Employee retreats and what you should know | Ideas by We

From the activities and the food to the camaraderie, here’s how to design the best company retreat

Making time for an employee retreat is a great way to get your team off-site to bond.

Even better, team building retreats can identify and cultivate new skills, allow coworkers to open up to one another, and give everyone the chance to think outside the box. Staff retreats provide invaluable opportunities to step back from the mundane workday and gain new perspective on communication, teamwork, and creative problem-solving. The most successful retreat will clarify the company’s priorities, sharpen the team’s focus, and boost morale, which increases productivity back at the office.

If you’re considering taking the team out of the office for a fun activity, here are some company retreat ideas to consider.

Plan your retreat budget

How you approach your company retreat planning will ultimately be dictated by your budget. It’s important to decide early on how much you’ll be able to spend on the retreat, including any room and board or travel expenses. You should also consider the costs of closing the office for the duration of the event.

Since any downtime could result in a financial loss at the office, try to plan the retreat on a weekend, giving employees the opportunity to leave early on a Friday. If you’d rather not take away your team’s weekend, see if you can afford to have the office shut down Thursday and Friday.

Once you know how much time you can take off for the retreat and what your budget is, you’re in a better position to decide where to hold the retreat and what types of activities to include.

Choose the retreat location and facilitator

Deciding to host a company retreat is the easy part, but who should run it? And where should it be located?

There are several options for creating the perfect employee retreat. For example, you may choose to hold the retreat at a:

  • Campground
  • Lodge or ranch
  • Luxury resort
  • Ski resort
  • Golf course
  • Sports complex
  • Beach resort
  • Leadership training center
  • Coworking conference space
  • Spa hotel
  • Convention center
  • Nature center
  • Theme park
  • Casino resort
  • All-inclusive resort

The possibilities are only limited by your budget and location. You can also determine if the retreat should last an entire weekend or a single afternoon.

Once you’ve decided on the retreat’s location, you’ll need to determine who will facilitate the event.

The retreat facilitator can be you, an appointed retreat committee, or an outside facilitator. In some cases, the venue you choose may have connections to appropriate facilitators, but make sure to involve the facilitator early in the planning process so everyone is on board.

For the most part, you can facilitate a relatively small company retreat on your own. When you have 20 or more people involved, however, you’ll want to have an outside facilitator or multiple facilitators working on a committee. Having an outside facilitator also allows you, the manager or CEO, to be involved in the event right alongside your employees, which can help them better connect to you.

Develop the agenda

Once you’ve determined your retreat location and facilitator, it’s time to map out the agenda. Your agenda will also determine how long the retreat should last. For instance, a team building retreat can be successfully accomplished in one afternoon, but if you’re looking to change the entire direction of the company, you may need a whole weekend or more.

Identify the overarching reason why you’re holding the retreat. Is it to focus on team building activities? Or are you addressing concerns among coworkers? Are you hoping to inspire employees to be more involved in seeing the company succeed? Or are you planning an event that allows everyone to come together with their families?

If you intend to address certain issues during the retreat, you may consider surveying employees ahead of time. For example, pose a series of questions or concerns each team member must rank on a scale. The issues that rank the highest should take priority during the retreat’s lecture events or activities.

You may also simply ask employees what they hope to achieve at the retreat. Inquire about individual goals and skills they hope to build to help you design the agenda.

Keep in mind, however, that a good retreat will include a variety of activities, including team games, simulations, and group discussions.

Decide who attends

Not every company retreat is designed for the entire office. While you don’t want anyone to feel left out, you do want to cater each retreat to the employees most affected by the event’s agenda. As such, you may need to hold multiple retreats—one for executives and one for general employees.

In general, though, company retreats should involve all employees from the CEO and senior staff to the part-timers. Taking this approach helps ensure each employee feels like an equally valued member of the office.

Depending on the size of your company, it may only make sense to invite some departments rather than others. This could mean only inviting department heads and senior staff to the retreat. Or you may want to invite everyone, but you will need to break employees into smaller groups in order to participate in the retreat’s activities. Remember, it’s typically better to invite too many people to the retreat than to leave someone out.

Consider the food

Throwing a company retreat isn’t just about the events. You will need to feed your employees, either by catering food or by giving everyone a daily stipend to get their own food.

Try to eat together as a team as often as possible to take advantage of the retreat. You can do this by organizing a nightly cookout or pizza party. Just be sure to meet the dietary needs of every employee by taking stock of special requirements before the event. You can then offer vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free food options when necessary.

If you do decide to serve alcohol at the retreat, hire bartenders and wait staff. For evening retreats where driving might be involved, be sure to provide safe ways of getting home for those who need it.

Let everyone have a say

Employee retreats are opportunities for everyone to discuss the company, not just the company leaders. Give employees a platform from which they can discuss issues and offer suggestions on how to improve things. The last thing you want to do is invite employees along and not listen to what they have to say.

Since some team members may be less likely to speak up during a discussion, you can have everyone write down their ideas on paper with the option to remain anonymous. Pulling these ideas out of a hat generates discussion without fear of repercussions. You can also have the facilitator encourage employees to talk if they haven’t yet had a say.

Focus on more than work

Just because it’s an employee retreat doesn’t mean everyone has to focus on work 100 percent of the time. Encourage employees to interact and get to know one another better. Play hilarious games or allow everyone to catch a show together. Hold a cookoff or show a video or slideshow of the last company retreat.

When people have a chance to explore the outdoors, enjoy a meal together, or even just laugh with one another, they’re able to bond better.

However, don’t be afraid to stay on topic during retreat activities. While you should encourage your team to enjoy themselves, set boundaries. You can do this by designating free time throughout the day, allowing everyone to go off on their own and relax.

Don’t underestimate the importance of follow-up

After a successful retreat, you need to follow up with your employees. Company retreats take a lot of planning and they represent a huge investment in the company, so don’t come into work Monday and act as if the retreat never happened.

Employees will be buzzing about the event, so take this opportunity to discuss what worked and what didn’t. How would they change the next retreat? What would they want to do again? Did anything else come to mind after the retreat that can benefit the company or team?

When you reinforce the items accomplished from the retreat and give appropriate credit to employees who stood out, you’re cultivating your company culture in a positive light.

Planning your first company retreat is a daunting task, but the payoff is worth it. Afterward, your employees will feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and more invested in the company than ever before.

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