplaces and high-performing teams, researchers have long appreciated that three psychological needs are essential: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Decades of research demonstrate that when people feel psychologically fulfilled, they tend to be healthier, happier, and more productive.”

Of those three needs, relatedness—connection to others—is the most challenging for organizations to develop. The difficulty has been compounded as organizations have moved to remote and hybrid work models since March 2020.

The HBR article lists several things that high-performing work teams do differently which help to foster connection, including being more strategic with their meetings; bonding over non-work topics; and giving and receiving recognition.

Professional development trainers and team building facilitators can help in all of those areas. Here’s how to recognize the need and then use those resources strategically to help create and sustain high-performing work teams.

Signs of Trouble

Obviously, any falloff in team performance is a source of concern worth investigating. Employee complaints are another sign of trouble, whether those relate to coworkers, tasks, strategy, the work environment, or other issues.

However, if those complaints are followed up by an acknowledgement of the employee’s role in the problem, and ideas for solving it, that’s actually a positive sign. It shows that the employee is engaged, concerned, thinking about the issue, and taking at least part of the responsibility for making things better.

Silence can be more dangerous than complaining, according to Roy Charette, a leader in the fields of team building and professional development training, and managing partner at Best Corporate Events, “A key sign of trouble is disconnectedness. When employees stop caring enough to complain or identify what’s wrong, they just go silent. That’s a big red flag.”

If you’re seeing any signs of performance or engagement issues, it’s vital to look for ways to build or rebuild that sense of connectedness among team members.

How Team Building Creates Connections

Team building activities can help any work team to do those things that high-performing teams do differently, as identified above, even in hybrid and remote work environments.

Be more strategic with meetings: Professional development programs like our in-person Meeting Management workshop or online Conducting Better Virtual Meetings program equip your team leaders to run meetings that are more effective, productive, and valuable for everyone involved.

Bond over non-work topics: Every type of team building program creates memorable shared experiences, particularly corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, which have a profound emotional impact on participants.

That common experience is one type of shared interest, which “fosters deeper liking and authentic connections” per HBR. Organized team building events develop relationships that lead to more ad hoc employee conversations and gatherings.

Professional facilitators explain to managers how to bring the energy and enthusiasm of team building activities back to the work environment. This is even more effective when combined with personality assessments and leadership training workshops.

Give and receive recognition: Per the HBR article, “recognition is often a more powerful motivating force than monetary incentives.” Recognition, appreciation, and acknowledgement are key elements in team building activities.

Roy shared a remarkable story about the power of team building for recognition and connectedness: “One of the nicest compliments I ever received was at the end of a workshop, when a woman came up to me and said, ‘I wasn’t going to attend this workshop because, unknown to my boss and everyone here, I was planning to leave the company tomorrow. I had my resignation paperwork all written up. But after what I just did with my team, I’m staying.’

“And she stayed. She told her team a year later that she had planned to quit that week but then changed her mind, and that the impetus was the workshop I had led, because she had so much fun with her team. She hadn’t thought that was possible anymore, but it happened. And then she hired me to work with her team again. That’s a great compliment.”

Programs for Creating High-Performing Teams

Any of our professional development programs are excellent for building team effectiveness and cohesion. Options include:

Competition to Collaboration®: This is a unique series of team collaboration activities with a powerful message of organizational synergy. This engaging session will impart to your group coaching and mentoring skills, and highlight the positive results of sharing best practices, while celebrating the success of colleagues.

Igniting Team Performance: A fun, fast-paced, and dynamic training series that measures and defines your group’s current teamwork ability while imparting lessons on goal-setting, leadership enhancement, and communication skills. This program challenges your team to complete a series of progressively difficult challenges. Guided conversations uncover strengths and areas for improvement.

Total Recall: In this challenging and multi-faceted event, sub-teams of five are assigned specific roles while working together to replicate a pre-built structure—to be assembled in a totally different location—utilizing communication skills only through a chain of conversations. This is the ultimate activity to drive home critical lessons that can be applied immediately to enhance clear communication in the workplace.

What’s most important is the value of creating a shared experience. As Roy notes, “When you have a life-changing event and then try explaining it to someone who wasn’t there, it’s hard to make them understand why it was so powerful. But when you share an experience with your team, you develop connectedness, a shared understanding of why the activity was so impactful. It’s something everyone can relate to, look back on, and apply lessons from in the workplace.”

