It’s not all about teambuilding you know

Large group of happy business people walking in nature and talking.

To some, corporate retreats may seem like they’re all about awkward introductions, cringeworthy challenges and branded notepads you’ll never use. But they’re far more than that – they offer some serious workplace benefits, writes Claire Muir

Whether you’re an EA in a company of five or 500, changing pace with a getaway can lead to positive outcomes you may not have anticipated – reducing workplace anxiety and finding new recruits, for example. Read on to find out how you can make sure your next company retreat is an excellent return on investment.

A corporate retreat can help reduce workplace stress and anxiety

Depression and anxiety are said to cost the global economy USD 1 trillion each year in lost productivity, but corporate retreats provide the perfect opportunity for employees to show their true selves. They can result in the formation of close bonds and collaborative problem solving, going some way towards combating that figure. So, conquering fears on a corporate retreat doesn’t just mean taking the plunge with a bungee jump – it can be about targeting big workplace stressors.

  • Put this on your activity list: Pull together small teams (depending on your workplace dynamics, you may want to keep departments together, mix them up or let people choose their own groups) and encourage them to individually note down their top work or industry related fears. Ask them to share their notes then work together to create an action plan to solve, or at least alleviate, these issues.
  • It’s good for employees because: They’ll hopefully return to work without that burning worry and with new-found sounding boards to air any future stresses to. Encourage them to continue their new support system by setting up a private forum on the intranet or via e-mail.
  • It’s good for your boss because: Creating an open environment where anxieties are acknowledged and dealt with not only looks good, but it’s great for the bottom line – happier, more settled workers mean an ultra-productive workplace. In addition, it’s useful feedback for your executive. Are there potential problems within the company, or even industry-wide, that were unknown before? Or could it function as a handy heads up to prepare for worst case scenarios?

A corporate retreat can be a clever recruitment tool

The recruitment market is getting increasingly competitive and creative, so why not double up the next corporate retreat as an opportunity to road test some newbies? It’s not just good for your organisation – applicants want to learn about the company and being immersed in it day and night will help them quickly decide whether it’s for them. And if not? At least your boss will be able to quickly move on to recruit the right person.

  • Put this on your activity list: Put teams to work on a problem solving case study for the day but, to put everyone on even ground, spend the time and energy doing it for a good cause no-one has prior knowledge of. It could be developing a game for one charity or pulling together a marketing strategy for another non-pro t. It’s a great way to determine how people work together in a professional setting, whilst letting them exercise their skills. For existing employees ask them to consider how the ideas, skills or tools they’ve used here could transfer into their own workplace or role.
  • It’s good for employees because: It’s a chance to mix with potential colleagues and, if it’s a forward-thinking company where staff get a say about the suitability of new recruits, what better way to get to know them than engaging on a personal and professional level 24/7?
  • It’s good for your boss because: They’ll find out much more about potential hires than they would across an interview table. They’ll be able to observe how they respond to challenges and how they interact with people. Have they hit it off with their potential line manager? And did HR get a chance to study their behaviour?

A corporate retreat can be a great personal and professional development opportunity

Every excellent EA knows that the only way to get better at what you do is by reflecting on what you’ve done. But when you’re knee deep in daily stresses, it can be difficult to find the time or energy to stand back and explore what’s working, what’s not and what’s next. Time away from the office however, provides the ideal backdrop for this sort of thinking. And not only that – learning new skills is a big tick when it comes to corporate retreats too.

  • Put this on your activity list: Bring in a career consultant and ensure everyone, from the reception staff to your boss, has a session with them during the retreat. Suggest that each person spends time self-evaluating – perfect if you’ve chosen a super-chilled out destination for your corporate retreat. If time allows, how about some roundtable discussions on what everyone learned? Finally, on the return to the office, schedule the next round of annual reviews – strike whilst the iron is hot!

On the skill-building front, remember that budget shouldn’t be an issue. A short getaway in the local area with an inspiring mix of educational and creative opportunities can be just as beneficial as a lavish trip further afield.

  • It’s good for employees because: As well as reflecting on their performance and setting goals, it’s a chance to get a refresher on the company and its opportunities. They may never have considered an internal move before, but after getting to know those in other departments, a sideways step may appeal.
  • It’s good for your boss because: High-powered CEOs are likely to be so busy developing others that they put their own needs at the bottom of the pile. But on a corporate retreat with pecking orders abandoned, there’s space to sit back and take stock.

A corporate retreat can bring everyone together

If your company’s had a merger, a turbulent year or simply lost its way a little when it comes to employee connectedness, then a getaway can pull everything back into shape. Pressures of office responsibilities will ease and everyone will be on the same level, hopefully free of bias and preference. Shared experiences lead to people feeling important and connected, and – according to a Marketing Innovators whitepaper – companies with high employee morale will outperform their counterparts by 20 percent. Don’t forget, if your company has a multitude of far-flung locations, this is a great opportunity for close working yet remote colleagues to connect beyond the screen.

  • Put this on your activity list: Create ‘secret’ groups within the company and send them to different places across the city (whether a restaurant or someone’s home, depending on the size and level of closeness of your company or team) for a mystery dinner – could you even dedicate a longer period of time and mix up groups for each meal throughout the day? The mystery is that no-one knows who they’ll be dining with until the dinner starts – said to be a great way to break down barriers – so ensure invites are kept confidential!
  • It’s good for employees because: Getting away from the daily grind gives everyone a chance to unwind, discovering new things about one another and revealing underlying talents. The bonds built here will benefit them back in the office, so it won’t just be about business relationships anymore; personal feelings will also come into play.
  • It’s good for your boss because: The management team probably doesn’t have much time day-to-day to keep tabs on just how the new nance team is coming together or whether the newly promoted head of HR has been well- received or not. But by taking time out in this way, they can see everyone mixing and make valuable observations. It could even be a chance to cherry-pick future project teams – two people sparking off one another that the boss would have never considered?

A corporate retreat can be a great blend of reward and investment

It’s been said, in response to bosses sceptical of the potentially pricey corporate retreat, that the real cost is not doing it, and it’s true. It’s a superb way to show thanks and appreciation for a year’s good work whilst bene ting the company. Employees are treated to an escape from the office, energised, and may even come up with the ‘next big thing’ for the business.

People who don’t usually work together will suddenly challenge and inspire one another, provoking thoughtful conversations. Remember, each department – including the executives – has different key performance indicators and perceptions of a successful day.

  • Put this on your activity list: Sometimes the simple approach is best – Steve Jobs dedicated the final day of his annual retreat to an open session asking for product ideas. He narrows it down to just three which will be further investigated – what better way to guarantee employee buy- in? Again, the Marketing Innovators whitepaper suggests companies that emphasise employee engagement and satisfaction can yield a 47 per cent increase in market value.
  • It’s good for employees because: Being treated is always a positive, whether it’s a lavish once-in-a-lifetime experience or a couple of days away from the desk with good food and drink. It could be their chance to finally share that great idea they were too shy to pipe up with during office hours.
  • It’s good for your boss because: You don’t know what you don’t know and, sometimes, the input of others is key to helping you figure something out. So, having those who know the company inside out come up with ideas is a no brainer. Moreover, get your exec in on the action too – seeing their sparky teams in action will inspire them, too.