Whether you’re head of a massive corporation or run a small franchise business, pulling staff and partners together on an annual basis for an offsite business retreat can give your productivity and culture a big shot in the arm. Or it can be a disaster.
Here are some tips to make sure it’s the former.
A Clear Objective
Understanding and articulating the objective, or outcome, of your business retreat before you start any planning is a must. It will affect your content, choice of facilitator, and your venue. Your objective will be unique to you, but possibilities include team-building, launch of a new product line, introduce new processes or procedures, reward for a job well-done, or a combination of the above.
Align with Your Desired Culture
Notice I said “desired culture”. Often, retreats are held with an objective of building or shifting culture. This is not the place for us to discuss how to do that (remember Peter Drucker? “Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast”), but you do want to be conscious of what culture you want in your organization, so that you can create a retreat that helps you reinforce it. An example from my own experience is this: at KANDY Outdoor Flooring our culture is about our purpose and core values. Our purpose is expanding home experiences, and our core values are bring out the best in everyone, be the solution, deliver on every promise, passion for condo living, and ever evolving. Our goal was to ensure our entire team’s behaviour was aligned with those core values. So in recognition of our common values, and of how hard we work, our inaugural franchise partner conference, or retreat, was held nestled at the foot of Canada’s Rocky Mountains. And our agenda included plenty of outside time, with activities designed to strengthen and broaden their understanding of the core values that set us apart as a brand.
Understand the Players
Knowing the personalities and styles of those attending your retreat will help you ensure you achieve the objectives you’ve set. Introverts will not enjoy being put on the spot in front of the group. Extroverts will shy away from solo-type activities. But your objective may require that you shake things up, and so your retreat would include a mix of impromptu performances and quiet individual reflection.
Choose the Right Location and Venue
If your operations are spread across several geographic areas, consider finding a neutral location that is equally easy (or difficult) for people to get to. The venue should also be chosen with your objective in mind: comfortable, calm surroundings if you’re packing a bunch of information into the event. Room to move if your agenda includes physical activities or you’re displaying lots of new product.
Hire The Right Facilitator
Your facilitator’s style and area of expertise should mesh with your objective. If you’re hoping to diffuse a lot of team conflict, then someone skilled at conflict resolution would be helpful. If you’re hoping to inspire, a facilitator who is skilled at delivering inspirational content is what you’re looking for.
Build In Breaks
There’s always more to cover than there is time available, and it is expensive to host an off-site conference or retreat. Which means it is tempting to jam as much into each day as possible, and that means you’ll want to cut back on the number and duration of breaks. RESIST this temptation! Your people need to give their brains and bodies a break if they’re going to be able to give – and get – their best. No more than 90 minutes without an opportunity to stand up and move around. On a few of these breaks, feel free to build in fun interactive activities that can be cut if you’re running overtime. You’ll have a mix of critical elements and others that can help you get back on schedule if need be.
Give yourself and your planning team freedom to come up with creative ways to deliver your modules. Include fun ice-breaker games. Include activities that require your attendees to use their creativity to address a challenge. Mix it up!
You only do this once each year. Decide what you want to achieve out of the retreat, plan the content, hire the right facilitator, pay attention to the details, execute and enjoy. When you do this well, the positive benefits of your retreat with stay with the team all year. Right until the next one.