How to Plan Amazing Corporate Retreats (Our Top Staff Retreat Ideas)

Planning a corporate retreat might be something you’ve never thought about.

Or, you might already be looking for ideas for your next staff retreat.

If you’re looking to engage with your staff in a different setting, and are looking to create an open forum for discussion, then a corporate retreat is a great way to do just that.

Even as a small business, planning away days, team building exercises, or a small retreat can be a great way to accelerate discussion around the business.

As a larger business, corporate retreats come with a different set of challenges.

In this post, we’re going to outline how to plan an amazing corporate retreat.

We’re also going to share our top staff retreat ideas to help get your planning off on the right foot.

Get your notepad ready, planning a corporate retreat can be an exciting prospect.

Ready?

Let’s dive in.

Corporate Retreat / Staff Retreat vs Away Days / Team Building

If you’re still on the fence trying to decide between a corporate retreat / staff retreat or an away day / team building day, let’s get that cleared up.

As I’m sure you’re aware, there’s a massive difference between the two.

Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.

Corporate Retreat / Staff Retreat

A corporate or staff retreat is typically an off site day (or even weekend) that is focused on solving real goals and problems for the business.

Forall they can be fun, there’s a lot of putting your heads together, and getting stuff done.

They’re driven, focused, business events that are used to solve real world problems the business is facing.

Away Days / Team Building

Team building days are the opposite.

Typically, team building or activity days usually involve something a lot more light hearted.

Ideas could include:

  • An escape room
  • Cocktail making
  • An extreme sport (such as rafting!)

The idea behind team building days is to help teams either get to know each other better. Or to help them gel, bond, and learn to trust each other.

They’re great to use as a “staff perk” or reward at the end of a quarter or once a target is met.

But as you can see, they’re two very different types of events.

So Which is Most Appropriate?

Choosing between a corporate retreat for your staff, or a team building type day depends on several things:

  • What are you looking to achieve?
  • What size team and who are you looking to send?
  • Is it a treat or reward, or are you looking for the team to attend a working off site?

If you’re looking to achieve actionable business outcomes, then opt for a corporate retreat.

If you want to have a bit of a laugh, and reward your team, then a team building day is a better choice.

Looking to work with the whole C-suite on solving a problem? Again, the corporate retreat is the winner.

Hoping to help your new graphic designer fit into the team and feel welcomed? That team building day looks mighty fun!

Nobody wants to attend a corporate retreat as a reward. But, they’re great for getting things done!

And if that’s what you’re about as a business, then let’s dive into planning an amazing corporate retreat.

Decide on the Goals and Objectives

Before diving head first into planning your amazing corporate retreat, you need to do one thing:

Decide on the goals and objectives of the retreat.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of the retreat?
  • What are the goals of the retreat?
  • What needs to be achieved whilst there?

Different companies use their staff retreats for different purposes.

But it’s pointless moving into the planning phase without understanding what you’re hoping to get out of it.

Are you working on creating a new service or product line? Perhaps you’re restructuring your organisation. Or maybe the retreat is all about your key marketing objectives.

To help, you could create a survey to send out across to the key stakeholders and staff within your organisation to find out what they think would be most valuable.

Bringing other people into the process at this early stage can also help generate buy-in, and start a buzz around your company.

Something we’ve seen companies do, is create a theme for their corporate retreat.

Perhaps it’s:

  • Stronger Together – a retreat built around teamwork and togetherness.
  • Moving the Needle – a retreat theme that focuses on sales and marketing working together to get better results.
  • One Year From Now – a retreat based on the idea of predicting a realistic future and coming up with ideas on getting there.

A theme for your corporate retreat isn’t a necessity, but it can help people gain clarity on the idea, and things they should, and shouldn’t be discussing.

Pour Time Into Your Planning and Preparation

Now that you’ve decided on your goals, it’s time to get out your fancy new planner, and get things moving.

Be under no illusion, corporate and staff retreats take a lot of planning. So it’s important to do your prep work ahead of time.

First, some general points:

Try and power through your other work and make sure you can give your retreat planning as much attention as need be.

Get all relevant information to hand; approvals, budgets, key contact information. Gathering this ahead of time will save you time in the long run.

Plan your snacks. When on a retreat, you don’t want people’s concentration wandering off because their stomachs start rumbling. Don’t skimp on snacks!

Now that we’ve covered off some of the generalities, let’s take a look at the specifics.

Location, Location, Location!

