Planning Your Year-End Offsite? 3 Must-Dos for A Successful Corporate Retreat

End your year right with a well-organised corporate retreat

As we approach the end of the year, it’s around this time that leadership teams start thinking very seriously about 2017.

However, this is often as far as they get. Lots of thinking, some talking, but little action.

Other employees meanwhile are waiting for the email that has the words ‘offsite’ or ‘corporate/strategic retreat’ in the subject line, hoping for one last jolly to round off the year.

There are many who think that these off-sites are a waste of time and money, and that very little actually gets accomplished. This can be true. Where those ones fail is in the planning, execution and follow up. However, they do serve a purpose and are often more successful than holding planning meetings in the office. Why? Principally because the office has too many distractions. Emails, ‘urgent’ phone calls, distractions etc. all serve to interrupt the flow, and reduce creativity and innovation.

There are many who think that these off-sites are a waste of time and money, and that very little actually gets accomplished. This can be true.

The answer is in having a good facilitator and strategy. The facilitator can come from within the firm, but would still ideally not be part of the leadership team. The other alternative is of course an external facilitator, who has no obligation or connection with the company, and can therefore be unbiased in their approach. Their main aim is to keep the staff and the retreat focused on achieving its objective through executing a clear plan and ensuring active, meaningful follow-up.

Effective corporate retreats aren’t just teambuilding sessions involving trust exercises and raft building. Here are 5 reasons why you might organize a retreat

·     Overcome organization obstacles

·     Tackle tough decisions

·     Get clarity on next year’s strategy

·     Plan change implementation

·     Improve workplace relationships

With that in mind and your retreat now planned, here are 3 ways to ensure you have a successful one

Conduct Pre-Retreat Meetings

If everyone meets up for the first time on the first morning of the retreat, you’re likely to spend the first half day getting up to speed with challenges and objectives. This is an inefficient use of everyone’s time. Have some meetings or conference calls in the weeks leading up to the retreat to establish the challenges the company is facing and a clear set of objectives for the allocated time away from the office. If necessary, conduct interviews with key members of staff who can give you additional insights into the inner workings of the firm.

Have a Plan

Many think that facilitation is done on the fly, and certain elements are, but there should be a plan and structure, or framework, that the facilitator follows to ensure the discussions are kept on track and objectives are achieved.

Every facilitator will have their own approach, but at a high level, for a 2-day strategic retreat, I like to:

#1: Establish Context

Day 1 is usually spent summarising the results of the pre-retreat meetings, and ensuring everyone is clear on current situation and goals for the next 48 hours. Following that, we spend the rest of the day in breakout sessions to start focusing on how to move forward in 2017, e.g. how to break into new sectors, increase engagement levels, increase sales in certain divisions etc.

There’s no point biting off more than you can chew when resources are tight across the board.

#2: Establish Priorities

On day 2, we start to filter through the ideas generated in day 1 and narrow them down to 5-6 core priorities to focus on. Similar to the ‘5/25 rule’ that Warren Buffet likes to use, or the lesser-known Ivy Lee method, focusing on a smaller number of ideas increases the likelihood of them being completed. There’s no point biting off more than you can chew when resources are tight across the board. Once these priorities have been agreed, we then need to discuss resource allocation and an action plan for the next steps.

#3: Assign Accountability for Follow Up Actions

This crucial final session of the retreat focuses on ensuring that the agreed-upon priorities get the required attention to see them through to completion. This involves assigning someone to be responsible for each initiative, who will work on it with them, how progress will be tracked, and what tools and support do they need.

Ensure that the agreed-upon priorities get the required attention to see them through to completion.

What if you have a 3rd day?

If you have a 3rd day, or even a half-day spare, then it’s good to do some relaxing activities together, aligned with your surroundings and its culture, without making anyone feel uncomfortable. It can also be beneficial to arrange visit to a local business to get additional insights into how different businesses operate.

The facilitator’s job shouldn’t finish with the end of the retreat.

The Work Doesn’t Stop Yet

The facilitator’s job shouldn’t finish with the end of the retreat.

Once the leadership team returns to the office, it’s easy to get side-tracked by the daily grind of meetings, deadlines and client demands, despite their best intentions. The facilitator should arrange follow up meetings/calls to ensure that the assigned team members are putting their plans in place. In simple terms, they can act as an accountability partner and keep the pressure on, ensuring that the hard work done at the retreat doesn’t become a distant memory.

If you haven’t started your strategy planning yet for 2017, now is the right time. Yes, there can be a significant cost in running a corporate retreat, but with the help of a skilled facilitator, you will make that back in value multiple times over.

What have you found to work best in your retreats?

Written By

Mark Stuart is the Managing Director of Anagram Group. He is a Leadership Trainer and Executive Coach, and works with MNCs, entrepreneurs, and high-performing start-ups delivering leadership and management training, executive coaching, and personality profiling. He has a YouTube series "Make Your Mark", and an ebook "Leadership in the Digital Age": http://www.anagram-group.com/ebook.

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