10 Steps to Organize a Successful Corporate Retreat
Team building retreats are the most effective way to create a lasting impact on team dynamics.
Did you know they can increase team engagement, improve company culture and enhance team performance?
Team building retreats will also encourage team collaboration, boost moreale, build greater team cohesion, and improve the company’s the overall productivity.
At the end of the day, employees are human beings, and it’s scientifically proven that we thrive when we feel like part of a group — like we belong.
Retreats are a valuable investment if your goal is to bring employees together and create a positive work environment.
Now, all of these positive outcomes sound wonderful, but we also acknowledge companies often become overwhelmed when planning team retreats.
That’s why we’ve broken down the preliminary steps to plan corporate retreats.
We’ve also included tips and tricks along the way for a seamless planning process!
Table of Contents:
How to Organize a Successful Corporate Retreat
Below are a set of ten questions to help you analyze and organize a successful corporate retreat.
1. 🏆 What’s the purpose of the corporate retreat?
To plan a team retreat, you need to identify a specific outcome.
Just determine what is the main goal for your team.
By evaluating current team struggles, you can identify areas in which your team can improve and ideally, this retreat will help remedy those issues or gaps.
Do you want to reignite your employees’ passion, nip office politics in the bud, improve overall team dynamics, come away with new or innovative business strategies or just give your team members some fun time away from the office for casual team bonding?
Identifying the purpose of the retreat will help you navigate the rest of your planning process — from how much time you need to spend at the location, to where you should go, and what activities you’ll do.
Here is what GBatteries learnt from their Unicorn Labs' corporate retreat.
2. ⌛ How long will the retreat be?
To get the most out of your team retreat, we recommend between two to five days.
The retreat length varies based on the size of your team and the purpose (if you haven’t identify one yet, go back to question #1).
If you just want to give your team some fun time away from the office for casual team building, then two days should be enough time to accomplish that goal.
However, if you want more to build in-depth connections, three days is the minimum.
Longer retreats may not always be realistic for your team, so a minimum of two days, with at least one day spent outside, will be better than nothing at all.
3. 🏦 What’s the budget?
There are lots of costs associated with planning a team retreats; from transportation to accommodations, meals and team activities. You need to take all these into account.
Determine a realistic budget per employee and base all your retreat planning decisions on it.
Buffer sets their annual cost at $5,000 per person for a extensive retreats, while they budget $1,400 per person for mini-retreats.
Now, yours doesn’t have to be as expensive. Check your budget and allotted spending first without breaking the bank.
To make the most out of your team retreat with the budget you have available, check out this retreat budget tool.
It’s essential to be mindful of the size of the group you’re planning to bring to the retreat.
Trying to book a venue, lodging, or a caterer for 20 employees will be easier than for 500 employees.
4. 🗓️ When will it be?
When planning, you’ll need to consider when people are most likely to be busy or unable to attend the retreats due to personal obligations like childcare or an important corporate milestone.
Avoid asking employees to travel during the summer when kids are out of school or during common holidays such as winter break and March break.
You’ll also need to research what is the weather historically at your location for that time of the year. This will hopefully prevent you from showing up for a retreat in B.C. during the rainy season or Toronto in the middle of a heatwave.
Plan the retreat with enough time in advance to ensure employees are available.
Your employees also have lives outside of work. They need to make accommodations to commit to the retreat, especially if the travel is outside of work hours.
Tip: give employees a heads up at least three months in advance.
A nice “save the date” email or Slack message can work well. You can even create a tentative retreat plan for your staff to include in the “save the date” so they know what to expect.
5. 📍 Where will it be?
Deciding the location for your corporate retreat is one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make.
Location will single-handedly have the most influence on the cost of the retreat and how satisfied employees will be coming out of their experience.
The retreat venue can be almost anything your team wants — within reason. You can do anything from renting out a huge conference space in a large resort to a cabin in the mountains or a day at a local national park.
There are 5 key things you have to consider when picking a retreat venue:
- What type of location would your team enjoy?
- How big is your team?
- What works within your budget?
- What space works well with the purpose of the retreat?
- Does your team require accessibility features at the venue?
If you’re unsure about what accommodations your staff members need, you can send out an anonymous survey — dietary restrictions, deadly nature allergies, accessible features, etc.
You can either book lodging at the same location as the retreat or separately. If you’re choosing to stay at a different location, pick somewhere close enough to make it easy for your staff to go back and forth. When booking, contact the hotel or resort directly as it’s often possible to negotiate a discount for booking multiple rooms at once.
You can also host a retreat where lodging won’t be needed, such as a location near the office or around their housing area.
6. 🚘 How will people get there?
