The Ultimate Guide To Planning A Productive And Fun Company Retreat

So you've just been tasked with planning a company-wide retreat. No big deal, right?! Let's just plan a vacation for everyone in the office with different schedules, goals, personalities and backgrounds. This should be easy.

For the more veteran retreat planners out there, you may have noticed that the process seems to ignore Gladwell's 10,000 Hours Rule
Planning a company retreat is always a difficult task, we can't avoid that. But, what we can do, is share some of our formula here at Earth Missions which streamlines a lot of the process and brings the fun back into planning a trip or experience for your team.
Absolutely above everything else, remind yourself that no one knows your people or your culture like you do. This retreat is an opportunity to reinforce your internal culture and value system while building relationships between colleagues! 
One of the secrets in the early planning stages of a productive company retreat is to have a handful of upper management clearly sign-off of the high-level goals and objectives you are looking to accomplish. This will allow you and your team to hit the ground running once there is a clear vision! 
Retreats afford colleagues at all levels of the organization the opportunity to rally around a shared vision and to identify key insights on how to continue building a great company, inside and out. The atmosphere ought to be formal and informal at some meetings. Other things involved in planning a retreat are budget, location entertainment, activities, accommodations and food. This guide will help you achieve a productive company retreat that will be talked about for years. 

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Tips for proper planning

Outline your expectations

This is the foundation of planning for this event. Don’t give your team members the impression that you're planning a luxurious holiday while your intention is a work retreat. This will create a lot of disconnect and confusion. The expectations have to be set from the beginning. Share your ideas with other representatives in your company - "Don't Work On An Island". Their feedback will help you understand if your expectations and theirs are moving in one direction.
After you have gotten a footprint of what the retreat should look like, you can share the idea with other members of staff. If they know what your agenda is, then no one will complain that they were not involved or carried along. It’s also important to relate the time and date of each event to all the members of staff.

Plan ahead

There is this saying that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Proper planning requires that you start on time. Don’t start planning at the final hours. Planning ahead will give you and your the ability to move around obstacles that will undoubtedly arise throughout the planning and execution of this retreat. 
The advantage of planning ahead is that it saves you time, energy and money. When you book for an accommodation months before you arrive, it's always cheaper. The major advantage of planning ahead is that it gives you room to plan and re-plan, make mistakes and amend.

Seek advice from predecessors

Even when the responsibility is passed onto you suddenly, seek the advice of those who have planned such an event before. They will be in a proper position to give you the necessary advice. Take the positive aspect of their experience and see how you can make something out of it. It’s often said that experience is the best teacher.

Share responsibilities

The truth must be told, you can’t execute the retreat on your own. You need the support of other members of your team to plan a successful retreat. Delegate some activities you know can be taken care of by other people. However, when you have delegated responsibilities, make sure to follow-up. Always keep in touch with the team members your working with to ensure that they have carried out the activity delegated to them. This will help you stay on top of things. The individuals you delegate responsibilities to can be tagged as retreat committee. They should be from every department.

Tools We Love: 

Trello: Project management tool we live in when building a retreat. From the discovery call through execution, our team relies on this tool to check everything off the list. We're also starting to use this tool externally with our clients for more collaboration. 
Google Drive: Everything also lives in Google Drive for each retreat. We use google forms to get to know our clients goals, needs and budget. We can also learn more about the individuals and what they wan't to achieve from each company through forms. We use Sheets to organize vendors, costs, itineraries and rosters for team building events. 
Apart from the aforementioned tips and tools, their other ingredients that will also ensure for a productive company retreat.

On-Site Event Director

Get someone to moderate the event from within your company or an external moderator. Earth Missions provides an On-Site Event Director. The choice of who moderates will determine on the aim and purpose of the retreat.
Ensure that you invite someone who is capable of doing the job properly. However, if you're to moderate the retreat internally, pick someone who truly understand the vision of the offsite.

Budget

Budgeting is an aspect of life that can’t be done without. It’s all about managing the goals of the retreat and the requirements of the retreat. Planning a retreat also requires that you have a well-structured budget. This may not be so formal up-front but eventually we will wan't to drill-down into a specific cost structure. Remember, you don't need a massive budget to get your team together and inspired out of the office.
Most teams we work with are surprised on our Location Proposal Call with the number of options they have, even on limited budgets.

Venue

The environment for the retreat is as important as the retreat. For remote teams, we always recommend a venue within a short drive from an international airport. Our formula for venues is simple, we take into account the location of your HQ, the number of days you plan to be away and present 3-4 options based on that information.
Choosing a venue is also where you take your company culture into account. Are you a group of outdoor enthusiasts that will find inspiration in fresh air and open spaces? Maybe a busy and bustling city-scape will drive experiences that further connects your team. This is all covered in your first Discovery Call with Earth Missions. 

