If you want to increase employee engagement, get everyone refocused and reenergized while increasing team collaboration, a corporate retreat may be a great choice.
Corporate retreats give you the chance to clarify your company’s goals and missions, employee roles, and your company culture while offering a team bonding experience outside of the office. Retreats can also improve morale and motivate your entire staff, making them a worthwhile investment.
Planning, organizing, and hosting a great corporate retreat can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful. In order to help you plan the retreat that your business needs (and that your employees deserve!), we’ve broken down the process of how to organize a corporate retreat and tips and tools that can help you along the way.
Company retreats should strike that perfect balance of work and fun, and shouldn’t feel like a typical office meeting that just happens to be in a new location.
This means that a little more thought needs to go into planning the retreat, and that you’ll need to take 3 key factors into consideration when you start planning. Let’s look at each one.
Before you start actually getting into the details about your retreat, ask yourself what corporate wants the retreat to accomplish and what they want your team to get out of it.
Is the goal to forge connections between a predominantly remote team spread across multiple countries? In this case, having more time for team introductions and bonding activities will be crucial, and you’ll want to plan for the retreat to last at least 2-3 days.
If, however, you just want to give your team some fun time away from the office for casual team building, then a quick day or two should suffice.
Time of year is crucial for retreats, and will take a little extra research if you’re going outside your immediate area. The last thing you want to do is plan a ski event when there’s a chance the snow will be melting, or a trip to Florida right in the prime of hurricane season.
You’ll also want to avoid asking people to travel when they’re most likely to be responsible for childcare (there’s no school in the summer, for example), or during a major holiday like Christmas when most of your staff wouldn’t be willing to come.
A retreat doesn’t just require planning on your end; anything outside of your staff’s normal routine requires that you give them a heads up far in advance, especially if travel or unusual hours are involved.
You need to give your staff time to find childcare, hire pet sitters, and plan transportation to and from the retreat accordingly. This takes time, so try to give people information a minimum of three months in advance. If possible, create an agenda for your staff and give it to them as early as possible so they can know what to expect.
As you’re planning your corporate retreat, you’ll want to think about what it is exactly your team wants to do. It can be challenging to pick something that makes everyone happy, but sitting in a remote hotel to listen to lectures in an area where there’s nothing to do won’t have your team jumping for joy.
As you’re planning, be mindful of the size of the office you’re planning for. Trying to book a venue, lodging, or a caterer for 20 employees will be a lot easier than trying to do the same for 500 employees.
Let’s take a look at the 6 different steps you need to take when planning and a few tools that can help.
The retreat venue can be almost anything that you want; you can rent out a huge conference space in a large resort, or opt for a day at a local national park.
When considering venues, think about what your team would be interested in, what works with your budget, and what you think works well with the purpose of the retreat. Would your team be interested in doing something outdoors in the mountain, or go somewhere tropical to enjoy the downtime?
If anyone on your staff has physical restrictions, keep those in mind when choosing a venue. Make sure that it’s fully accessible, and if you’re unsure, you can always send out a survey asking team members to anonymously request special accommodations they may need.
Tools like Venue Report can help here, giving you information on plenty of great venues that suit your specific needs in the general region of your choice.
In some cases, lodging won’t be needed, especially if the retreat is local. In others, you’ll need to book lodging, but it will be the same as the event venue.
In many cases, though, you’ll need to book accommodations separately, and you’ll want to find somewhere that’s close enough to your venue that it’s easy for your staff to get back and forth.
When looking at lodging, get in touch with the hotel or resort directly. It’s often possible to negotiate room blocks, which would allow your team to get a discount for booking multiple rooms at once.
Venue Report is valuable again here, too; you can look up room blocks that align with your specific budget, and then pairs you up with venues in the range, too.
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How is your staff going to get to, from, and around the retreat area? If you’re local, this won’t matter too much, but all other retreats should absolutely factor transportation into the planning process (and the budget).
Charter buses can work well for a one-day retreat where you’re simply going to a single location that’s relatively close by and back, and won’t need transport elsewhere. Similarly, shuttle busses work well for retreats in town.
Keep in mind that if your team is flying in, you’ll need to book their flights and transportation from the airport to the venue and back again. Fortunately, most major airlines offer discounted car rentals if you book them while you’re arranging your flight. You may be able to coordinate with a few team members one-on-one about potentially carpooling, cutting costs if needed.
While this can be a lot for an office managers to keep up with, travel booking sites like Travelocity and Kayak have consolidated booking, giving you lower fares when you book transportation and lodging together.
Corporate travel tools can also be invaluable for larger corporations, allowing you to set travel budgets for each individual employee and allowing them to schedule their own flights and other accommodations that works best for them. You can learn more here.
After you’ve locked in your venue and your lodging, you need to hire a caterer to cover your meals if the venue hasn’t included that already.
Your best bet is to ask the venue for local recommendations or to check out the review sites for reliable caterers. Google and Yelp are both exceptional for this purpose.
While you’re planning, consider how many meals per day you’ll want to provide. Some retreats offer only breakfast and lunch, or only lunch and dinner, while others offer all three. Factor this into your budget up front.
You also need to make sure that you’re accounting for all dietary and allergy needs, so survey your team about their restrictions before you hire a caterer.
At this point, you’ve gotten most of the difficult logistics taken care of, and now it’s time to start planning more of the fun stuff: activities and retreat events.
Plan activities that you’ll be doing as a team, and book them far in advance. It’s still a retreat after all, and not entirely a vacation. People will expect both talks and team building exercises.
Different examples of activities you may organize for the retreat include:
If you’re not sure where to start, services like TeamBonding can match your venue location with team-building or recreational activities in the area, making organization a little easier.
Your staff isn’t going to be on lockdown the entire time they’re at the retreat, so it’s good to not only plan blocks of time where they can venture off on their own, but also provide some recommendations for what to do during that time.
Create brochures or compile a document that provides necessary information on the area where the retreat will be held, including sections on restaurant recommendations or local landmarks people may be interested in seeing. You can find all this by checking out review sites like Yelp and Google.
Sometimes planning a corporate retreat is too big of a task for a single office manager to tackle on their own. This is particularly the case as your business becomes larger or if the retreat is longer or more involved.
Fortunately, there are a few companies that are focused exclusively on helping you organize the logistics of your retreat, streamlining the process significantly for you. Some great examples include the following:
Planning a corporate retreat can feel a little overwhelming, but having the right tools, resources, and planning processes at their disposal will make a world of difference. All of this makes it possible to plan enjoyable and rewarding retreats that your entire staff will love, which is always the end goal to keep in mind.
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