Corporate retreats have earned a reputation that’s largely negative, but they’re far from a negative event. They’re an opportunity for employees to come together in person for work and relaxation. But if they’re perceived negatively, why would we recommend retreats to small business owners?
Because if they’re executed correctly, a corporate retreat will be one of the best investments you ever make in your company. One Inc.com article says that as a leader, it’s your responsibility to plan a retreat that challenges, unites, and accelerates your team.
Here are five tips to help you plan a retreat that does just that.
1. Take some time for targeted improvements.
Each business is unique in what can build teams up. If you’ve noticed areas for improvement within your company, or other employees have brought ideas to you, you can — and should — incorporate them into your retreat.
The trick is to not plan too much into one retreat. You have to manage your expectations and retreat schedule around a few key aspects you want to hone or develop within your team.
2. It’s a chance to get away–find an accessible outdoor spot.
While there’s never truly a day off in the life of a small business owner, a retreat at least gets you out of the office. That alone does wonders for your mental and physical health.
You need to take advantage of the opportunity to get away from the office and not just spend that time at a convention center a few blocks from your building. Since location is so important to the efficacy of a retreat — certain activities can’t happen at a convention center, and vice versa — you need to pick your location carefully.
Locations that offer a myriad of outdoor activities are hugely popular. The Huffington Post reports that connections with nature have been proven to improve an employee’s performance at work.
What you don’t want, however, is going too far into the outdoors. You want to balance what the outdoors offers with basic modern living comforts. Resorts near national parks are great examples of this balance — they offer unparalleled access to nature while giving employees a hot shower, soft bed, and WiFi at night.
3. Make it an opportunity for real discussion.
When you’re planning your retreat, take a look at your planned speeches and presentations. How many of those could be turned into a discussion instead? And how many activities provide an opportunity for meaningful discussion afterward? That discussion is arguably the most important part of a retreat.
According to a report from the Civil Service College of Singapore, “The discussions after the (outdoor) activity are more important, as its purpose is usually to set the stage for real-life applications of its lessons.”
4. Target the needs of your employees.
If you do it right, a retreat will have a lasting positive impact on your employees’ attitudes and professional aspirations. Again, the key here lies in crafting a retreat that targets the needs of your employees. Workers today are, “focused on meeting targets and making an impact with clients. That would indicate that retreats that include trust falls and golf . . . are out . . . and other experiential activities that can help foster employee growth are in.”
Experiential activities are essentially a 21st-century version of the trust fall. Morell gives an example of a nonprofit company in England that spent an entire day investigating a murder. It was staged, of course, but employees had to work together to dig up the remains of the murder, analyze forensic data, and identify a suspect.
You can find more ideas here, but some of the best are: