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21 Mar

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Company Retreat in 2020

Corporate retreats can improve corporate cohesion, boost employee satisfaction—and they can even be fun! Here’s how to plan a corporate retreat that shows results.

We’ve all heard the horror stories from corporate retreats. It seems like they’re all endless gauntlets of cringe-inducing ice-breakers or booze-fueled benders that leave everyone nursing their poor brain cells. Neither is ideal for boosting morale.

But the truth is, corporate retreats are a great way to increase the focus and drive of your staff by building bonds with employees and improving overall workplace satisfaction.

What can this do for your bottom line? One study found that even a small increase in employee satisfaction results in a 7.9% boost in market value.

So, how do you get all these perks in as little as a weekend away?

In short, management needs to do its job and, well, manage. An open bar and a round of trust falls won’t cut it. From activities to seating to safety to transportation, everything needs to be planned and executed with intention (meaning, with clear objectives in mind).

In this guide to corporate retreats, we’re going to tell you how to plan and execute a retreat with concrete objectives that achieve positive interpersonal and financial results.

And, hey, you might even have a little fun.

What to Know About Corporate Retreats

The reason that most corporate retreats don’t go down well with staff or management is because most managers don’t know what a corporate retreat really is.

To find out, let’s first look at what a corporate retreat IS NOT.

  • A retreat is not a reward: Positioning a retreat as a reward means all of your employees will expect to be pleased. This sets you up for failure.
  • A retreat is not a mixer: Mixers are unstructured. An unstructured retreat will result in your employees sticking with people they already know.
  • A retreat is not a course or lecture: One word. Boring.
  • A retreat is not about you: Managers love to talk. Your employees are not as thrilled about listening. Management should be the focus of attention less than 20% of the time.

What is a corporate retreat?

A company retreat is a coordinated event consisting of interpersonal activities that lead to the accomplishment of a clear objective. In order for a retreat to be successful, you need to define your objective.

A common objective is to improve employee morale. But others objectives may pertain to conflict resolution, education, identifying with a market, etc.

Once you have your objective in mind, it’s time to plan.

Guide to Planning Your Corporate Retreat

Your plans should revolve around your initial objective. Your retreat is only limited by your creativity, so we can’t tell you how to dream up the perfect retreat for your company. This guide will provide management with the steps it needs to build a solid foundation for a successful corporate retreat.

Choosing a location and accommodation

Choosing a location can be a lot of fun. But it can also lead to pitfalls. For instance, don’t let your staff vote on possible locations. This will lead to conflict and disappointment that will tarnish the retreat before it even begins.

And, don’t make the mistake of choosing a location that you love, such as going to the same resort where you had your family reunion.

Choose a location that will help to achieve your objective. If you’re trying to build stronger connections with your staff, then don’t choose a crowded location that’s popular with families or party-goers. No matter how attractive the amenities and facilities may be, if the location makes it harder to accomplish your goal, it’s not a good pick.

Finally, always go to the location beforehand to scope it out and make final preparations. Ask the organizer on-site to walk you through the entire itinerary. Check the menus, accommodation arrangements, and materials to ensure everything is ready. Just one mistake can alter the schedule you worked so hard to plan.

Create an agenda/itinerary

Once you’re settled in at the location, it’s time to start your activities. There should be at least 3 activities per day, broken up by meals and rest periods, as well as some optional experiences in the early morning and evening, such as yoga or a cocktail making course.

When deciding the types of activities to plan, the key is variety. Many managers focus on team-based activities to build comradery, but one team sport after another will get old fast. To add a little variation, you can categorize activities in 3 ways:

  • Fun: Entertainment, board games, sports, etc. Paintball and trivia are good examples.
  • Challenge: Make them work a little. Overcoming a challenge leads to feelings of fulfillment. These activities can be connected directly to the work your company does.
  • Leisure: Low brainpower and physical effort, high socializing. Social games like Apples to Apples are fun. Add some refreshments, too.

