BY Janet Adetu
Are you planning a year end retreat for your organization?
Have you considered the need or the importance of such a retreat?
As important as a retreat is, it is usually effective at the end of a year or the beginning of a new year; many companies do not align with the rationale. It is assumed to be money gulping and a way to spend more company funds ineffectively. A retreat should be designed with major objectives in mind at an affordable cost with no added stress. It is true that at times some companies have experienced good retreats, that they have considered engaging interactive, fun and successfully executed. The main issue is after all said and done, ideas shared, plans discussed, and the future looking bright, slowly but steadily, ideas begin to fade away, due to the lack of ownership of the vision or task ahead.
I have experienced such in the past where indeed full energy is exerted, staff are excited about new ideas but poor execution killed the spirit. It is really the crux of all retreats to create impact and results moving forward. I learnt that it is not enough to birth the idea and assume everyone will run with it. It calls for a strategy as to how this will be executed. Even when you assign teams to tasks, there is a dire need for ownership to take place and this is most efficient when you specifically and intentionally assign a leader to a team or a group or a project.
Accountability is essential if progress is expected. Now the other task would be to give ownership to a capable leader who has that extra urge or potential to run with the idea, re- strategize the execution plan and have the tenacity to drive all other members to follow suit. I agree the task of finding that bulldozer is never easy. As a CEO or Executive it calls for taking the time to watch out for members of staff, to get to know them better. There is a need to regularly check on employees’ strength within and outside their current official role. It does not help by relying on the report of supervisors alone, a CEO should endeavor to engage with staff on a adhoc basis and acknowledge each person where possible or whenever you have an opportunity to greet and dialogue with them.
Strategies for a Purposeful Retreat
There are some pertinent strategies to remember when planning a retreat for your organization, let me share my thoughts.
A corporate retreat is not a holiday or a party though it is expected that staff should engage, mix and mingle. There are goals and objectives to be achieved from the exercise.
Ideally retreats are most effective when the exercise takes place outside the official office premises. It provides a less tense environment for easy thinking, relaxation and strategizing. The location outside the office is usually chosen as a hotel or resort destination, you may use hall venues or a total change in geographical location. Depending on the budget and corporate policy there is a vast number of locations that can suit the desires of the organization. It is not compulsory an external location be used, It can as well be the office premises itself. It means those included will be in the training room provided for the entire period. I recently delivered a workshop at a retreat that was conducted for quite a number of participants in their office premises. I was told the retreat was going well that the previous day was intensive starting early and finishing very late. It is best to settle for that which is very affordable and on budget.
It is important to decide the target audience for this retreat. Some organization see a year-end retreat as an end of year get together and celebration, the year they will invite all staff members. A retreat may include only key stakeholders or key management staff who are responsible for making decisions and creating strategy for the organization. Depending on the organizations future plans, middle level, senior and executive level staff are best used for strategic organizational retreats.
A good retreat needs to be planned effectively from beginning to execution. Some organizations employ the services of experts to ensure the seamless flow of events. A retreat must be strictly planned out and effectively conducted for it to be successful. This means strict adherence to timing is included. Being a strategy session there is no room for mediocrity as this should be one of the pitfalls looking to be addressed at such retreats. The agenda should be communicated effectively from the choice of location, address, arrival and event timings to meals, feedbacks and after hours. The speeches and activities need to be aligned and invites given to external participants in advance.
A retreat needs to have a team or committee in place where all involved are responsible for assigned tasks. No assumptions should be made for any part of the retreat provided each task or segment has a person in charge. Assignments or task ownership should include:
– Activities for the Retreat
– Members Sign Up
– Accommodation & Travel Arrangements
– Facilitator Invitations (Internal & External)
– Fees & Invoices
– Food and Beverage
– Music & Entertainment
– Work Materials& Stationary
– Session Plan & Execution
– Speeches & Presentation Tools
– Staff Welfare & Dresscode
– Gifts & Takeaways
A line up of activities for the retreat depends on the entire objectives of the organization. It should include elements that involve serious brainstorming along with aspects of team bonding and social engagement. A typical retreat will include some of the under listed elements:
* Strategy Session
* Brain Storming & Team Development
* Team Activities
* Rest & Relax Entertainment
* Learning & Development
* Year in Review
End of Retreat/ Feedback
At the end of a retreat it is advisable that feedback is received from all aspects, including the retreat itself, personal progress, company progress and findings moving forward. A retreat is a great thing to have if you are looking to explore the minds, ideas, and thoughts of all staff and key decision makers. The entire day is spent and can extend to 2-3days depending on the line up of events. A retreat is only successful when you put feedback of the retreat to maximum use. HR is responsible for ensuring that the punctual results of the retreat are applied intently to the success and progress of your company.
Please share your experience with me. Join my online community @janetadetu