Whenever you say the words corporate retreat to almost any corporate employee in America, you're likely to get a "not this again" eye roll. You may even get a groan out of the more vocal ones.
Why such the stigma around corporate retreats? Unfortunately, they've built a bad reputation over the years as being unhelpful, boring, and even overblown. It's partially why many companies have done away with them all together.
But when you understand how to properly run a corporate retreat and mistakes to avoid, you're far more likely to create an event that everyone walks away from with smiles on their faces.
This isn't an easy task, as there are plenty of mistakes you can commit before, during, and after a retreat that will only strengthen the negative view they tend to receive.
So when you're planning your next corporate retreat, make sure you avoid doing any of these 7 blunders to help ensure a successful experience:
1. Not clarifying the reason(s) for the retreat ahead of time.
One of the easiest ways for discussions to get derailed at a retreat is if your employees and co-leaders didn't know what train they were supposed to be on in the first place.
In order to keep everyone's expectations and discussions on-track, you need to clarify before the retreat why you're even having one.
It's not enough to tell employees the retreat's happening because the company wants innovation. You need to give specifics about why they want that innovation and how it could be used to grow the company or meet its goals. For example, are you trying to beat a new product your competition is creating? Then say that.
Lay out as many reasons as you need to so attendees know exactly what's going to be covered.
2. Ignoring your employees.
This problem was addressed in a previous blog post about corporate retreats, but it's vital to emphasize again.
Taking complete control at your corporate retreat will only make your employees less interested overall. They'll either just hate you more (yes, some likely do) or tune out entirely, refusing to share ideas that could genuinely help the company achieve its goals for the retreat.
You wouldn't be hosting a corporate retreat if you already knew what your employees thought, so don't use it as just another excuse to toot your own horn. Be honest about your role, your mistakes, and your hopes, and allow all attendees to do the same. This will create a setting of respect and openness where the ideas can truly start to flow.
3. Getting drunk.
The same thing that happens at corporate holiday parties can happen at a retreat, too.
It's never a good idea to get drunk at your corporate retreat. You'll undoubtedly end up making a fool of yourself and feeling miserable the next day. Imagine trying to run a team-building volleyball game with a hangover!
This doesn't just go for leadership personnel, either. Your employees should also know that they're expected to remain sober and professional throughout the duration of the retreat.
4. Handing out cheap or cheesy gifts.
Giving gifts to the retreat attendees can be a great way to boost their appreciation for the event, but only if you hand out the right ones.
When you hand out cheap or cheesy gifts, you're not doing yourself or the company any favors. Employees don't want bad wine wrapped up all fancy, and they don't want books full of information they likely already know. In fact, giving away these kinds of things only put forth the idea that your company as a whole is cheap.
The point behind gifts is to make the receiver feel appreciated and glad you gave them that item. So put some effort into your choices if you don't want to see your gifts in the trash at the end of the event.
5. Being unprepared for tension between workers.
Being the boss is great and all, but you have to admit it does keep you out of the loop in the everyday interactions between some of your employees.
Though you may not know who they are, you need to be prepared for the fact that some of your workers just won't get along. This isn't a bad thing, either, because sometimes the best ideas for a company can spawn from opposing viewpoints or personalities.
The point is to not assume that any amount of hand-holding or team-building exercises will make friends out of enemies. Your job isn't to be a counselor; your job is to run a successful retreat for your company.
6. Forgetting to focus on what really matters.
So you have some new HR policies you want to bring to people's attention? Great -- save them for when you get back to work.
Part of the reason corporate retreats have such a negative reputation is because people tend to hear the exact same thing they do at the event as they do in the office, so don't talk about that stuff. A retreat is supposed to be an educational experience where employees feel like they're learning new things about the company and where innovation is happening, not where information is just being passively processed.
Seek to generate discussion instead. And if you think something's important to share, ask yourself if it could just as easily be said in a memo -- if your answer is yes, ditch it until you're back in the office.
7. Not following up.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest mistakes you can make related to a corporate retreat isn't during the event -- it's after.
Instead of building off of what was discussed and planned at the retreat, you drop the ball when everyone's back at work, which means the entire trip didn't matter. There's no follow-up emails or meetings about what steps to take next, or employees aren't checked on to make sure they're implementing the plans.
As so many wise people have said, action is the most important step in a process. Planning only goes so far without it.
You may not be able to wipe out the stigma around corporate retreats in general, but by avoiding these problems, you can ensure yours is successful and your employees are eager for future events.
Have you ever made any of these corporate retreat mistakes? Share your story with us in the comments - did things turn out all right in the end, or were there bad consequences?