While I can appreciate the occasional ropes course and Kumbaya singing by a fire, the fact is that company retreats consisting solely of recreational activities rarely result in a positive, long-term impact on the company.
If you are taking the time and money to bring your entire staff together, you want a retreat that leads to results. I’m not saying you should cut all the comrade activities, but rather set clear goals for what you want to accomplish at your retreat and sprinkle in the fun parts as a reward for everyone’s hard work.
Fortunately, we recently had the annual Pierpont retreat, which has provided great examples to illustrate these points. Here are four things your retreat should be:
1) Open – Plan the meeting agenda, but not the outcomes. Use the time together to genuinely look at the company’s status. From there, try to ask questions like, “What are we missing?” and “Where can we improve?” to generate honest and unique perspectives.
This year’s Pierpont retreat also happened to be our 25th anniversary. We reflected on how the company has changed during that time and then focused on “Where will Pierpont be in the next 25 years?” We took this time to brainstorm ideas from the practical to the wild on where we envisioned the company’s future. This conversation sparked great ideas in goal-setting.
2) Candid – Don’t avoid potentially heated topics. Instead, encourage people to respectfully and responsibly air conflicts. Real agreement is built when different points of views collide into constructive criticism. When people express their true feelings, productivity increases.
At the Pierpont retreat, we broke out into groups of five to discuss our ideal work day. These sessions allowed people to voice issues they encountered daily, the impact they had on their productivity and provide recommendations for dealing with these issues. Understanding one another’s preferences and thought processes can lead to a more productive team.
3) Informal – Keep it loose and keep employees’ minds active. You want to stay on topic and schedule, of course, but if a productive discussion comes up, don’t necessarily cease it right away. Keep a schedule, but be open to slight adjustments of 5 or 10 minutes if a great conversation arises.
Also, make sure employees are comfortable and having fun. In between sessions, we did Pierpont employee trivia and networking tips. These “mini-breaks” kept the mood light and it added some good laughs.
4) Conclusive – The worst part of any long meeting or retreat: you spend all day discussing great ideas and then nothing gets done. This is the perfect way to plan for disaster. Instead, everyone should leave knowing exactly what they are expected to do.
At the end of our retreat, we assigned small teams to each goal and resulting tasks, and then we set deadlines for accomplishing them. This simple step alone will take a retreat from a potential waste of time to a productive meeting directly impacting the business.
With these tips, you can plan a company retreat that will lead to decisions, actions and most importantly, results – all while maintaining an enjoyable atmosphere.
What would you like to see at your next retreat?