Bringing It All Together

Regarding relatedness, that most challenging need for organizations to address, the HBR article notes that, “Members of high-performing teams were significantly more likely to express positive emotions with their colleagues. They reported being more likely to compliment, joke with, and tease their teammates. In emails, they were more likely to use exclamation points, emojis, and GIFs.”

That paragraph caught Roy’s attention, who added, “When we deliver live programs, we share laughing and good times. That’s a smiley face emoji in real life. Participants will tell each other, ‘Great idea! That’s exactly what we needed.’ And then they will implement that idea. It’s the in-person equivalent of the exclamation point.

High-performing teams share several attributes: bonding, recognition, strategic meetings, phone calls, direct communication, and positive interaction. Team building delivers the equivalent of smiling emojis and funny GIFs in a live, three-dimensional experience.”

As the HBR article concludes, “Creating a high-performing workplace takes more than simply hiring the right people and arming them with the right tools to do their work. It requires creating opportunities for genuine, authentic relationships to develop.” Team building programs are among the most effective and fun ways to create those opportunities.

During team building activities, participants experience challenges, camaraderie, recognition, and fun. But what do they take away? After the shared laughter and the high-fives, what do they bring back home and to the workplace from that experience?

According to Roy Charette, a leader in the fields of team building and professional development training, and managing partner at Best Corporate Events, the specific takeaways are many, but fall into two main types.

Team-Oriented Takeaways

High-performing teams require a mix of skills and attributes: technical, analytical, organizational, and social skills combined with energy, passion, creativity, and engagement.

Team building programs help individuals to better understand what they bring to the team as well as the unique strengths and contributions of co-workers. It builds communication, collaboration, appreciation, and relationships.

As Roy describes it, “In our debriefs, we ask: What have you brought to teams you’ve worked with? And what can people count on you for?’ Facilitated team building activities and initiatives allow individuals to highlight their strengths and specific attributes, giving others an opportunity to recognize and appreciate each other as valuable and contributing team members.”

Teams also have an opportunity to identify areas for potential improvement and gaps in team-related performance. The activities act as a vehicle to delve into rich process discussions on the steps that can be taken to improve areas of weakness—revisiting communication systems, for example.

Individual Takeaways

When a team building activity really resonates with a participant, the lessons they experience are often the “24/7” variety in that they apply to all aspects of both personal and professional life. Enhanced active listening skills, for example, will transcend the workplace and brighten interactions at home with friends and family

Participants will sometimes feel so connected to the lessons from a particular activity that they want to replicate that experience with their family, church group, or other organization they are associated with. It reminds them of a struggle they are having or a problem they need to solve outside of work.

In Roy’s words, “I’m always giving away props, card decks, or other materials to people who feel connected to the activities and the value in what we did. I’ll answer their questions and give them guidance on facilitating the exercise with their own groups.”


Participants in team building programs take away lessons pertaining to high-performing team attributes as well as lessons specific to themselves as individuals. Organizations that invest in team building give their employees opportunities to grow as people, not just to be better workers. The payoff comes in both higher team performance and increased connectedness and commitment among employees.

If you organize corporate or collegiate events, chances are you’ve hired keynote speakers and understand their importance.

Keynote speakers typically kick off events and are vital in setting the tone. A competent keynote speaker will bring energy, enthusiasm, and entertainment. A great one delivers substance as well as storytelling and humor—bringing the steak, not just the sizzle.

The best keynote speakers take the time to research your industry, issues, audience, and the purpose of your event, then combine that with their own perspective and expertise to craft a unique and valuable presentation. By the time they wrap up their time on stage, the audience is saying, “Wow, that was valuable. I’m going to remember those key points.”

If you’ve been doing this for a while, chances are also that you’ve had hits and misses—speakers who have knocked it out of the park, and others who have fallen a bit flat. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to pick winners consistently? Here’s how to do that.

What (Exactly) is a Keynote Speaker?

As Will Rogers famously said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Choosing the right keynote speaker is crucial because that person creates the “first impression” for your event. In their hour or so onstage, that person needs to entertain, educate, and create a sense of excitement in the audience for what’s to come over the course of your gathering. Their presentation has to both stand on its own and connect to the content that will follow.

It helps to clarify what a keynote speaker is by understanding what that person is not. A keynote speaker is an experienced, engaging, professional communicator. Keynote speakers are not merely motivational speakers—though they do need to motivate, and often employ similar audio and visual tools.

