Planning an Effective Company Retreat

by Sean Ross

3 min read

Company retreats can be very effective exercises for a business. They can be a powerful way to bring people together and tackle large tasks. However, not every retreat turns out so well; they can end up being a big cash drag and may even create more problems than they solve. What makes the difference between time well spent and time wasted? Most of it comes down to planning, direction, communication, and boundaries.

The Basics Components of a Company Retreat

Companies hold retreats for different reasons. For example, you may decide that your group had a very successful quarter and you may want to figure out how to capitalize on that success. Retreats allow your staff to step away from their day-to-day operations and relax, while still retaining focus on your business and its core issues. It’s a great opportunity for the group to discuss strategies, morale improvements, and plans for the organization’s future. You may also consider a retreat to help resolve:

  • Budgeting or cash flow problems
  • Orientation, especially for a large class of employees
  • Setting annual goals
  • Troubleshooting or discussing specific issues facing the company

In essence, any company activity can be a retreat so long as it takes place outside of your normal confines, your employees don’t have to engage in standard operations, and you have a specific objective in mind. You may decide that your team just needs time to play around, but that doesn’t mean you need a formal retreat.

Where, How Long, and Who?

It’s fun to go on company retreats in exotic locations, but try not to blow a hole in your balance sheet just to make it seem like a vacation. What you really want to do is reserve some place off-site that doesn’t present many distractions. This ensures your team can retain focus on the task at hand. Here are the simple guidelines:

  • Go off-site
  • When appropriate, stay overnight (with proper accommodations)
  • Look for places that promote creativity and open-mindedness
  • Stay in budget

The length of a retreat depends what you want to accomplish. If you need a lot of time to resolve a big-ticket item, take that into consideration in your planning. How much time off can your team afford to take without compromising future work efforts? Each retreat is different, but you may want to err on the side of inclusion. It’s no fun if a great retreat backfires because half of the staff resents not being invited. On the other hand, some sensitive or important topics may demand that only board members or executive staff members may attend.

Proper Communication: Before, During, and After

Clearly communicate everything to your team well in advance. If your company is large enough, form a retreat development group to set the agenda and prepare the necessary arrangements. In fact, you may want to draft an actual agenda and distribute it to everyone involved. List the desired outcomes of the retreat, suggest some activities to help get you there, and highlight key discussions you hope to have. Leave time for fun, but make sure people know that fun includes the entire group and that it is not the sole purpose. While on the retreat, maintain an inclusive attitude in conversation. Retreats are a time for everyone to speak, and this could be a great chance to show leadership by stepping out of the limelight. In the end, solicit feedback. Ask what worked and didn’t work, and use that information to improve future retreats and team meetings. Remember that you plan vacations to have fun; company retreats should aim to produce a tangible benefit for the company and its employees. As long as you pay attention to the process and communicate effectively, your next retreat could be a highlight on the road to greater success.

References & Resources

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