The Corporate Retreat is kind of the cleaning-your-gutters of the business world: You know you should do it at least once in a while, but too many don’t do it very often – or even at all.
Our team just came back from Nashville from one, and we’re all so grateful we made the time to do it. There are the well-documented benefits: a time to be reflective, team-bonding, a huge morale booster; and conversations that spur game-changing ideas that couldn’t possibly have happened otherwise. Yet there are “reasons” to put it off – budget, time, etc. – that can easily and unwittingly delay the benefits indefinitely. Well, I’m telling you the benefits are exponential. Here are five points for your successful corporate retreat.
- Take the Opportunity to Show Appreciation
It’s no secret that an employee who’s engaged and enthused is the key to success for any company. Engaged employees have increased productivity, quality of work, and allow management to retain great talent. Retreats are the perfect opportunity for managers to get employees out of their busy day-to-day to take a breath, and to hear directly from them what works, and what doesn’t. It’s also the perfect place for management to show its appreciation and give employees a reason to stay engaged and enthused.
At our retreat our CEO, Cristy Reiter, welcomed all of us that first day with a hilarious dance party and a beautiful little turquoise box with a white ribbon on it … yes, Tiffany boxes. Cristy shared that the gift inside (a beautiful key chain with the company logo and year engraved on the back) was a token of her appreciation for each person’s contribution to 20 wonderful years of U.S. HealthTek history, and for the company’s future growth and diversification. Inside was a card with a quote from Aristotle that said: “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” Truth be told, it was the note and the gesture that had the most impact on all of us; the gift was just a bonus. Simple words of thank you will speak volumes to your team and let you start your retreat with a glow around the room and a team ready to do some team-building work.
- Really Get to Know Each Other
You’ll find that one of the most valuable parts of your retreat will be in team members really getting to know each other’s backgrounds, qualifications, areas of expertise, and a bit about who they are as a person, outside of work. This creates deeper team bonds for employees and will result in more connected – and happier – teams. For me, it was fascinating to get to know each member of this amazing team a little better; I knew about the high quality and diversity of my co-workers’ experiences, but really getting to know them made me feel proud and grateful to be aligned with like-minded professionals dedicated to the future of our organization. (This was especially valuable for us, as often clients don’t realize that there is in fact a team of people working for them behind the Project Manager they directly work with.)
- Project a Clear Vision that Resonates and Inspires
A retreat is a rare opportunity to get workers away from their day-to-day distractions to really focus on the bigger picture. And it is management’s opportunity to give teams a clear vision of the future, so that they return to their day-to-day with the bigger picture in clear view. It also gives them goals to strive for, both from a corporate level, and a personal career level. Our executive team shared growth plans and their vision of the company future which included plans for expansion, diversification of our services, investment in application development, and continued commitment to business associates through professional training and development opportunities. We were also given a safe and open platform to ask questions of the executive team or of each other (can’t reveal those – cone of silence!).
- Have Fun Together
Most retreats feature fun team-building activities to build teamwork and bonding among team members. Our version of this was an afternoon at Top Golf, a driving range/putting range with a golf-themed restaurant and plenty of opportunities for some of us to show off our golf prowess, while others were awkwardly gripping whatever-number-iron-that-was for the first time. But it didn’t matter which category you fell into, as we were all united in having fun and rooting each other on – a feeling of unity and bonding that I know we’ll all carry with us back to the office.
- Don’t Overplan
The rest of the weekend was ours to enjoy as we saw fit and most of us took tours, found great music, bought cowboy boots, and laughed and laughed. Be sure not to “over book” your retreat with meetings or even with structured fun – let your team have some social time to go out together to places and activities of their own choosing. Day-to-day associates at a company spend so much time being serious and intentional about our businesses that we can lose sight that we are people who, in addition to being successful, want to have fun in the business they care so much about. For me, it is choice, not chance, that determines our destiny, and you want your employees to choose enthusiastically to follow you down the corporate road.
Another key purpose of this first-ever U.S. HealthTek retreat was to reward and recognize the entire team for their contributions. For being an all-virtual company like ours, to get everyone together and do further team building in person plus treat everyone to a fun weekend with their partner was exponentially valuable. Another tip to a wildly successful retreat? Put the right person in charge: Our Keri Thompson planned the entire event and it went perfectly.
Robert, Bryan and Cristy have built a remarkable organization with great people; that was something I knew when we first started talking about my joining the company. But having just come home from this retreat, I know that we are now more united for a stronger future. Cristy likes to say that her belief is that we all stronger working together rather than separately, and always creates an environment where everyone pitches in and supports the other at U.S. HealthTek. There’s no “but that’s not my job” happening here. We are all dedicated to serving our clients; but while there is inevitable stress in that, the process of exploring and expanding the big picture helped us understand how we can contribute on an individual level to the greater success of our company, and our industry.
It’s all much more fun than cleaning your gutters.