In order for your team to get where they need to go before, during and after the retreat, you’ll need to book transportation or at least coordinate it, carpool could also be an option. If the venue is near where the team is located, this won’t matter much, but any other retreats must factor transportation into the planning process and budget.
If your team has to fly to the retreat location, you’ll need to book their flights and transportation round-trip. Most major airlines offer discounted car rentals if you book them at the same time as the flights and get team members to carpool. Charter and shuttle buses are another good option.
Booking sites such as Kayak and Travelocity have helped make booking transportation easier by giving you lower fares when you book transportation and lodging together.
7. 🍽️ What are the meals?
Food is so important! Planning the retreat menu means planning what will fuel your staff during the retreat. Get them talking about yummy dishes for months to come with unique and fresh menu options.
Option: you can even turn meals into a team building activity by incorporating a cooking demonstration or class into meal time.
Always remember to ask employees for any allergy information to make sure no one feels left out. This can even be beneficial to incorporate into your onboarding process for new employees to ensure any company activities will accommodate the needs of all staff. Think back to the survey we mentioned above, too.
During downtime, make it easy for staff to discover new restaurants near the retreat by providing them with restaurant recommendations. You can do this by creating brochures or just a document with a compiled list that provides necessary information on the area where the retreat will be held. Find all the information you need on review sites like Yelp and Google.
8. 🧬 How will it be structured?
The best team retreats are a combination of working and team building. There has to be a strong balance between completing work tasks and cutting loose.
One beneficial structure for many teams is working from the office in the morning and then going off for team activities and meals during the afternoon and evenings.
Each retreat is different. Here is an overnight retreat that combined work, strategic planning and fun team-bonding activities.
9. 🤔 What will we do there?
Both what your team wants to do and your company retreat’s goal must be at the top of your mind when choosing activities and events. It’s impossible to pick something everyone’s happy with but as long as it’s more dynamic than listening to a keynote speaker in a conference room for three hour, everyone should enjoy whatever you choose.
Think: how does this activity aling with the goal?
You need to schedule activities far in advance and make sure these are accessible for the the whole team to part take.
Remember: team retreats aren’t a vacation. It’s a chance for everyone to contribute to and work towards a refreshed workplace culture that will benefit the office for years to come. Employees will expect a combination of learning experiences and fun.
Some examples of activities you may organize for the retreat:
- Invite a keynote speaker or industry expert to share some inspirational remarks.
- Host a hackathon where team members come up with new business/product ideas and present them to the team.
- Host a scavenger hunt and breakup your team into smaller teams.
- Host a cooking class, or a chocolate or wine tasting (chocolate’s a good option if any team members don’t drink alcohol)
- Fun stuff can include team games like paintball, kickball, or dodgeball.
- Do an escape room or an activity that presents a challenge encouraging the team to come together to find a solution.
- Go through a DISC personality test and share, as a group, your results.
Your staff will benefit from having free time at the retreat, as well. Everyone has different tolerance levels when it comes to being surrounded by people. Some, need alone time to recharge, process the learning moments, etc., so it’s good to plan blocks of time where they can venture off on their own.
You can give them recommendations for what to do nearby during that time with a compiled list of the top 10 things to do in the area.
Unicorn Labs’ team retreats include team building activities such as leadership development, personality discovery, communication workshops, strategic planning, and more. To see a more detailed outline of what our team retreats have to offer you, check out the retreats page on our website.
10. 🤝 How to involve everyone in the planning process?
Not all team members are going to be able to participate in an offsite retreat 100% of the time. Some employees in areas such as customer service may have to spend some time during the retreat on their daily tasks, due to the nature of their job.
Take the time to understand what team members have to get done in a day and do your best to plan fun team building activities around that. This can be as simple as planning late afternoon and evening activities to accommodate team members who have to finish work tasks in the morning.
Alternatively, plan the retreat on the weekend.
After the retreat
A lot goes into planning a team retreat but it’ll all be worth it in the end.
After the retreat, you’ll notice your team has more:
Highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability per year.
Strong Sense of Purpose
The team understands their purpose and contribution in achieving the company vision.
High Quality Interactions
Culture of Safety
The team operates in a culture where risks and innovations are celebrated.
Here is a short recap lesson from Hoppier's corporate retreat. 👇
Need help planning?
Sometimes planning a corporate retreat is too big of a task for a single office manager to tackle on their own.
This is particularly the case as your business becomes larger or if the retreat is longer or more intricate.
Fortunately, at Unicorn Labs, we have experience helping organize the logistics of retreats, streamlining the process and making it significantly less stressful and time consuming for you.
If you're a startup leader hoping to improve your team dynamics or develop a strategic plan, our interactive programs packed with workshops, team activities, and action items will improve the health of your startup.
For more information on Unicorn Labs' startup retreats, or to request a quote check out our retreats page or book a free consultation.