Keynote speakers are different from industry experts (people who will often lead training sessions or breakout groups at events), though they will have some knowledge of your industry.

Keynote speakers are not entertainers, though their presentations do need to be fun and entertaining. A talented musician, comedian, or magician can provide entertainment—but not necessarily the kind of substance, insights, and valuable takeaways that a keynote speaker delivers.

Keynote Speakers Versus Trainers

Keynote speakers are distinct from trainers, though there is a fair amount of overlap. Professional trainers are rarely, if ever, also keynote speakers. But it’s not uncommon for keynote speakers to also do training.

A keynote presentation is generally broad and high-level (though it should include some specific, memorable points) while training is more direct and often hands-on. A keynote speaker is a standalone type of communicator, different from a trainer, workshop facilitator, or seminar leader. A great keynote doesn’t just impart information, but is inspirational, tone-setting, and reflects the theme of the event.

But again, there are keynote speakers who also do training. Their topics often revolve around leadership, negotiation skills, or (not surprisingly) how to be a more effective communicator.

What to Look For in a Keynote Speaker

Keynote speakers fall generally into two categories: celebrities and professional speakers.

Celebrities include well-known actors and actresses, politicians and government officials, former sports stars and professional coaches, journalists, authors, and other famous people. While some can be insightful, celebrities are generally hired more for entertainment value and their name recognition than deep substance.

The primary value of a celebrity speaker is to attract a crowd. And because these speakers command hefty fees, they are most often sought after for industry-wide events that professionals pay a significant ticket price to attend.

Industry associations and organizations often bring in comedians, ventriloquists, mentalists, magicians, or other entertainers as part of their events. These individuals are great for dinner shows; not so much for keynotes.

True keynote speakers, again, are professional communicators. They deliver entertainment with substance. Their job is to combine motivation, inspiration, and excitement with expertise and credibility. It’s fun and enthusiasm plus practical, actionable ideas.

Three key considerations when choosing a keynote speaker are:

Credentials: Professional keynote speakers can usually back up their expertise and credibility with advanced degrees and professional certifications. This is especially important when choosing a speaker for a gathering of professionals (e.g., doctors, lawyers, engineers, finance pros, executives) or an academic audience. People with credentials care about the credentials of the people they’ll consider listening to.

Experience: No one becomes a professional keynote speaker at 22. Everyone who’s qualified to do this has done other things first. When searching for a keynote speaker, look at what they’ve done professionally as well as through volunteer and professional organizations. Keynote speakers have to bring a combination of left-brained (analytical) and right-brained (creative) thinking to their presentations, so look for evidence of both. Often, the best keynote speakers have “unique” backgrounds, with some unexpected experiences.

Engagement: While this isn’t the most important factor, it is essential. Even the best content provides little value if the delivery is dull. A boring presentation with endless primarily text-based slides will have attendees mentally checking out and fiddling with their phones. A keynote speaker needs to be able to hook the audience with style, then keep their attention with substance.

As with any “purchasing” decision, third-party validation matters. Every qualified speaker will have a sizzle reel on YouTube and numerous client testimonials. These will rarely be a deciding factor, but they’re helpful to check out.

Why Select a Keynote Speaker from Best Corporate Events

Corporate conferences, all-company gatherings, and sales kickoff meetings are great opportunities to conduct team building and professional development programs. If you’re already working with us for that activity (not to brag, but we literally wrote the book on corporate team building), why not hire your keynote speaker through us as well?

While there are lots of places to find keynote speakers, there are three significant benefits of working with Best Corporate Events for your keynote speaker in addition to your team building / professional development activities.

Single, powerful management portal: BEST’s client portal enables event organizers to track all of the production aspects of your team building and professional development programs on a single page. See event details, information about your facilitator, shipping status, venue information, and more. If you also book your keynote speaker through us, all of those details can be tracked within the portal as well. We also offer a version of the portal with additional features for DMCs.

Package discount: If your organization purchases both a team building event or professional development workshop and a keynote speaker from BEST, you’ll get a 10% discount on the total engagement. Not only will you save money, you’ll also simplify the process since you don’t have to work with a separate agency or speakers’ bureau to bring in a keynote speaker.

More than a keynote: The keynote presentation can be a standalone event, or an initial touchpoint into a deeper dive into communications training. For example, BEST featured keynote speaker Tom Leu can deliver follow-up training workshops or seminars during the same conference, or at a later date. This training can be delivered in-person or virtually.