First of all, where are you going to host your retreat?

You need to choose a location. I’m sure we don’t need to give you a breakdown of options, but there are a huge range of options to choose from.

  • Stately homes
  • Private villas
  • Modern hotels
  • Remote cabins
  • Offices

Notice one thing that’s not on the list, and that’s your own workplace.

Why?

Because when planning a corporate retreat, offsite is a must!

You want to put distance between your retreat attendees, and their regular work space.

It’s about fresh, new, and innovative ideas. So keep them away from the place they work every single day.

Firstly, it’ll make your corporate retreat much more productive.

Secondly, it’ll help the attendees feel appreciated.

Thirdly, who gets excited by a staff retreat in their own office? Scrap that idea!

Liza Goldberg (former events manager of Snacknation) recommends using your location to your advantage:

“We’re based in LA, and a lot of our team hails from the midwest. So we make it a point to hold our offsites at venues that let our team experience the awesome things about California. That might mean going to the beach in Santa Monica, a house in Malibu, or a local winery so people can experience the great weather.”

Retreats are great at bringing teams together. What does your city or location have to offer?

Once you have your venue shortlist, are you able to visit the locations beforehand?

If so, take that tour!

In fact, we recommend touring several of your potential retreat locations.

That way, you can assess your goals and objectives alongside the venue choice, and see if one jumps out and makes the most sense.

It’ll also help you get an understanding of layout, and how things might play out on the day.

Once you’ve decided on the venue, get clear on dates.

Cross reference the venue’s availability with your staff’s availability. Find the gap, and if you can’t, don’t be ashamed to ask people to move things around.

An all-expenses paid retreat is often one of the easier ways to get people to move things around for!

Get the Guest List Right

Once you’ve nailed down your location, you need to make sure you get the guest list right.

And this ties directly back to the goals and objectives of the retreat.

If it’s all about changing the direction of the business, or introducing new services and products, perhaps it’s the C-suite that needs to be there.

If your focus is on marketing and sales, then you need to be sure that the head of those teams is on the guest list.

Keep your group tight knit and invite only. You want to ensure your retreat is productive.

Having the right people there and your key decision makers around the table, is one step in the right direction.

Appoint a Facilitator

Every good corporate retreat needs a facilitator. As you’re the one reading this article, it’s probably you.

If you’re going to plan your retreat, then own it!

Like all good meetings, somebody needs to take charge.

You’ll organise it, book it, plan the day, create the agenda, align the budget, and make sure everyone can attend.

Organising and facilitating a staff retreat isn’t easy. But get it right, and you’ll make a long lasting impact on the business.

Develop an Agenda

One of the most important things to get right, is your retreat’s agenda.

Developing an agenda is a massive part of the planning process. In fact, without a well structured agenda, there’s no point in running your retreat.

Here are 5 things to remember when creating your agenda:

  1. Short impactful sessions keep people focused and engaged
  2. Somebody needs to take charge of each session (make sure they know ahead of time!)
  3. Plan in downtime and snack breaks (it’ll stop people from tiring and burning out)
  4. Don’t cram the entire day full, make space that allows productive sessions to overrun
  5. Plan in time at the end of each session to agree action points.

Harvard Business Review some great ideas about a corporate retreat’s agenda here.

If you’ve got clear goals and objectives outlined, then your agenda should almost write itself.

For example a retreat with the goal of generating more leads might look like this:

  • 10am – 11am: New Ways of Selling (Head of Sales)
  • 11:30am – 12pm: Quickfire Questions with Marketing
  • 12pm – 1pm: Lunch
  • 1pm – 3pm: Marketing Material Exploration, What Are We Missing? (Head of Marketing
  • 3pm – 3.30pm: Break
  • 3.30pm – 4.30pm: Raising Our Company Profile (Outside PR Contact)
  • 4.30pm: Short Break
  • 4.45pm – 5.30pm: Ask Me Anything Session

This agenda highlights a few key things:

Don’t schedule your day to start at 9am. It’s a retreat, not a regular work day.

Feel free to bring in outside contacts to share thoughts and insights on specific topics.

And finally, you should…

Plan an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Your CEO/Director/Highest Person There

If you have the CEO or Director of the business at your retreat, they’re the ones in the hot seat. If not, defer down the chain and run the AMA with the next highest person there.

Anything goes:

Pay rises? Shorter working days? Beer Fridays? Where’s the damn ping pong table!?

The person in the hot seat can pass, but they should try to answer where possible.

