Planning a Team Retreat? Here are 20 Ways to Make it Successful

Did you know 39% of employees think that people in their organization don't collaborate enough?

There’s a lot an organization can do to improve how people work together.

Team bonding events are about strengthening your group and giving back to your employees. Still, its benefits go beyond the individual —  it will help your business go even further.

Many employers want to bring their employees together and create a more cohesive work environment by hosting a corporate retreat but don't know where to start.

Regardless of your team's size, corporate retreats can be complex to organize and run. Taking everyone out of the workplace for a weekend away together isn't enough. You must keep your desired outcomes at the top of your mind throughout the planning process.

Planning corporate retreats can get complicated fast. From deciding where to host the event to what activities to choose, planning a schedule, selecting food, drinks and more, there are many overwhelming numbers of logistics to consider.

A poorly designed team-building day could harm your employees and create a negative return on investment (ROI).

I've designed and facilitated hundreds of retreats for leadership teams and groups, and I know there are many small details you have to keep in mind in the planning process, whether you're planning your first or fiftieth retreat.

With all the new and innovative ideas available today for team-building activities, there's no excuse for your retreat being a failure! Let's get started!

Here is OGC leadership retreat and what they learned about themselves, each other and leadership.

20 things to consider when planning your next corporate retreat

Here are 20 things to consider when planning your next corporate retreat to ensure the experience leaves a lasting and positive impact on employees.

1. Balance team bonding and strategy activities to allow you to reach your retreat goals.

2. Establish individual roles.

You will never be able to please everyone at the retreat, so make sure each participant is treated as an equal and feels like they are part of the team.

This will ensure everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the team's success. In our experience, the teams that perform the best during escape room activities are the ones who develop clear leadership roles and delegate tasks to each player in the game.

A strong team knows how to use every member!

3. Food is everything.

You can have the best activities, but poor food will permanently ruin people's experience. Good food fuels your retreat!

4. Get feedback.

It's important to know how the team enjoyed the retreat to plan for the future. You need to not only get feedback after the event but also ask the right questions.

Some potential questions:

  • How did you feel when we did ____ activity?
  • What made the task easier/harder for you?
  • What challenges did the team face?
  • What did you learn from the retreat?
  • What is something you would change to improve the next retreat?

5. The right retreat venue is vital.

There must be space for gathering, communal dining, outdoor activities, workshops, and comfortable sleeping quarters.

6. Plan more than one retreat.

Hold team-building retreats bi-monthly or quarterly to ensure it’s a tool for your company to reach its full potential.

You can't build a great team in one day or one weekend; your retreat schedule should reflect this.

Employees are more open to new ideas and experiences when reinforced over time.

7. Plan unstructured time.

Schedule free time during the second half of the retreat. The beginning must be well structured with designated social time as people need time to break the ice.

Plan for different personalities and levels of socialness; introverts, extroverts and everything in between.

Be willing to modify your scheduled retreat plan and go with the flow to change things based on energy and engagement.

8. Create space for vulnerability.

Plan to incorporate environments and activities into the retreat that nudge people into being more vulnerable and open. You can't assume it'll happen organically.

9. Set clear goals.

Your corporate retreat should be fun for everyone but also needs clear objectives regarding what you want your business to achieve from hosting it.

The goal of retreats is often to help employees work better as a team, but most people don't know what they're supposed to be doing.

It's essential to decide what you want to achieve (i.e. reducing conflict in the office, helping teams bond after a merger or improving collaboration efforts within your company). By doing this, you'll be able to create a retreat strategy that identifies business goals while looking at how your retreat will help you achieve them.

10. Hire facilitators.

You can have a facilitator (like Unicorn Labs) for every day of the retreat, a few facilitators who lead different parts of each day or any other combination of utilizing facilitators to your advantage.

Facilitators are usually flexible in giving you the support you need for your retreat based on the retreat's individual needs.

11. Don't be over-ambitious.

Don't expect to achieve everything at once. Overworking your team to achieve a goal will tire them out and have the opposite of your desired effect.

Keep your event simple and choose a schedule with fewer activities to give employees time to enjoy themselves while also focusing on the most critical business goals you want to achieve.

12. Get outside.

Weather permitting, assure time for outdoor physical activity immediately after lunch to help with the inevitable afternoon energy slump.

13. Give yourself time to plan.

No matter how efficient and organized you are, planning a retreat is a huge task that can't be done in a few weeks. If you don't give yourself enough time to plan, the retreat will end in chaos, leaving both employees and management unsatisfied with the results.

Prepare the logistics, build excitement with your employees, and leave room to resolve any issues that may arise while planning.

14. Choice of activities.

Having options is good, but too many options can backfire. Two choices are usually best — people can easily pick which one of the two they'd rather do.

15. Alcohol.

Set expectations about alcohol consumption at the beginning of the retreat, especially if you have workshops/training early the following day. I've had too many experiences running retreats for teams who were sick during activities from a little too much partying the night before.

Although retreats are fun, they are not meant to be a party-bender.

16. Quality of activities.

Golden rule: don't choose party games.

If you want the chosen activities to result in a fun, productive, meaningful day, make sure they offer challenges and growth opportunities. This allows people to talk face-to-face while working together towards achieving larger goals, which helps develop many of the skills companies want to improve in their employees — communication, interpersonal, etc.

17. Book a venue with an outdoor component.

Hotels and city retreats can be fun, but getting outdoors and into the countryside is a way to use the retreat environment to your advantage.

Employees are more likely to spend quality time together without the hustle and bustle of the city. This is also an excellent opportunity to give employees a change of scenery if most of your team is located in urban areas.

18. Be aware of employee cliques.

Everyone in the office will have people they get along with better than others, so you must create groups for your employees to get them engaged with new people. This gives your employees the opportunity to enhance communication across the office and empowers staff to improve their teamwork skills.

19. Ask questions.

Discussing a few critical details with your manager or team before starting the planning process can give you guidance on how to go about things. For example, by asking what activities the company has done in the past, you can get a feel for the retreat budget and expectations.

20. Budget well.

Knowing how much you have to spend, makes it easier to budget for your retreat. This can help make all your decision-making regarding activities, venue, transportation and more that much faster.

Final Tips for a Successful Team Retreat

There are many ways to engage with teams and make your next retreat successful, keeping in mind that mistakes are also easy to make. This is why so many companies struggle to host retreats — there could be many roadblocks during the planning process.

With over five years in the corporate retreat business, we've seen our fair share of teams make costly mistakes. That’s why we are here to help you avoid them.

Unicorn Labs provides unique experiences for your team to encourage collaboration while giving each participant a learning opportunity and new experiences.

Thinking about hosting an event for your company soon but not sure where or what kind?

Book a consultation or send us an email and let us make your next team-building event unforgettable!

Here's a tool we made to make retreat planning a little easier ⤵️

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