Corporate retreats are an effective way to tackle important topics like leadership, team building, sales goals or projects that require more than just a boardroom or coffeehouse.
The reason why corporate retreats
work is because they often create a drastic change of environment that allows for influence, bonding and creativity to flourish. Igniting that shift in your teams’ perspective is what you’re hoping to achieve and corporate retreats are one of the few ways you can have a big impact.
A retreat is worth a ton of quality time – right from the management to the junior employees.
To get the most out of a retreat, it has to be planned carefully and executed meticulously. Here are tips to plan a successful corporate retreat.
1. Define the goal(s)
A retreat is not a vacation paid by the company. It should have a specific and well-defined goal that you intend to achieve. Begin with the end in mind to set that goal – what would you like to have achieved at the end of the retreat? That is your business goal. From there on, work your way backwards to plan this trip.
2. Invite only congruent team members
Is your retreat going to discuss strategy or planning to implement a strategy? Is it going to explain to all the employees how the company works? Is it going to discuss the vision and mission of the company? Your goals will help you create your invitation list; whether it’s top management or a specific vertical in your company. If you are discussing a huge project that entails the participation of multiple teams, you could invite the various departments to the retreat to discuss the project independently and then maybe have a combined session of all teams.
3. Use a professional facilitator
A professional facilitator is a neutral entity who is not bogged down by authority or corporate hierarchy. They would be in a better position to guide the discussion and manage time effectively. An “internal” facilitator is often a poor choice because of his/her position in the organization. Pros have more experience in this situation and bring all that to the table which will help make your retreat a success.
4. Choose the right location
Location is extremely important as it can set the tone for productive discussions. A place with peaceful surroundings can infuse calm and encourage active participation from all concerned. Hotels or resorts if booked during the off-season can be less expensive and offer all the conveniences of a laid back environment for some fruitful brainstorming.
You want a location that offers excellent options for both work and play. It can work as an incentive for employees who attend your corporate retreat. Playa del Carmen, for example, is just 45min from Cancun, Mexico and offers the stunning beauty of the Caribbean coastline plus haveall the modern services to host a corporate getaway. Any destination management company can help take care of all the hassles of planning the retreat in a foreign location, so that you focus on the business.
5. Make sure your employees are ready
You expect to get real value out of your retreat because it is so time intensive. To have an open, honest and, at times, conflicting debates, it’s necessary to have certain levels of trust, openness and respect among employees. In its absence, the retreat will only be a glorified picnic and nothing substantial will be achieved.
Before the retreat, send a highly confidential questionnaire to the participants to gauge their readiness. Gauge their reactions in uncomfortable situations and their ability to challenge the status quo. Only then will they be able to effectively participate in the retreat.
6. Send the agenda to all participants
To help participants prepare for the discussions and brainstorming sessions, you need to prepare an agenda and distribute it to the participants. The retreat should also include creative exercises and some downtime. Add these activities in the agenda. If you are planning on bringing a facilitator, make him part of the agenda design process as he will be able to guide you as to how to mix different activities and use time effectively.
7. Make sure everyone participates
Everyone in your staff might not be an extrovert. So if you are expecting that each employee invited for the retreat participates meaningfully in the sessions, make the sessions introvert-friendly. Instead of making everyone stand up and voice their thoughts and suggestions, make them write on a piece of paper. Encourage people to express their ideas without the fear of judgment. Create an atmosphere where minority ideas are also given fair consideration.
You need to define your role as a leader. You might want to take some time to figure out how and how much are you willing to deviate from your role as a leader and make other participants feel comfortable. You might want to be a silent spectator most of the times, but you also need to nudge, guide or direct the discussion, but not steer it to, what the participants might feel is, a preconceived decision. You need to strike the right balance of being an attentive listener, appreciative of your employees’ views and as a mentor to guide wherever necessary.
9. Assign “action leaders”
The outcome of every retreat is a plan of action. You need to assign action leaders who will be responsible for taking those actions and putting the plan to work. Every step has to be documented and roles need to be identified. Each team member has to be given specific roles and a time frame along with metrics against which the work done will be measured.
A one-off retreat isn’t enough. After all the planning and strategizing, it is necessary to do a thorough review of all that has been achieved and all that remains untouched or underachieved. A team also needs to be formed that will perform continuous monitoring and assessment of the work being carried out by different teams. After the stipulated time is up, a one-day review can be done, preferably some place outside the office, so that achievers can be congratulated and those that have come up short can be motivated to complete their work.
Retreats, when planned and executed properly, can be excellent events to get the creative juices flowing. More can be achieved in less time and complete participation can be expected from the employees.
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