Monday, June 5, 2017

Company Retreats: Preventative Care for Distributed Companies

As I gear up for a client's inaugural all-hands company retreat in a few months, I've been reflecting back on a blog post I wrote back in February entitled, Trust Falls and Rope Courses.  It’s a great post mortem read about a successful leadership team retreat and how sometimes these retreats get a bad rep.
Like the interchangeable terms “remote work”, “co-located”, “working from home”, and “distributed team”, the term “company retreat” can be referred to as an “offsite”, “summit”, “camp”, or “meeting.” Company retreats are a strategy and running a company retreat is an expertise. They should not be looked at as a cookie cutter solution—your retreat should be customized to meet your team’s culture and your team’s goals and objectives.

Why host a company retreat if you’re a distributed company? Simply, it will create more opportunities for human connectedness and enhance seamless communications. Being physically together in the same room also builds trust. Retreats can help with the disconnectedness that virtual employees may feel.

Think of a company retreat as preventive care. If you nurture your employees in good times, they will be prepared for unexpected challenges in the future. With many companies, I’ve seen first hand the positive outcomes of a company retreat in the form of an “afterglow”—the magic that happens immediately after an event for a few months. Teams seem closer, more casual, more open, more communicative, and more productive.

Most of my clients host a company retreat once a year, and an executive/leadership team retreat once a year. There’s no right frequency—it’s what’s right for your needs and your culture…and your budget. Company retreats are not inexpensive. When you consider the lost client time (if you’re a services company), the resources needed, and the actual cost—it adds up. Many distributed companies take the (roughly 4% of overall revenue) funds they would use as office overhead (rent, facilities, etc) and put towards a line item called, “Employee Development.” Connectedness and culture are super important to any successful company, and especially to distributed teams.  The retreat can be the lifeblood of the company. Often employee retention and even client retention can be linked back to company retreats.

The planning and logistics of a company retreat are intensely complicated. Companies, a lot of times,  don’t realize what all is involved. They become frustrated and the event suffers. Often, it has the opposite effect of causing division. Full knowledge of what all is involved is imperative to a successful event. Finding the right venue is a big challenge: ensuring good wifi, proper meeting space, privacy, the list goes on. Sure, you can do it yourself, but why? Let a professional handle it for you and you’ll be amazed at the cost savings you receive through concessions and negotiating.

You have a friend in the business with andgreat. And we won’t even charge you to find a venue.