If you’ve ever had to suffer a mundane, unproductive team bonding exercise at a corporate retreat (you know the ones, the ‘trust fall’ or the ‘catch the egg’ game), you’ll probably be the first to dismiss these outings as a waste of time and money. But if you look beyond the superficial motivational exercises and forced fun, you’ll find that a company retreat is a great way to look at the business in perspective, have everyone step outside their ‘business as usual’ mentality, and offer up ideas on how things can be done better. In fact, many startups list company retreats as part of a successful business strategy, so it looks like they are here to stay.
Now is as good a time as any to organise a retreat or offsite. It’s the beginning of the year and an excellent time to be focussing on the business's goals and what improvements could be made to increase efficiency and job satisfaction for staff. It’s important, therefore, to make sure you organise a productive but enjoyable trip — one that avoids any cringe-worthy team-building exercises. Here are some ideas to help get your planning started.
Picking a venue is probably the most challenging part of organising a corporate retreat. You should look at locations away from the office, but the question is, how far should you go? If you’re hoping to save on travel costs (so you can spend the budget elsewhere), it’s best to hold the retreat within the boundaries of your city or just outside it.
Make sure the venue or location offers a quiet space in which to hold brainstorms and other exercises. Most hotels and lodges have boardrooms and meeting rooms that make for a productive environment. Think about other activities you might like to include. Will they involve the outdoors for example? And work back from there.
Productivity and enthusiasm is likely to be hindered if people start getting hungry, so catering for all day training is hugely important. Tea, coffee and water should always be on hand, as should snacks. Find a local caterer that delivers to the location in which you’re having your retreat, and work with them to put together something (or, Order-In can do this for you with one of our many corporate caterers in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Canberra or Adelaide).
When it comes to the main meals such as breakfast, lunch and dinner, make sure that the food is excellent quality. You don’t want staff thinking you’ve scrimped on the food budget! Make sure you cater to any special dietary requirements and let staff feel as if they can indulge a little. Spoiling everyone with delicious food is a great way to reward them for all their hard work.
Once you’ve established a venue and organised the catering, it’s time to start planning the agenda. You may need to involve senior members of the business at this stage, because they are likely to be in charge of determining the purpose of the retreat and what needs to be achieved.
Make sure you dedicate sufficient time for in-depth discussions on any issues that are under consideration, but add in regular breaks every few hours or so for tea, coffee and snacks. Be generous when setting aside time for meals, because this will provide extra opportunities for staff to socialise and get to know each other outside of the working environment. Finally, include any activities, and wrap up and review of the next action steps.
You may or may not decide to assign a facilitator, but opting for one could help the retreat run more smoothly.
There might be someone in the office that’s perfect for the job otherwise you can source a professional. They will help ‘facilitate’ group discussions, set expectations and goals as well as ensure that the agenda is adhered to. Afterwards, you can call on them to help summarise decisions made and action steps that need to be taken.