Engaging Employees with Company Retreats

OCTOBER 8, 2021

Nearly everyone has heard of the phrase “company retreat,” but few people would feel comfortable defining it. Well, I’ll do it. A company retreat is an out-of-office event for company employees that is not focused on work—or at least not entirely.

Businesses choose to organize retreats for a variety of reasons and end goals. There are three main types of company retreats: annual planning, leadership and education, and recreation. Depending on where you are in your organization’s growth, you could plan multiple retreat types at the same time.

"In most cases, a company will see significant returns on the investment with focused executives, managers with leadership skills, motivated employees, and an energized sales team."

Annual planning retreats give executives a change of scenery and a chance to experience focused collaboration. The executive team can examine the company’s direction and work toward new business objectives while in a terrific setting that fires their creative thinking.

Leadership and education retreats can offer employees the training they need to advance to the next level of their career, or provide managers with the opportunity to develop their leadership skills. Team-building activities included in this type of retreat can encourage employees to work together—inspiring organic solutions by taking them away from their traditional work environment.

Recreational retreats, or “Rewards & Incentives Programs” reward employees—usually sales teams—who have reached or surpassed their annual goals. A recreational retreat gives high-performing team members a chance to relax and foster close bonds with their co-workers while enjoying a memorable trip. Many recipients say it helps them recharge and prepare to meet next year’s goals.

Should you consider a company retreat? The answer depends on whether it is mutually beneficial for the attendees and the organization. In most cases, a company will see significant returns on the investment with focused executives, managers with leadership skills, motivated employees, and an energized sales team. The first step is to carve out a budget in order to weigh the cost with the potential benefit.

If a company retreat makes sense for your corporation, you’ll have two key considerations in order to get started: choosing a destination and selecting a format.

Choosing a destination

Depending on where your teams are located, you may choose a destination that would interest employees in that location. For example, a team based in California may prefer a destination quite different from one that suits teams located all across the world. For a team in California, a destination in Mexico would mean a shorter flight, but would still provide a nice international escape from the everyday. However, teams based in both the US and Asia may find somewhere in the Pacific a better fit. If you have a large team located across several continents, you might consider multiple retreats for different teams rather than sending everyone to a single destination. Enduring long-haul flights can disrupt the personal life of team members and impact their productivity when they return to work.

Selecting a format

Some organizers like to empower the team by incorporating motivational speakers into the retreat experience. Some prefer to strengthen team relationships through interactive activities. Both have merits and both will yield results. The key consideration is to determine what type of organization you have and what you wish to improve. Make sure you follow a path true to your business objectives and employee culture.

One of the hardest lessons for a company to remember in planning a retreat is that less is more. Don’t feel the pressure to program every minute of every day. Allow yourself and team members to enjoy some downtime. If they’re tied up in too many mandatory activities, employees won’t feel like they’ve experienced the destination you have carefully chosen for them. Time for personal reflection is just as important as time spent with peers.

Build loyalty and show your appreciation by balancing the benefits that a retreat can bring to your people as an employee and as a human being. Let them get inspired, learn, and build relationships—but also let them enjoy a wonderful place and a fantastic experience.

Ting-Yi Shih is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Going Places Travel. A lifelong advocate for personal growth through cultural experience, she has dedicated her life to helping others both see and better understand the world.