Icebreakers get a bad rap, but they’re not all trust falls and clichés. Done well, icebreaker activities energize, engage and welcome new hires, helping them build trust and get to know each other.
Here are 20 great icebreakers: 10 for getting to know new employees or to use at work retreats, and 10 to start meetings.
If there’s one thing that’s bound to bring people together, it’s food. Go around the room and have everyone tell their favorite dish and what makes it special, or even if they could only eat one thing for the rest of their lives, what would that be? When you want to recognize an employee in the future for their work, consider celebrating with lunch or a gift card from a restaurant that serves their favorite food.
Create customized bingo cards, then give employees fifteen or twenty minutes to mingle and find coworkers who match the squares on the cards.
You could also play the game digitally, searching Pingboard’s employee directory to find matches on each others’ profiles.
Coworkers spend three minutes getting to know their partner before moving on to the next round. Consider structuring the rounds so that people are paired with coworkers from a different department. This type of icebreaker is great to build company-wide camaraderie, and encourages employee networks so cross departmental collaboration is easy.
Divide the group into three teams and play a game of homemade Jeopardy. Categories could include:
Mission, Vision, and Values
Divide employees into teams, then assign them one of your company values. They should create a five-minute play acting out a scenario where that value isn’t embodied, then a situation where it is. Bonus points for being funny!
Divide employees into small groups, then give each group a set of hypothetical questions (template) in a bowl. For 15 minutes, employees take turns picking a question at random and answering it.
Some of the questions can be lighthearted, such as “how would you redecorate the office?”, while others can encourage employees to think about how they would resolve conflicts in the workplace.
Want to break down department silos? Put employees in small groups with people they don’t know well (from different departments or teams), then give them ten minutes to find things they have in common, like favorite food, music, etc. The group that finds the most things in common wins. It’s harder than it sounds!
Split employees off into small groups and have everyone write down three things that are true about themselves. Two things should be true and one is a lie. Coworkers then take turns sharing their statements, then the other members of the group guess which ones are true and which is the lie.
After a few “get to know you” games, employees might need a break from mingling. A hands-on activity can take the pressure off.
For this game, divide employees into teams, then give the following items to each group:
20 sticks of spaghetti
1 yard of masking tape
1 yard of string
The teams then have 15 minutes to build the tallest tower possible. This gives coworkers a chance to work on a common task and get to know each other more organically.
Encourage employees to share one thing they’re excited to learn in the next month or two, whether it’s at work or home. This gives managers insight into how they can support their employees in reaching their goals, which will improve workplace satisfaction.
Ask employees to share a one-word response to a question, like:
How do you feel today?
What word would you use to describe our company culture?
How do you feel about the upcoming launch of our product?
A question related to the meeting’s topic gets employees engaged with the subject at hand.
Before the meeting starts, have employees mingle with their coworkers and share what they plan to contribute to the meeting. This encourages employees to be engaged, collaborative members of the meeting.
Invite employees to ask the department head or vice president any questions they want about the topic of the meeting. Assure employees that it’s a judgment-free zone and that they can ask anything they want, even if it inspires debate.
Start off a meeting on a high note. Invite employees to share praise about their coworkers. This activity doubles as a peer-to-peer recognition program, which is a great way to increase employee engagement.
If you’re having a meeting about an upcoming product launch or the implementation of a new program, give employees a few minutes to brainstorm potential problems or roadblocks, then come up with their own solutions. You might find that some of the suggestions are worth incorporating into your process or contingency plan.
Employees work together to build a sentence, each adding one word or a short phrase at a time. The manager or leader of the meeting offers the first word of the sentence, which could be related to the purpose of the meeting.
Share a few questions on a PowerPoint slide or whiteboard about the meeting topic. For example, if you’re having a meeting about company culture, start by quizzing employees about the precise company values as described in your mission statement.
Craft “Would You Rather” style questions around the meeting’s topic, such as: “Would you rather try to help an upset customer over the phone or face-to-face?” Have employees explain why they chose their answer.
Similar to Would You Rather, but more open-ended. For example, “How would you respond to a customer who wants to break their contract early?”
Come up with several statements relevant to the topic of the meeting, then have employees share whether they agree with the statements. If you have time, invite them to share why they agree or disagree with a statement.