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A Fresh Perspective

7 Tips to Make Your Company Retreat a Success

During a typical workday, employees are bombarded with distractions that can break concentration and decrease productivity. Emails, co-workers, routine meetings, phone calls and day to day tasks can make it a challenge for employees to devote energy and focus to the big picture goals of an organization.
A well-organized retreat can provide a change of scenery and create a fresh perspective to realign your employees with your organization's core values. A retreat can unleash creativity, build relationships between employees and give your team the time to focus on a set of goals free from everyday interruptions. A retreat goes beyond the traditional meeting to provide an interactive environment where your organization can prosper.
Company retreats can give your team a boost and increase company morale. On the other hand, a poorly planned retreat can be a waste of time and resources.
In today's blog, we offer 7 tips to ensure that your retreat offers an environment for success.
1. Commit to the Investment
The first step to planning a successful retreat is to make the decision to invest in your team. While your budget should be top of mind, it is important to commit to making the investment in order to reap the benefits of your retreat. An effective retreat does not have to be extravagant. But, if you go into the planning process too concerned with cutting corners to spend as little as possible, you may not be focused on creating the best environment for success. Consider some simple ways to add to your retreat budget to enable you to have peace of mind and focus on what's important. One option is to forgo an annual gift that you give your team members to offer the experience of the retreat instead. Or, elect to plan a potluck in the place of an annual company provided meal.
2. Identify Your Goal
Another crucial first step when planning your retreat is to identify your goal. The overall purpose will determine the event agenda and logistics. Identify your ultimate purpose as what is most important to achieve through your retreat. Be specific. Goals such as "strategic planning" and "team-building" are too generic and broad. Perhaps your objective is is to get started on a new initiative or devote energy to an important project. Maybe it is to do long-term planning for your company growth. Or, perhaps it is to strengthen your team dynamic and improve communication between departments. Whatever it may be, your planning should revolve around a clearly defined goal.
3. Select a Facilitator
If you can, avoid having a manager or team-member facilitate. The most effective retreats are interactive and discussion based rather than lecture oriented. It is important to choose a facilitator that will foster a productive and positive environment. Consider a facilitator from an alternate department or location. Or, if it is within your budget, consider hiring an outside facilitator with an expertise that pertains to your main goals. As an outsider, a facilitator can often identify dynamics and barriers quicker and more effectively than a member of the team. Along with that, a facilitator with a specialty aligned with your goals will contribute as a knowledgeable and non-biased party. This helps to create an open environment to voice ideas and concerns. If your budget does not allow for a facilitator, you may utilize TED Talks and other resources in your programming to bring in some outside expertise.
4. Get Away from Distractions
When selecting a venue, it is beneficial to choose an atmosphere that will eliminate distractions. A change of environment can allow for a fresh perspective. Think outside the box and consider an alternative location than the traditional conference center. An environment with scenic views and a natural setting can be a perfect retreat location. Your team may benefit from some "disconnected" times during the retreat without access to cell phones, computers and other devices. You can work it into meal or activity times to provide for a true "getaway." Some companies even elect to choose locations without WiFi for that reason. Help stay focused during discussions by utilizing a "parking lot" area on a white board where you can write topics outside of your main goals that you should tackle at a later date.
5. An Agenda for Success
To be most effective, a retreat should be more than a day long. Two to five days is a typical length for a retreat, depending on budget, location and objectives. When determining your retreat agenda, a good blend is 80% work and 20% fun. Be sure to build in educational sessions as well as discussion and planning sessions. It is typically helpful to build in small group breakouts and open discussion time. Along with that, schedule in lots of breaks and some open time. You may also consider incorporating some ways to get the more introverted members of the group involved such as by asking attendees to write questions or ideas down anonymously. And, most importantly, be sure to identify and schedule follow-up steps to assure for accountability and implementation after the retreat.
6. Retreat Activities
An important element of your agenda is recreation activities. Activities will enable your team to "let their hair down" and will further develop interpersonal relationships. Steer clear of cliche activities such as the "trust fall." Hiking, biking, canoeing or other activities are options that are inexpensive and can be enjoyed by a majority. Getting outdoors is especially therapeutic and can boost morale. Based on your location, rather than gravitate to the most popular attractions, seek out some that are lesser known. Or, schedule a workshop or class for cooking or painting. Another idea is to arrange for a volunteer opportunity as a group. This will not only serve as a team-building exercise, but can foster community relationships and build visibility for your company.
7. Hire A Corporate Retreat Planner
Initially, you may not think that hiring an event planner is within your budget or even necessary. But, hiring a planner may be more inexpensive than you think. Event planners have a network of contacts and are able to suggest venues and resources that you may not have thought of. Along with that, they can negotiate deals and save you time. An event planner will handle calling around, bargaining, setting up and finalizing details. Hiring help can be a way for you to host a successful event without distracting you from your priorities.
By: Catherine Mayfield, Owner/Founder of EventConnect
EventConnect offers a range of event planning services for businesses in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area. With our full event planning packages, we eliminate some of the time and hassle you would spend planning your company event.
Our unique concierge service is a tool for businesses to locate resources for venues, caterers, event speakers, team-building opportunities and more. We specialize in connecting businesses with options for team-building and company retreats.
Schedule a free consultation to discuss your unique company needs.
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