Team-building with a twist

Accounting firm MNP helps Habitat for Humanity build a home for an Ottawa family in need

Top employers know their organization’s success depends on having an engaged and collaborative workforce.

That’s why many managers are looking for new ways of boosting morale and building stronger ties between colleagues through team-building activities that give back to their own community.

For the Ottawa office of accounting firm MNP, this meant rolling up their sleeves and pitching in on a construction site to help build a house.

Last summer, MNP staff spent two separate days on a Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa (Habitat GO) build site.

The local affiliate of the international non-profit helps families build strength, stability and independence through affordable homeownership. It relies on businesses and organizations to volunteer their labour, which many participants say is a team-building experience that provides an unparalleled level of employee engagement and connection to a cause.

“You had that real sense of accomplishment at the end of the day that you actually did something,” says Peter Bangs, a partner in MNP’s tax group.

Tangible achievements 

Bangs freely admits that the nature of his work means his days are typically spent inside an office.

“I’m using my brain more than I’m using my hands,” he jokes.

Habitat Build Days, however, offer teams a chance to get outside and collaborate on physical tasks.

“It’s out of your comfort zone,” says Bangs. “That’s what was good for our team.”

During Build Days, Habitat GO’s construction staff and experienced volunteers are on site to oversee the day’s work, teaching volunteer builders what to do and how to do it safely.

Participants need only show up in comfortable clothes with a willingness to work. Habitat GO provides all the relevant safety equipment, including hard hats, safety glasses and steel-toed boots.

When Bangs was on site, the team of volunteers helped to build and erect the exterior walls of the home’s second floor.

“The wall-raising days are really rewarding for employees,” says Habitat GO’s Chief Executive Officer Alexis Ashworth. “Often people who work in an office don’t see the tangible change from when they start the day to when they finish the day. When people come on a build site and they push a wall up, they can actually see a room that they’ve built at the end of the day and that’s really satisfying for people.”

She also points out that Build Days serve as a great equalizer, where executives work alongside the rest of the team to achieve a common goal.

“Getting involved in a Habitat GO Build Day is an excellent way to boost morale and increase connection to the company,” says Ashworth.

Corporate values 

The team-building aspect of Habitat GO’s Build Days is only one part of what makes the non-profit unique.

Its model of affordable homeownership bridges a gap for low income families, who purchase their home with an affordable, interest-free mortgage and are asked to contribute 500 volunteer hours. This includes 100 hours towards the construction of their home.

In many cases, this means the future homeowner is actually on the build site, giving volunteers a chance to meet the family whose home they’re working on.

“It increases the understanding of what we’re doing if people can talk to the family and hear a bit about their story,” says Ashworth.

For Bangs, that meant working alongside Annie Aningmiuq, a single mother whose second-storey walls he helped to raise. Aningmiuq is on track to purchase her new home in Orléans in May, along with her four-year-old son, Hunter.

“To see the excitement in her with the walls coming up and the house taking shape was pretty neat for our staff,” says Bangs, adding that it gave MNP staff a chance to reflect on their corporate values.

“I think people really appreciated that that’s the type of company that we’re trying to build.”

To learn more about how your business can support Habitat GO, contact Shawna Blanchard at 613-749-9950x233 or sblanchard@habitatgo.com.