An Event Planner Perspective: The Value of Company Retreats
At The Castle Group, not only do we plan meetings, incentives and retreats for our clients, we also practice what we preach and participate in our own company retreat. A company retreat provides a unique opportunity to take your employees out of their everyday work setting and give them intentional time to get to know one another while working towards a common goal.
Happy employees in a healthy work environment produce better work. Harvard Business Review reports, according to research by the Gallup Organization, that companies with low employee engagement showed lower productivity, profitability and job growth over time, than those companies with highly engaged employees. To put it simply, the time and money you invest in your employees’ well-being has a proven return on investment.
Corporate retreats build community—among team members and across divisions. Give your employees a chance to interact with people they may not work with on a day-to-day basis. They might discover internal resources they didn’t know were available, or simply become a friendly face, rather than a stranger, around the office. Building a great company culture is vital to employee retention. Enjoying the people you work with is almost as important as how much you enjoy the work itself.
Taking teams out of the office may open your eyes to individual strengths you didn’t know your employees had. Structured meeting time to hear from team members and programmed activities as an outlet to let loose are all important elements that make company retreats valuable. At the 2015 Castle Company Retreat, our PR and Events divisions were challenged to present our unique services to the other department in a creative way – forcing us to get out of our comfort zone and think through our everyday tasks from a new perspective (you can view highlights from that retreat here).
With offices from Boston to Atlanta and Maui, a yearly retreat is not the best fit for our company. Meeting every other year is the schedule that works best for us. It’s important to find the balance that’s right for your team—trying to plan a retreat during your busy season will only put more stress and strain on employees. Choose a time in your year with the most potential for a restorative and productive meeting.
Keep in mind:
- Client schedules – Choose a time that conflicts with as few project deadlines as possible.
- Employee needs – If you are considering an overnight stay, think through how this will affect your employee’s child-care arrangements and other obligations.
- Be creative – Don’t limit yourself to the traditional ideas of what a company retreat looks like. Maybe the best way for your company to take a retreat is to set aside two hours at the end of each work day for one dedicated week.
- Don’t wait for a crisis – A company retreat is not a Band-Aid to fix a failing company culture. The best results are achieved when retreats and employee appreciation events are used to sustain and build positivity. Make your retreat an event to look forward to, with clearly communicated goals, not an after-thought.
Be strategic – set goals and have a focused agenda for the entirety of the program. The purpose of the retreat is make progress towards a goal, with the added bonus of building work relationships. Give staff the opportunity to learn something new and share with one another.
Don’t make employees pay for it – monetarily or with their free time. If you are doing an overnight program, ensure employees have a set time to check-in with folks at home and attend to any personal matters.
As event planners, we can help you make sure the logistical pieces of your program are in line with your content and goals. It’s important to maximize your time by eliminating distractions and delays such as audio/visual and technical difficulties, ensuring the room sets are optimized for session goals (u-shape for discussion, round tables for small breakouts, etc.), getting everyone from point A to B without a hitch, etc.
Let’s be honest – the office is not always a sanctuary of peace. Taking your staff outside of their usual space is a great start and often offers a sense of release. Local retreat centers and hotels may be the best way to get your team into a fresh space that has the resources you need to run a meeting.
While it can be exciting to take attendees somewhere they may not go on their own and provide them with new experiences, it’s important to be practical. People don’t want to “waste” time. Be mindful of travel time when selecting your destination and venue.
Know your needs.
- If you are working with a new group of recruits, teambuilding activities can be a great way for new employees to interact and communicate.
- If you are taking long-time employees on a retreat, it’s often better to focus on company goals and tap the creativity of the group to solve internal or external challenges.
- If your team is a bit burnt out, or has just completed a huge project, a wellness retreat may be the best use of your time.
Company retreats are for everyone. The Incentive Research Foundations 2018 trend study states, “there emerges a single new-economy truth: a company’s culture can be its greatest asset.” Modern businesses recognize employees as more than cogs in a wheel – a corporate retreat is a perfect chance to encourage creativity and openness in the workplace.