Build-a-Hand: Team Building That Rebuilds Lives

GE Employees Bond by Assembling Prosthetic Limb

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GE Healthcare Canada's annual meetings, like many corporate gatherings, pack a lot of action into a short amount of time. But this year, GE Healthcare Canada employees carved out some precious time for something that seemed a world away from the usual topics of MRIs, pharmaceuticals and medical IT. In between meetings, most of the 200 attendees sat down and built a prosthetic limb for a Third World amputee.

In early February, 200 members of the company's commercial division met to review 2010 and set goals for 2011. In an industry as broad and complex as GE Healthcare's -- where medical imaging, information technologies, medical diagnostics, monitoring systems and biopharmaceutical manufacturing are only part of the company's offerings -- annual meetings are chockfull of face-to-face meetings, goal setting and reviews of the previous year's accomplishments.

At first the corporate meeting organizers were apprehensive about introducing a time-consuming new element to such a jam-packed annual gathering schedule. But a new offering from Odyssey Teams -- where a complete kit of corporate training materials, instructions and videos are delivered to a company so it can conduct a team-building training session in a schedule that fits its needs – turned out to be a complement to GE Healthcare Canada's intense meeting schedule. GE Healthcare Canada was one of the first large companies to use the Build-a-Hand corporate training kit, a new version of Odyssey Teams' Helping Hands program, which has donated thousands of prosthetic limbs to nations around the world.

During four days of meetings on sales numbers and new medical technology, employees sat down to watch Odyssey Teams' introductory video, and the room grew silent. Employees of GE Healthcare know their daily work has a direct impact on people's health and well-being, but the immediate connection between the team-building groups' assembly of prosthetic limbs and the knowledge that the limb would allow a person to write, eat or dress himself or herself proved a powerful experience for all attendees.

GE Healthcare Canada was proud to add the Helping Hands program as a charitable and inspiring addition to the corporate meeting schedule. But beyond the philanthropy and the inspiration, Helping Hands was truly an asset to the corporate-training mission of GE Healthcare. Employees sharpened their team-working skills, were inspired to make a difference in their daily work routines and got to know each other better in a short amount of time. The fact that the team-building exercise was not a charade or meaningless exercise, but an act of giving that will help Third World amputees, made the team-building exercise an unforgettable experience.

The Build-a-Hand program was easy to set up, and the detailed instructions and videos made the process of putting on the Helping Hands team-building session simple to follow. The process also put the power of organizing the event in the hands of employees -- allowing them to be creative in decorating the carrying cases for the prosthetic limbs and taking photographs that will be sent in the carrying cases with the prosthetics.

As the GE Healthcare Canada corporate meeting wrapped up, the Helping Hands program was what people were talking about. The idea of using the Build-a-Hand kit in corporate meetings was already being passed from the corporate offices of GE Healthcare Canada to GE Energy and the offices of spouses and colleagues.

The fact that Odyssey Teams offers the meeting in a kit that is flexible enough to fit into even the busiest meeting schedule drew interest from General Electric executives as the news of the program spread by word-of-mouth.

Helen Landry is leader of Marketing & Special Programs, GE Healthcare Canada, based in Mississauga, Ontario.

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