How To Plan A Corporate Retreat

Planning a corporate retreat for 2019 can cause you to ask a lot of questions. It can be a little complicated to perfect your company retreat plans, but our in-depth “How to Plan a Corporate Retreat” Guide is here to help you quickly and easily get started with your company retreat!

With the countless retreats we’ve hosted here at Cliffview Resort, we’re sure you’ll find the experience has a great ROI for your company and team! It’s amazing the difference a retreat can make in pulling a team together and helping them push as one in the same direction.

Alright, let’s jump on in!

Table of Contents

Why Have A Company Retreat?

A corporate retreat is an excellent opportunity to dive into company lifestyles, team dynamics, and new skills.

The monetary value and impact of a retreat will vary depending on your plans, but the value it has for your company can quickly become priceless if you time it just right.

In fact, there are a number of unexpected benefits your business can get from a company retreat.

Your company can easily benefit from a retreat by taking the time to carefully plan the retreat and doing your absolute best to make sure you’ve managed to cover all the possible hiccups that could come up during it.

Admittedly, there’s a lot to consider, but it will prove worthwhile in the end.

Who Should Attend the Retreat?

One of the first questions you should ask yourself in order to get the best out of a retreat for your business is who should be invited.

A focus on the core leadership team as attendees might be beneficial to your company as it would allow your team to dive into the fine details of the identity and plans for your company.

However, there is also a lot to be said for creating a retreat that is extended to the entire company as a whole.

A company-wide retreat can do a lot to improve the morale of your employees and create an overall better company culture.

Remember, your employees don’t exist in a vacuum of work. When it comes to retreats – especially if you’re trying to plan a retreat that lasts multiple days – you also have to consider whether or not you’re going to allow spouses and children to attend.

Respecting the fact that your employees exist outside of work can, in turn, cause them to respect you more, but it may not always be appropriate or affordable to include family in the plans for a retreat.

How Do I Coordinate Everyone’s Schedule for the Retreat?

The hardest part of planning a retreat might just be finding the best spot on the calendar for it without disrupting projects and work too severely.

Fortunately, there is an abundance of tools to help fine-tune the question of when, but you should still start off by emailing to get a ballpark for appropriate dates.

Once you know the ballpark for everyone you plan on inviting to the retreat, using a spreadsheet (hello, Google Sheets) or an app like Doodle to judge the best overlap of dates will help speed things along.

You want to make sure that you avoid major project deadlines. If you plan on your retreat is a sort of end cap to a project then it might be easier to ballpark dates for those involved in the project.

However, it’s still important to remember that things may come up that your company will have to prioritize over the retreat. Having a few favored dates for the retreat is highly recommended.

What Should the Theme of the Retreat Be?

A company retreat can serve many purposes or stick to a specific topic.

When choosing your retreats theme, it will benefit you to try and bear in mind what your goal is with the retreat when setting it up.

Your retreat may have multiple goals and themes, or it may hyper-focused on only one.

Some examples of good themes for a retreat are:

  • Introspective – An introspective theme to your retreat will allow your company to discuss topics like “Who are we as a business?” and “What is our mission statement?” as well as providing ample opportunity to recenter around the company goals and values. A good book to base this type of retreat around is Gino Wickman’s Traction.
  • Reconciling – Even the best teams will run into communication issues every so often. A retreat with a focus on reconciling will help buffer out those little hiccups and hopefully be an excellent tool when it comes to boosting the overall morale of your teams and employees.
  • Project Post-Mortem – Projects can be long and draining for the team working on them. A post-mortem retreat not only gives the team a chance to celebrate the completion of the project, but it also gives them a chance to discuss what went well and what could be improved upon while the project is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
  • Forward-Looking – A retreat is an excellent way to sit down with your company and discuss plans for the future. Whether you’re focusing on the next year or the next quarter, getting out of the office can lead to fresh ideas that can improve your company in unexpected ways.
  • Training – It is very important for any business to constantly improve itself through the newest and most beneficial training programs it can find. New techniques can outstrip old ones, and a retreat made available to the whole company offering training can encourage employees to volunteer to go on the retreat.

What Is the Benefit of a Retreat for a Business?

While it does depend partly on the theme, almost all company retreats will help positively pull your team together and help them achieve their goals as a whole.

This act of everyone in your company coming together can also be referred to as “Organizational Effectiveness.”

Based on a 2011 report by Kim Cameron at the Univerity of Michigan in regards to the “Effects of Positive Practices on Organizational Effectiveness”, discovered that “improvement in positive practices predicts improvements in certain indicators of effectiveness over time.”