Tom is a member of the National Speakers Association, and a certified professional coach with a graduate degree in psychology, whose background includes both teaching and dean roles in the collegiate environment. But he also knows music (he’s been in rock bands for decades and currently composes music for films) and is a published professional photographer. He brings all of that background and more to his one-of-a-kind energetic, entertaining, and educational keynote presentations.

Your choice of a keynote speaker is crucial, as that speaker sets the tone for your corporate or collegiate event. The best keynote speakers combine enthusiasm and entertainment with substantive, actionable takeaways for your people. You’ve got lots of options for finding a standout keynote speaker, but Best Corporate Events should be on your list for consideration, particularly if you’re already working with us for team building.

While there are hopeful signs for employers that labor market tightness may be easing a bit, the long-term trend of slower growth in the workforce means competition for talent will continue for years.

That makes it imperative for organizations to create a workplace culture and environment that employees want to join, want to stay with, and are engaged in. Those that don’t, risk declines in performance and competitiveness.

This shouldn’t be surprising, and yet recent research shows that employee stress is at a new all-time high, while global engagement and employee well-being measures are low.

According to the State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report:

“Before the pandemic, engagement and wellbeing were rising globally for nearly a decade—but now, they’re stagnant…With only 21% of employees engaged at work and 33% of employees thriving in their overall wellbeing, most would say that they don’t find their work meaningful, don’t think their lives are going well or don’t feel hopeful about their future.”

Numbers like that should spur leaders across business, government, and academia to action. But before developing strategies, it’s vital to understand what’s causing these high levels of stress and low levels of engagement.

Why Are Employees Dissatisfied and Disengaged?

The bad news for employers is that today’s worker shortage isn’t just a temporary blip caused by the pandemic, but is part of a longer-term trend. The good news is that the underlying reasons for worker dissatisfaction are within the control of leaders.

In a series of studies going back to 2012, Pew Research has found that while the specific reasons given by employees for voluntarily leaving their jobs has changed somewhat over time:

“When you look at the patterns and trends across the last decade, the big picture becomes clear—employees have realized that they are no longer willing to work in roles and for employers that consistently compromise their universal needs.”

The universal needs at the root of the labor crisis are identified as:

  • Foundation/function need: Compensation, benefits such as health care, child care issues, excessive hours, etc..
  • Value need: People quitting because they didn’t feel important, they felt disrespected, a lack of support, favoritism, and not being recognized for their contribution.
  • Growth need: Lack of challenge, not growing professionally, career development, and no opportunities for advancement.

Team building, training, and professional development programs can help, particularly with “value” and “growth” needs. As noted in our previous post on leadership training, “When employees see that their company is making an investment in them and helping prepare them to advance in their careers, it increases satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty.”

Here’s how.


Prospective employees will check out your company online before you even know they exist. Sites like Glassdoor and Reddit give them a glimpse into your company culture, leadership, compensation practices, and more, provided by your current (or former) employees.

When you bring jobseekers in for interviews and tours, they will scope out your offices. Do your people seem happy and collaborative in their work, or stressed and harried? Are the people they meet with friendly and welcoming, or do they treat the interview like an imposition? Or worse, an inquisition?

Team cohesion and management practices set the tone, and both can be improved through team building and professional development programs. Team building should also be part of your new employee orientation process, as it builds trust, creates shared experiences, and helps new employees get productive more quickly.


As any type of leader in your organization—manager, supervisor, executive, team leader—it’s vital to have open communication and dialogue with those who report to you.

You need to know how things are going; not just in the tactical sense (is this project on track?) but also how things are going with each specific team member on a personal basis. Do they feel secure? Is their work meaningful? Are they optimistic about their professional future?

Again, team building and leadership development programs can help break down barriers and improve that communication. But in terms of enhancing employee retention, they can do much more. Team building programs specifically help employees feel:

Valued: In the words of Roy Charette, a leader in the fields of team building and professional development training, and managing partner at Best Corporate Events, “We run team building activities that let people shine. People take turns feeling valued. They smile a lot in these workshops. We introduce activities designed to showcase people’s competence and ability and productivity, events that bring out the best in people.”

