Planning a company retreat is not easy; there are so many things to remember and take care of! We at Bevi recently took two days off for our retreat in Maine, and even if we say so ourselves, it was PERFECT! In this article, our Office Operations Manager,Jill Rudnicki, shares her guide to planning your corporate retreat, and making it a success!
Why should I plan a retreat?
A company retreat provides employees a chance to decompress and bond in a social setting, away from the stresses of everyday deliverables. Retreats are the perfect way to boost employee morale, increase communication and collaboration across departments and, ultimately create better working relationships with increased productivity. The Bevi team has been growing across the country, and we believe in building in-person connections. The retreat was a way to bring everyone in one room outside work and get to know each other.
What did we do?
Jill organized our retreat meticulously, and our 3D2N trip had it all – from outdoor activities to a raging 80s themed Prom! Lovingly named the Watyr Festival, our team members traveled from across the country to the relaxing and beautiful state of Maine to unwind and bond.
Here is your guide to planning a successful corporate retreat!
Discuss the purpose of your retreat
Work with your leadership team to decide on the purpose of the corporate retreat. The purpose will then dictate the types of events you plan out. If you want to focus on team building, activities like scavenger hunts are an excellent way to get everyone moving, working together with people outside their own departments and forming bonds. The team-building purpose allows you to measure the success of your retreat. We could say the retreat was a success, as during lunch on day 2, each table had a mix of members from different teams enjoying lunch together and bonding!
“The Bevi retreat was one of the best I’ve been on. Being a remote rep, I don’t get to interact with others at the company so I really appreciated getting to know more of the staff! The accommodations were top-notch and Jill did an outstanding job of coordinating all the logistics. Let’s see 2020!!!”
– Matthew Macdonald
Involve the team
Involve the whole team in the planning. It gets people invested and excited. Ask team members if they have been to past retreats, what they liked, and what could be improved. Have new team members answer open-ended questions about activities, etc. that they would enjoy participating in. This way, you will also get a feel for the types of activities that people might enjoy. Incorporating their preferred activities is a sure-fire way of increasing their engagement. This is how we came up with an 80’s Prom!
Another tip is to involve future team members too. Incoming Business Development team member Alexis Bryant’s first day was scheduled for after the retreat. We invited her to join us in Maine for a deep dive into the Bevi culture.
“I instantly felt comfortable at the retreat. I was really nervous to go because I didn’t know anyone but everyone was so kind and welcoming and I had the time of my life. Bevi is such a mix of personalities and backgrounds but everyone is respectful and kind-hearted. I feel lucky to work here!” – Alexis Bryant
Having been in the hotel industry for over 15 years, Jill knew that overnight rates at hotels drastically vary from day to day. It’s common for rates to quadruple from the night before based on expected occupancy in the area. Her tip is to have 3-4 dates that work for your company. Share these dates with the hotel or resort and choose the dates with the lowest rates. This will make the most significant impact on your budget. Of course, make sure the time works in terms of business. We avoided dates near the end of the month or quarter and organized the retreat just after our annual sales summit. This ensured that people did not have to fly down to New England twice in the same quarter.
Choose your retreat venue wisely
Being an environmental company, it was important to us that our site was a certified green property. We chose Sebasco Harbor Resort, located in Maine, due to the resort’s unwavering commitment to eco-friendly standards from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Additionally, the retreat has earned the Gold status from the Tripadvisor GreenLeaders program.
To get the most out of your budget, choose a location with activities included to save money or a CMP (complete meeting package), which will have breakfast, lunch, and dinner included in the rate. Bundling lodging and meals or most meals into a rate will save a lot of money. AND negotiate! No price is set in stone, especially when your company is flexible with dates.
Balance activities and free time
Planned activities with randomized groups help break the ice and get people talking. We planned a games night, karaoke, the 80s themed prom night, scavenger hunt, trivia session, and Bevi core values revamp focus group sessions from an outside facilitator as part of the activities.
Jill shared a detailed presentation about other outdoor activities available – including hiking trails, best places to watch the sunset, canoeing, and bike trails before the trip. Everyone likes a different outdoor activity, and giving people options to choose from allows those who have the same interests to get to know each other!
“I really enjoyed the retreat this year. I loved the blend of togetherness and structure with free time to just hang out together. I’d love to have had even more time with my coworkers, but I’m not going to complain about spending a day at the onsite spa!”
– Rhiannon Chiacchiaro
Over-communicate the details
It can be challenging to ensure that everyone is on time, and no one gets lost! Over-communicate when and where everything is, what activities are mandatory, and what people can choose to do. Let them know what is included, very precisely, and what they should be expected to pay for on their own. Create a packing list so everyone is prepared for the climate and any outdoor activities that you may have planned. A list of emergency phone numbers and a map of the resort with locations marked for each event should be shared before the event. This reduces the chances of people wandering off to an incorrect place and delaying the activities. Jill created a detailed guide for the Watyr Festival, that was shared internally. She organized welcome bags for everyone, which had a printed card with the itinerary for the trip along with some useful goodies for the trip.
Be prepared for things not to go 100% smoothly – stay calm and smile. As the planner, you see things and stress about stuff that no one else is noticing. As long as you look around and see people smiling, then everything is okay. And lastly, don’t forget to take a feedback survey at the end of the retreat. This will allow you to collect valuable information, and plan better for the next one!
“The retreat was like being a cast member on a corporate version of The Real World. I got picked to live on a resort with many people from different departments who came into the weekend as strangers to me. We partied. We shared ideas. We developed relationships that have outlasted our stay. At points, I had my life taped but people didn’t stop being polite in order to get real. It was an absolute blast and the most memorable company retreat I’ve ever been on.” – Ryan Garcia
Every company has a unique culture, do what works for you and your company culture. In summary, Jill’s tips for planning your next staff retreat are:
Discuss the purpose of your retreat
Involve the Team
Choose your venue wisely
Balance activities and free time
Overcommunicate the details
We hope this guide was useful! We had a blast at our staff retreat, and we hope you have an excellent retreat!
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