Translation: The better your team functions as a whole. The more effective (and profitable they will be.

How to Budget for a Retreat

Retreats can get expensive relatively quickly. It’s okay because, in the end, your company will likely make back more than what you invest in the retreat.

Still, you want to be sure you budget carefully as the average cost of a retreat can vary based off whether the retreat is all-inclusive, how long the retreat is, and the number of people attending the retreat.

A retreat can easily get up into the range of ten-plus thousand dollars, but there is good news!

In the United States, a retreat can be up to one hundred percent tax deductible provided you are able to prove that it is a necessary, work-related trip that everyone attending has reason to be on (be sure to consult with your CPA first though since we’re not a tax-advisor for your business).

While you do not have to make your retreat all inclusive for your employees, it’s important to balance the parts you’re paying for against what an employee might be willing to pay for.

When building a budget for your retreat, you have to keep in mind things like picking a corporate retreat venue, lodging, transportation, food, and activities.

What Happens at the Typical Business Retreat?

The typical retreat is a time for your company to come together to analyze, discuss, and learn how to improve on multiple levels.

The typical retreat should blend programs and meetings designed to improve the company as a whole with smaller events centered around team building and improving company morale.

It should be organized, but also somewhat laid back in order to diffuse the normal office politics.

The most common snag a retreat can run into is the attendees getting lost or stuck in traffic on the way to the venue, or getting lost at the venue if the venue has a campus that skews towards the more expansive side of things.

You have to schedule your retreat bearing in mind that a thousand little things like sudden illness or unexpected allergies could crop up and derail your plans.

A Sample Agenda For Your Retreat

Day One

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Attendees Arrive at the Retreat Venue

4:00 PM – 5:30 PM Welcome and Introductions

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM Group Dinner

 

Day Two

8:00 AM – 10:00 AM Breakfast and Overview of the Day

10:30 AM – 11:30 AM Session 2

11:45 AM – 12:30 PM Session 3

12:45 PM – 1:30 PM Lunch

1:30 PM – 3:00 PM Free Period

3:15 PM – 4:30 PM Session 4

4:45 PM – 6:00 PM Dinner

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM Session 5

 

Day Three

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM Breakfast

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Wrap Up and Review

10:00 AM Depart the Retreat Venue

Create A Retreat Checklist

Checklists can save your skin when it comes to trying to plan anything.

A retreat for your company is no different.

Having a checklist for the early stages will let you dive into greater detail when it comes to preparing a plan for food or choosing the appropriate corporate retreat venue.

You’ll want to think long and hard about the following facets of your retreat:

  • Picking a Venue (what are the “must have” and “nice to have” for a location?)
  • Transportation (what will you need to coordinate?)
  • Productivity (what are the goals you want to accomplish?)
  • Team Building (what events do you want to do together?)
  • Getting Out and About (what is there to do in the area?)
  • Food (how are you going to feed everyone? Catering? Restaurants? Cooking In?)

Things To Keep In Mind When Picking a Venue

Of course, the venue is where the vast majority (if not the whole) of your retreat is going to happen.

Every activity, every meeting, every training session – it’ll all be arranged at a venue in order to give your employees in attendance a place to go. There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing a venue for your retreat.

For example, the type of venue could be a cabin, a lodge, or a hotel and each of those three examples could vary drastically in size.

You should keep in mind the parking capacity at the venue as well because that ties into a later topic of transportation.

Pay close attention to amenities and available meeting spaces when you select your venue, as both will heavily affect the overall atmosphere of your retreat.

Keep an eye on the weather as well.

The weather at a venue can drastically alter your plans for better or worse.

If you plan on choosing a venue that’s close to other attractions and activities to allow your employees to take a break from the work atmosphere, then the weather can truly be something that has a negative effect on the atmosphere of your retreat without getting into dangerous levels.

How Will The Attendees Get To The Venue?

Depending on where you choose, parking might become a major issue right alongside traffic impeding arrivals.

If you’re confident that you have more than enough parking for all in attendance, then letting employees drive themselves might be the easiest route to go.

If the venue is a long way out of the normal routine for your employees, you might consider offering to compensate for the gas mileage it takes to get there.

However, there might not be enough parking for all of your employees. A cheap and easy way to cut down on the number of cars is to arrange for the attending employees to carpool with one another.

Keep in mind, carpooling still leaves your attendees in danger of getting stuck in traffic on the way to the venue.

