How to Plan Corporate Retreats

Corporate retreats are a great way to get a team away from the daily grind to focus on a particular aspect of the business.  Through careful planning and selecting the correct destination, your corporate team will not only create powerful ideas but also bond through shared activities and experiences.

What is a Corporate Retreat

A corporate retreat is a team building exercise that takes staff away from the normal work environment.  Also called an offsite retreat, it is held out of the office on neutral territory.  This could be at a local conference centre, at a cabin in the mountains, or even overseas.

By taking staff away from the daily pressures and workload, you allow them to think more clearly, and be open to new ideas.  This fosters creativity and drives results.  You can take the opportunity to reaffirm your team’s shared mission, ensuring a common understanding of what it is you do and why does the organisation exist.

Choose a location for the corporate retreat that is completely different from the normal office environment.  Perhaps you could go to Lake Tahoe as it is near to San Francisco yet in the countryside.  If you are thinking of going overseas for your corporate retreat you could consider skiing in the French Alps, or golf and surfing at Praia Del Rey in Portugal.

A corporate retreat should not be considered to be a vacation.  Although you can provide the incentive of time on a golf course, maybe skiing in the mountains or being somewhere exotic, staff should be made aware that they are there for a specific purpose.

Whichever form of corporate retreat you decide to undertake, ensure that you communicate a clear and defined purpose or goal.

Define the Successful Outcomes of the Corporate Retreat

The corporate retreat must have a business goal. It is a waste of time and money if you are just going purely to get to know each other better, and to get your team to “bond.”

The aims and goals of the retreat will help you to select which staff to invite. If you are focussing on how to improve customer service, make sure that you have customer facing staff present. If you want to increase productivity and reduce the cost of quality, you will need a representative from all departments. For adapting the strategic direction, you will want to have staff who have a good understanding of the market and business.

Choose the Right Facilitator

One of the most critical parts of any team building activity is the facilitator. A facilitator is the person who guides the whole process, without becoming involved with the actual discussion.
Acting as a sounding board and being a very good listener, the facilitator ensures that the team considers all sides of the problem being explored, and asked pertinent questions that are thought provoking. You can select someone from your organisation to act as a facilitator as long as they are not closely connected with the task at hand. Sometimes it can be better to hire an independent facilitator from companies like Adventure Associates for your corporate retreat to host and run proceedings.

Logistics and Planning

Where are you going? How on earth do you get the whole team there? Are the right resources in place to allow your team to concentrate on their creativity?
The logistical organisation and planning needs to begin months in advance of the corporate retreat. Make sure you know what you want to achieve, and that the venue you have selected can support those goals.
You will need to consider:

  • transport
  • accommodation
  • food and drink
  • agenda and schedule
  • activities
  • rooms for holding the discussions
  • recording and presentation resources

Provide the Right Environment for Creativity

Please, please, please do not force staff to be completely out of their comfort zone. Some corporate team building advocates insist that the only way to get teams to think differently is to create a challenge that employees must rise to. Oh how wrong they are.
I have heard so many tales of staff hating being forced to go above and beyond the call of duty by going on long hikes, mud scrambles or the torture of building yet another drinking straw tower. Yes it is good to challenge people’s thinking, but you must support them to fulfil their potential.
If you have a room full of tech geeks, set them a problem that appeals to their inquisitive minds that a solution must exist. If you have a cluster of sales and marketing staff, appeal to their competitive spirit. But make it seem achievable so that employees get into the flow.
By providing the right balance of challenge against skill, as long as a solution seems achievable, you will be amazed at how engaged your workforce will be on your corporate retreat.

Further Ideas for Corporate Retreats