Over the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “Cycling is the New Golf.” There is a growing movement, however, to expand that to “Cycling is the New Unique Corporate Team Builder.” Using golf as an analogy limits one to executive level, small groups, and nothing more than the wine-and-dine networking philosophies. Cycling, though, has benefits that can reach far beyond that to all levels of an organization.
With the competitive nature of today’s workforce, HR departments are in a constant struggle to find new avenues to foster an environment that promotes positive employee engagement. Amongst the top factors leading to employee retention are creating a sense of community in the workplace, building a strong company culture, and offering opportunities for the boss to truly connect with employees. Whereas the philosophies of the past were to improve productivity by dangling a carrot that was generally monetary in nature, research is showing that one of the most effective ways of doing this is through combined experiences.
The gleam and shine of a monetary reward or a new physical object wears off eventually, but the stories told about shared experiences live on indefinitely. It is these experiences that will connect an employee to his company more profoundly, and create the buzz about your working environment that will garner attention from the best and brightest in the industry. Even if the combined experience is thought of as challenging in the moment, studies show they are looked back upon as instrumental in character development.
This is why most managers are seeking opportunities that will challenge their teams more than the traditional ropes course or trust fall in order to truly produce deeply rooted, organically created and long-lasting team building results.
Why has cycling become a combined experience of choice?
For one reason, almost everyone knows how to do it. While they may not be serious cyclists, every member of your staff has almost certainly ridden a bike. As everyone knows, even if you haven’t been on a bike since the days of riding it to and from class on your college campus, it’s, well, like riding a bike so-to-say. So, if the ride is organized creatively and appropriately, you can find a way to get your entire team involved.
Moreover, cycling can act as a great metaphor for the office in that the group will be faster and more efficient when the strongest riders do not race ahead to fight the head winds on their own, but instead aid the weaker members of the team by leading a draft line or encouraging others to get over the steep hill. Plus, the endorphins and serotonin produced by physical activity generally allow one to feel more relaxed, let their guard down, and more deeply bond with those around them. Sitting in a leather chair on the opposite side of the desk, you are likely to feel guarded in speaking to your boss.
However, sitting on the saddle, you feel more like a peer. And, unlike the golf course, when you are on the bike, you have no choice but to be disconnected from your phone, your emails, and your work. That allows you to truly connect with the people you are riding with!
There are countless examples of companies both large and small embracing the benefits of cycling to meet a variety of internal goals. There is the active-wear apparel company that encourages nearly 90 of its employees to live the brand by hosting a 4-day ride from their headquarters to the year’s largest tradeshow 400 miles away. How about one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies that rewards the top producers from each of their sales regions with the chance to participate in a 3-day leg of a cross-country cycling relay that not only acts as a team builder, but also raises funds to find a cure for cancer, the disease that is afflicting the millions of patients purchasing the very drugs that they are selling. And, I’ve personally been told by the Director of Design for one of the most well-known shoe companies that their most productive meeting did not come out of the traditional conference room during a Power Point presentation, but instead by sitting in camp chairs by the side of the lake after a day in the saddle with nothing more than a whiteboard and freely flowing ideas.
Whereas various publications over the past few years have noted cycling as the new golf in corporate America, these examples and many others may very well lead to you seeing headlines in the next few years proclaiming: “Cycling is the New Trust Fall!”
About the Author: Of all places, it was on the University of Colorado Freestyle Ski Team where Eli first discovered his love of biking during their annual fall mountain biking trips to Moab, Utah. Upon graduation, Eli moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado (affectionately known as Bike Town, USA), where he managed the local radio stations for nearly a decade. There he created and produced events both large and small, but continually felt an itch to explore. The only answer was a 6-month sabbatical, during which Eli and his wife travelled the world. In their tour of 16 countries across 6 continents, Eli continually sought out activities that would push the boundaries of his comfort zone, each time learning more about himself. Once home, Eli was fortunate to land a job with the active travel company Iconic Adventures. Here, he helped create, develop and lead events for corporate and non-profit groups all over the world. This included designing and producing cycling tours of all sizes and paces, including supporting the world record co-ed 4-person team in the Race Across America that powered from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD in just under six days! From his work with Iconic Adventures, an opportunity arose for Eli to share his passion for experiences that challenge the mind and grow the soul with his love of cycling. And, it was then that Sentio Cycling was born! Follow Eli on Twitter @SentioEli
Title image courtesy of Sentio Cycling