The best way to cut down on not only parking but the probability of an employee getting lost or delayed on the roads is to bus everyone into the venue for the retreat.

How To Have Productive Meetings During The Retreat

The retreat is first and foremost about work. The better you plan it, the better it will turn out in the end.

You’ll want to arrange things so that you get the most out of your retreat come rain or shine.

An easy way to ensure productivity during your retreat is to put the brainstorming and mental strain sessions in the morning when your employees are more rested in both mind and body.

The afternoon, when minds begin to wander a bit, is better filled with trust and team building exercises that help to improve the morale of your employees.

Should The Retreat Include Team Building Activities?

Painting Team Building Activity During a Corporate Retreat at Cliffview Resort
Team Building Activity During a Corporate Retreat at Cliffview Resort

Team building activities are an excellent tool when utilized correctly.

They may seem a little bit cliche and a little over the top at times, but the benefits they have for your team and your company can be overwhelming.

A good focus to keep is to remove power imbalances whenever possible.

Your employees will have much better morale if they feel like equals to their supervisors and managers rather than underlings.

Try to use team building activities that help your employees focus on working together rather than pitting them against one another.

Getting Out And About

While you want to keep your retreat about work as much as possible, it is also important to remember that your employees need to take a break from focusing on work every now and again.

By choosing a venue in an area with a lot of nearby attractions, you can balance both worlds.

While getting around might be a little difficult if you came in on buses or carpools, providing your attendees with complimentary passes for public transport will give them time to explore the area and get a break from work.

Having a transparent agenda will help your employees feel like they can go out and explore a bit between various parts of the retreat.

A schedule can keep everyone on track while giving them a chance to go out, explore, and maybe run into some new ideas that they can use in a pitch to improve the company.

What To Eat During a Business Retreat?

Perhaps the most complicated part of the process of preparing for a work retreat is to figure out what to feed everyone in attendance.

You should definitely check in with your employees on what allergies they have, especially considering how deadly food allergies can be for some individuals. Another important dietary facet to keep in mind is the fact that your employees’ diets may fall under religious guidelines, such as keeping to a kosher or halal diet. Some of your attendees may even uphold a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

If you’re confident that you have all possible dietary habits of your attending employees in mind when it comes to the decision of whether to cook in at a venue that allows you to bring in food of your own or go with catering instead.

When it comes to cooking in, you can turn it into a team-building exercise and have everyone take turns preparing meals that would be served during the retreat. The downside to this is that it is very hard to cook a meal that will please everyone, and you would be responsible for obtaining the necessary groceries in order to prepare the meals.

Catering can take a lot of stress off the company, especially if the venue you chose offers a discount if you decide to also cater your event through them. It’s easier to match meals to the long list of dietary requirements you can come up with.

Should You Allow Alcohol at a Company Retreat?

One more thing to keep in mind is whether or not to provide alcohol at your work retreat.

While alcohol is good at providing social lubrication and coaxing out a sense of camaraderie, it can quickly become an issue if someone drinks too much, has a bad history with alcohol, or is of a religion that holds a sense of disdain for alcohol.

What Happens After The Retreat?

After the retreat, you should speak with the attendees to see what was and wasn’t great and get an overall feel for how the event went.

A work retreat is best treated as something that can grow and shift over time, eventually becoming utterly unique to your company and the culture your company maintains.

It might be beneficial to hold a survey for those that attended the work retreat.

A survey will give you the opportunity to ask questions such as:

  • “What do you feel the value of this retreat was to our company?”
  • “What would you recommend we do differently next time in order to make the retreat more impactful?
  • “What would have made the retreat more enjoyable?”

This way, your employees and allow them an opportunity to answer without feeling rushed or spoken over.

The survey can be anonymous or non-anonymous in nature.

An anonymous survey may open the door for you to get more honest and critical answers as it allows the employee a mask to hide behind when answering the questions.

Doing away with anonymity for the survey would allow you to reach out to an employee and follow up on their feedback.

There is a lot that goes into creating a work retreat, but at the end of all the plans and budgeting you and your company will end up walking away having been changed for the better, even if it ends up being in small, almost unnoticeable ways. Your employees will likely appreciate a well-done work retreat, and in turn, appreciate you and the company just a bit more.

If you’d like to consider hosting your next company retreat at Cliffview Resort, send us an email at Reservations@cliffviewresort.com or call us at 888-596-0525 to get a free, no obligation quote today!