Accommodations

The accommodation should be such that it wows your employees to come for the retreat. This doesn’t mean it has to be top-notch accommodation, rather it should be an experience that pays attention to the high-level goals of the retreat. This will encourage your team to bring their A-game. We always recommend vetting your accommodation options either through a professional travel agency or via online reviews. Don't be afraid to ask for a testimonial from a previous corporate retreat client! 
If possible, let your colleagues choose a private room option. This depends on the budget but research has shown that this will help them feel relaxed. But if the budget can’t accommodate private rooms for everyone, you can pair people of like minds in one room.

Activities and Experiences

Remember that some members of staff are extroverts while others are introverts. This ought to be considered while structuring your activities for the retreat. Spending lot of time together can be draining so it will be ideal to give them some time on their own.
Experiences are truly where your team will bond and create lasting relationships. These relationships will drive a more succinct workforce at your company and, research shows, has a direct impact on employee churn. 
Team Building does carry a negative connotation in the retreat and offsite planning space. Too many failed and forced activities that don't truly create a unified team. The fact is, the reason you're planning this retreat is to build better relationships within your team. When planning these activities, simply start with your goals for the retreat and marry those to specific aspects of your internal company culture.

Meals

Finding out what meal your group will eat can be such a daunting task. It's important you plan proper meals. They mustn’t be seven-course meals but should be nutritious. 
Some may have some dietary restrictions, so ensure that all these are taken into consideration as you plan. It’s will be helpful to have these details documented in a file.
At Earth Missions, we travel like family. We create experiences together and we dine together. 
Successful retreats have been proven to galvanize teams around a shared vision, help companies grow and result in increased profit. Retreats should, in the end, make your team a stronger unit through shared experiences and inspiring activities. 

 

The retreat ought to reveal hidden talents of your staff.

Everyone has their individual talent apart from their field of study. Most companies hire people because of their field of study and experiences. You may be wondering how a retreat can help you discover hidden talents of your staff. 
One of your employees may also be a fantastic cook or a musician. These talents can only be discovered when you get away from the daily grind. You can also encourage a talent hunt in course of your retreat to help them unwind. Who knows you might just discover a talent that will be useful to your team.

The retreat should help create a stronger bond among your team.

In an office environment, it is sometimes difficult for people to create deeper bonds and to express themselves. Through shared experiences and inspiring environments, people can truly create unique and lasting bonds. This will give your staff that feeling like they are with extended members of their family. Any team that feels like family will communicate better and trust and encourage one another. This will also increase productivity levels.
When you create this close-knit relationship, they will not allow the company to fail. They feel like they are responsible for the success and failure of the company. Your retreat ought to help achieve this feeling.

The retreat should help staff overcome their fears. 

You might be surprised to hear the kind of fears some people on your team have. This can be a really fun and exciting exercise for your team. At Earth Missions, we've created a specialty program called Fear Cards that unlocks amazing experiences for your team on any budget company retreat.
A company retreat is vital for your organization. Without atleast an annual check-in, you're company will be running like a sports team that doesn’t practice, plan or hold training camps. Even when your company is doing well, it will be wrong to assume that your team's cohesion is at peak levels. Retreats help your colleagues truly express themselves and will, in the end, help you know your team even better than you today. 
While in the initial planning phase, let go of those preconceived notions you already have for your next retreat. Put your teams goals and your culture into priority. If you start and finish with those aspects in mind, you will accomplish an amazing retreat and see growth both individually and collectively for your organization. 

Focus on the following if you're planning a retreat for the first time.

  • Celebration of achievements
  • High-Level Goals of Your Company 
  • Trust Between Different Levels of Your Company
  • Driving Key Aspects of Your Culture
  • Sharing the Short and Longterm Vision from Leadership
  • Unique Activities and Experiences
  • Team Building Events That Reinforce Your Culture
  • A Location that Inspires Your Team
  • Group Size and Travel Preferences
  • Expectations from Entire Organization
  • Personal and Professional Development
  • FUN! 

Focus on the following if this is an annual retreat.

  • Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements 
  • Integrate new staff members
  • Identify challenges within your team
  • Close gaps between people, processes, and vision.
  • Connecting daily roles to your company’s vision
  • Address your systems of operation, processes, and people
  • Provide clarity on the goal and vision for the company
  • Training and Development for Individuals
  • Reach a conclusion on the way forward
At Earth Missions, we truly believe in the power of a well-planned and perfectly executed Company Retreat. Our formula and process streamlines the time and resources your team will put into many of the components mentioned above. The starting point with Earth Missions is always to identify your goals and to get to know your culture.

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