With this fresh new year upon us, now is a great time to get your staff together for a refreshing and rejuvenating retreat! The new year conjures up feelings of rebirth and fresh starts, so why not take advantage of this exciting time to get the staff together and plan out some fresh new ideas for your organization? Now, we're not talking about the weekly staff meeting here. That's old news. We're talking a put down the phone, put up the email away message and get outta dodge staff retreat: One where people don't scoff at the word "retreat" and actually get excited for what's in store. A well-designed staff retreat can increase team cohesion and camaraderie, provide restorative down time, while also benefitting the organizational goals with new ideas and strategies.
So now that you're ready to jet your staff off to a Caribbean island for the week, let's get down to a realistic idea of how to make this staff retreat happen.
The B word. The first thing you're going to need to tackle is the Budget. Remember, an effective retreat doesn't need to be expensive if you're creative, but it's not going to come free. What kinds of resources do you have to make this retreat happen? Do you have a training or professional development budget? Are you going to need to petition your boss or a board for funding? While you're researching options, keep these expenses in mind: number of attendees, transportation, facility costs, food, AV equipment, and supplies. Remember, creativity is your friend when it comes to the budget. Decide what is worth spending the extra money for (facility, trained facilitator for team building, food) and where you can be creative (supplies, activities, transportation).
Location, location, location. Again, it's not a retreat if you don't leave your everyday work environment, so do a little research and get a few proposals before you go sending the E-vite. Where's the middle ground between the office and the Ritz Carlton? Finding a location that's close enough to not kill you in transportation costs, but far enough away to create that feeling of a true retreat experience is critical. When comparing host facilities, keep in mind the additional costs. Are they giving you a package rate that includes the room usage, setup, AV equipment, recreation and food? Or are all of these items add-ons to the cost of room rental? Think about this too...is it really a retreat if you're going from the board room at the office to a board room at a hotel? If you are truly going to focus on building your team cohesion as a main aspect of this retreat, you're probably going to need a facility that focuses on being a "retreat location". These types of facilities typically have team building programs integrated and will provide you with greater opportunities for socialization in down time, which you will find essential to the productivity and success of your retreat. The last thing you want is for people to run off with their smart phones and laptops, checking emails and making business calls during down time because your location does not provide facilities to promote team bonding.
1 Day vs. Overnight? This is a question that's really going to depend on your staff and your budget. Typically, you're going to get the most out of a 2 day retreat just based on the amount of time you are able to devote to each area. Of course, if your staff is going to resent you for taking them away from their family for the night, then a 2 day retreat may actually backfire. Before making this decision, I definitely suggest polling your staff. Present them with the options and ask for feedback on an individual basis so they can be honest with you and no one has to feel as if they are "ruining it for everyone else".
What ideas have you come up with for a staff retreat?