Some of the most important sessions in the itinerary are the first and last. These aren’t just for saying “Welcome” and “Goodbye.” They are crucial for framing the retreat around your objective and setting the expectations of your staff.

Pro Tip: Expect the unexpected. Mistakes and mishaps are bound to occur. Leave enough flexibility in the itinerary to account for surprises.

Decide on the food and drinks

Have you ever been to a hotel with free, but terrible, breakfast? Guests are quick to leave this in their reviews.

Food is something that sticks in the memory. Even if your staff don’t remember all the lessons they learned during activities, when next year’s retreat comes around, they will be excited to return if they have memories of delicious meals.

Good food shows that you care enough to spend money on quality meals. This, in turn, boosts employee satisfaction. The real lesson here is that spending a bit more during the retreat, whether for nicer rooms, meals, or buses, will be repaid ten-fold in employee satisfaction throughout the year.

Another consideration is alcohol consumption. Many employees may see the retreat as an occasion to let loose and get tipsy. This can be easily fixed if management frames the retreat accordingly.

Remember, we said a retreat is NOT a mixer or a reward. This is not free time for your employees. They would never drink at the office, so if you frame this as a work outing, they will behave according to that script.

If you want to include some cocktails or wine at the retreat, do it in a way that curtails drinking but doesn’t restrict it. Plan a cocktail hour that lasts ONLY an hour. Or, have a wine tasting where employees are limited to 3 samples each.

Pro Tip: Be sure to collect info about any food allergies, intolerances, and preferences beforehand. These employees should receive dishes of the same quality as those having the normal menu. 

Arrange Transportation

You might be moving from place to place quite a bit during your retreat, so reliable transportation is a must.

Do NOT let your staff drive themselves. This will result in lots of late arrivals and an itinerary that quickly falls apart.

Hire a comfortable bus or shuttle for your staff. Make sure the shuttle is spacious, air-conditioned, and attractive. If an impressive, new bus rolls up to pick up your staff, it will give them a positive impression before the retreat even starts. If you hire an old, dirty coach, they’ll be poised to see everything in a negative light.

BlackBus is the #1 employee transportation service in the Los Angeles and San Francisco area. They specialize in corporate retreats and understand how important it is to be punctual and professional. It’s not just about being on schedule; it’s about helping you achieve the objectives of your retreat.

To learn more about corporate retreat transport, speak to a BlackBus representative today.

Appoint a Safety Officer

As a manager, you can’t do it all. One of the things that require constant attention is health and safety. Choose a mindful employee (possibly someone from HR who already knows the health concerns of the staff) to be the safety officer.

Before the retreat begins, introduce this person to your staff as the safety officer and explain their role and the authority they have.

The safety officer won’t be able to have as much fun as the others, so add some extra perks for this person to show you appreciate their hard work, such as a nicer room or a small bonus.

Have Fun

One mistake that managers make is to plan fun activities around the activities that help them to achieve their objectives. This doesn’t work. Your objectives should be achieved via fun activities.

It’s also important that you have fun. If your employees see that you (the manager) are having fun, they’ll instantly feel more relaxed and want to have fun too. You’re the leader, and they will base a lot of their interactions on their perception of you.

Gather Feedback

Did your retreat work? There are a few ways to find out. But the most direct one is to conduct an anonymous survey.

Ask your employees what they thought of the transportation, activities, food, and accommodation. You can also plan some questions that relate to your objective, but don’t be too obvious about it.

If the answers are positive, you can build on them for the next retreat. If they’re not, you can change your plans and try to do better next year.

The Road to Your Corporate Retreat

Planning a corporate retreat isn’t easy, so make sure to plan in advance and make your bookings early.

If there’s one thing that you can rely on, it’s transportation from BlackBus. Just one call gets you modern transport, business-class amenities, access to a 24/7 command center with up-to-the-minute schedule alterations and traffic info, and the best service in the Los Angeles and San Francisco area.

Contact BlackBus today and ensure your corporate retreat transportation is in the right hands.

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