Motivated: Roy points out that in workshops and programs, participants are so busy focusing on the task at hand, laughing, and high-fiving each other that they forget to look at their phones for an hour…or two, or three. He challenges team members, “”If you can get this excited, energized, and motivated around an activity where there’s really nothing at stake, except for fun and team building, shouldn’t you be able to carry some of that over into your workplace where everything’s at stake: food on your table, a roof over your head, supporting your family?”

Passionate: Participants discuss how they can support each other, position each other for success, and move from competition to collaboration in the workplace in the same way they did during their team building exercise. The emotional impact is even more powerful when that activity has a corporate social responsibility (CSR) component. CSR team building activities such as a Bike Build Donation® or Build-a-Wheelchair® event help employees to feel more connected to their communities as well as to each other, increasing loyalty by creating emotionally impactful shared experiences.

Professional development programs for leaders help them carry those outcomes back into the workplace, to create an environment that fosters those same feelings. They learn what they can and should be doing as managers to lead high-performing teams in ways that don’t lose the “connectedness” developed through team building activities.


Strong working relationships are key to employee retention and high performance. Employees who have poor relationships with peers or feel their supervisor is treating them unfairly will start looking for new opportunities elsewhere.

Team building activities help build and strengthen those relationships. The experiences are positive and designed to foster collaboration, to enable each team member to bring unique strengths to help achieve the objective. “We’re not putting people into a situation where they will need to deal with conflict resolution,” says Roy, “unless that’s what the workshop is about.”

“Our 100-plus workshops are very positive and engaging,” he adds. “They bring about the best examples of how we interact with each other. We have great communication, we share laughter, and we position others for success. We celebrate each other’s accomplishments. There is recognition, acknowledgement, and value.”

The Best Programs for Attracting, Retaining, and Engaging Employees

Choosing a team building program or professional development workshop starts with an assessment. From there, any program may be customized to some degree to meet the specific needs and goals of the organization.

Managers also often ask if it’s better for them to participate in the team building activity or to observe it from the outside, looking for strengths and weaknesses.

“I normally say, ‘If you participate, that will have an impact, but you don’t have to participate in the whole event,’” says Roy. “I can explain the activities and then based on what they’re looking for, tell them which activities they should step away from, which ones they’re going to want to see from the outside because they’ll love what they see.”

That approach works well with programs that have “pause” points built in where participants can be debriefed and process the experiences, such as Competition to Collaboration®. But in programs like Build-a-Guitar® or SmartHunts® (high-tech scavenger hunts), all participants are involved from start to finish.

Leadership and professional development programs such as the DiSC Profile Workshop, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Training, Developing Emerging Leaders, and Emotional Intelligence Training help managers bring some of the collaboration and communication benefits of team building programs back into the workplace.

Half of all Best Corporate Events team building programs use iPads for participants to take photos, record videos, and answer trivia questions among other activities. This provides the ability for participants to look back at those activities later on, enhancing the value of the shared experience.

“Quite frankly,” Roy summarizes, “all of our programs allow for everyone to feel good, to shine, to feel connected, and to have fun with each other. Having fun, feeling connected, and laughing with each other can have amazing impacts on employee retention, loyalty, and engagement.”

Wrapping Up

The bad news is that a tight labor market and competition for talent will be with us for several more years. The good news is that most of the factors driving (and avoiding) employee turnover are within management’s control.

As noted in Entrepreneur, “The reality is that there’s no such thing as a labor crisis right now if you have employees who are happy, engaged and loyal…(and) other people actually want to work for your organization (which happens when you gain a reputation for employees whose universal needs are supported through working with you).”

Among the top reasons employees voluntarily leave organizations today are that they don’t feel valued, recognized, or connected, and don’t see opportunities for advancement.

Team building and professional development programs can help on all of those fronts. They provide recognition and build relationships. And the fact that the organization is investing in their skills and paying them to take time away from their normal work to enhance their collaboration and communication abilities demonstrates to employees a commitment to their career advancement.

Virtually any type of team building or training program will ultimately help with recruitment, retention, and relationship building. Team building activities build recognition and a sense of connectedness through shared experiences. Leadership development programs help managers bring some of the enthusiasm and collaboration fostered by team building events back into the day-to-day work environment, to help build a culture of high performance.

Welcome to the BEST blog, a collection of team building articles, industry insights and news about our large collection of programs and events offered in locations across North America.




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    Programs can be delivered anywhere in North America.

      If you have immediate questions, please contact us at:

      Phone: 800.849.8326

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