The idea is to give people a chance to ask those burning questions, rather than waiting 14 days for an email response.

It can be fun, but most of all, it can be insightful, and help align expectations across your company.

swimming pool

Ahead of Time, Communicate Expectations

Before you get to the day of the retreat, it’s important to communicate your expectations.

Expecting somebody to run a session? Let them know with enough time to prepare.

Hoping Roger from admin remembers to bring the flip chart and markers? You’ve got to let him know.

Are you expecting people to show up in their comfy clothes, or formal business attire? Comfy clothes can go a long way to creating the right environment for creativity.

If there’s a pool, let people know! Imagine how devastating that would be. Rocking up to find everyone else knows there’s a pool, and you forgot your swim shorts.

Some expectations that always prove popular are:

  • No discussion about existing work or the day-to-day business activities
  • Limit or eliminate phone calls and distractions
  • Alcohol is only permitted from the final session onwards

It’s also a good idea to plan your logistics way ahead of time (something not covered here!) But even basics like:

  • How are people to get to the location?
  • Is there transport provided?

By answering common questions like this, you’ll save a lot of time in the planning process.

Also, keep a note of all the questions you get asked along the way.

As the time draws near, one email outlining expectations and logistics can go a long way to making your corporate retreat a success.

Create the Right Space and Environment

The idea of going off site with your retreat, is to create a complete change in environment.

Rather than things being “just another day at work” – you’re out of your comfort zone. You’re somewhere new and exciting.

You’re looking to ignite the spark!

If you’ve been to the venue ahead of time, maybe you have some ideas already, but:

  • Can you stock the rooms with the relevant supplies?
  • Can you get plenty of pens and paper there ahead of time?
  • Can water and drinks be provided throughout the day?

You want to foster creativity.

You want to create both a psychological and physical space that welcomes dialogue and discussion. No idea is a bad idea. People should feel encouraged and welcomed to speak up.

Encouraging active participation will lead to better results. And again, as the facilitator, it’s your job to do this.

On the Day

On the day, there are a few things that you can do to make the most of your staff retreat.

Minimise Distractions

There should be no “day to day discussion” about the business. No checking emails, and no distracting phone calls.

Ask People to “Be Present”

Presence is important. Attending is one thing, being present is another. People need to engage, and they have to be present and paying attention to do it effectively.

Keep Things Positive

Nobody wants to spend their corporate retreat with a Miserable Mike or Boring Betty. Insist on positivity. “I disagree but think [this] would work instead.” This keeps your sessions constructive and can help prevent bickering.

Agree Action Points

At the end of every session, agree action points for the relevant people. Use a tool like Asana or Trello to take the notes, that way, things aren’t lost in notebooks for months on end.

Keep Records of Everything

As the facilitator, take charge in photographing the sessions and noting down key decisions and ideas.

If budget allows, you could easily film or record your sessions so they can be revisited at a later date.

After the Retreat

Once the sun has set on your amazing corporate retreat, your work doesn’t stop.

First of all, get the relevant photos and documents uploaded to your file storage. Dropbox or Google Drive are good options here.

Next, the notes need to go into your internal software. We use Asana, other people like Trello. Either way, they need written up.

You need to make sure that the action points have been assigned and re-communicated with the relevant parties.

Set reminders, agree deadlines, and make meetings to follow up.

Once day to day life and running of the business clouds people’s minds again, you’re fighting a real battle!

By scheduling meetings and reminders, you’re going to be able to drive home the action points from your retreat.

And that’s what makes an amazing corporate retreat a success! Real, tangible results.

Conclusion: How to Plan Amazing Corporate Retreats (Our Top Staff Retreat Ideas)

Planning an amazing corporate retreat or staff retreat doesn’t have to be difficult.

If you follow the steps we’ve laid out, then planning your corporate retreat will be easier than ever before.

When planning your staff retreat, remember these five key points:

  • Decide on goals and objectives before diving in
  • Make pre-planning a priority
  • Communicate expectations ahead of time
  • Create the right space and environment
  • Follow up after the retreat

With these things in mind, you’ll be able to plan an outstanding retreat that goes above and beyond anyone’s expectations.

But more importantly, you’ll hit your goals and objectives!

Remember, there’s no point in planning a retreat for the sake of it. Most people can’t afford to have time out of the business for nothing (even though it would be nice!)

A well planned corporate retreat, is a productive corporate retreat!

Let us know how it goes in the comments below.

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