Magazine article Personnel Journal

Adventures in Teamland

Magazine article Personnel Journal

Adventures in Teamland

Article excerpt

Sure, experiential-based training sounds like a fun idea. Who wouldn't want to spend a workday juggling, solving puzzles blindfolded and climbing ropes? Sounds like a day at summer camp. The difference here is that employees who participated in this play-day are coming away with a new understanding of exactly what it means to be a team player.

If you were to put on safety glasses and venture behind the closed doors warning of danger and high-powered equipment in operation, you would catch a glimpse of original automobile diagrams hanging on the walls of the Evart Glass Plant, a division of Chrysler Corp. The designs are innovative and combine the ideas of all plant employees, from maintenance workers to accountants. Though these prototype plans will never materialize in a Chrysler showroom, they do represent what drives this plant: Like a welldesigned vehicle, the employees of Evart Glass in Evart, Michigan strive to work together. This goal was solidified during a unique team-building training program involving the company's 257person staff Evart focused on its greatest asset: its teams. With industry trends gearing toward employee empowerment, human resources needs tools to facilitate this change. Improving interrelations by tossing balls in a group juggle, stretching personal comfort zones on a high-adventure course of wood and wires, and designing vehicles to represent their training teams were all components of a plantwide experiential training program aimed at preparing the Evart Glass employees to work in self-directed work teams.

"As we move toward a team-focused approach in our operation, team effort is what counts. As a society we have focused on the individual, but in the workplace no one individual can do it themselves-we must focus on our greatest asset: our teams," commented Bert Burtolozzi, Evart Glass plant manager.

The training took place through Eagle Village's New Horizons program, an experiential-based adventure center located 20 minutes west of the plant. Eagle Village is a 27-year-old company headquartered in Hersey, Michigan that focuses on corporate training programs, family services and community support activities. New Horizons is the program within Eagle Village that specifically concentrates on personal development and enhancement. Adventure-based training in the corporate world has been going on with organizations such as Outward Bound and Pecos River Learning Center since the late 1970s, involving elements of problem-solving initiatives, simulated rock-climbing walls, ropes courses and the outdoors. Typically, however, this type of training is reserved for upperlevel management. "This was a unique program. A small-town corporation invested in employee development from the ground up. Usually the experiential component is reserved for those seen as decision-makers. This program gave everyone the opportunity to buy into the decisionmaking process," says Eric Nei, New Horizons development coordinator at Eagle Village. Several key aspects of the training program marked it as distinctive. Programming occurred during regular work hours and employees received their normal pay for participating in the program. Being a three-shift operation, the company needed a facility that could offer similar training to employees during each shift. Eagle Village offered a lighted, indoor, high-adventure, ropesand-towers facility, along with professional facilitators willing to operate a third shift training session from 11:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Throughout June 1995, employees from a variety of work areas were brought together during their respective shifts for an eight-hour session of cooperative and problem-solving activities culminating in a high-adventure ropescourse experience. Line workers, supervisors and management were divided into mixed groups of 10 to 15 participants for this adventure. Altogether, 95% of the company's employees participated.

The program was the result of a survey of all Chrysler employees conducted in 1994. …

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