Do you need to improve your team’s communication skills? Could you benefit from increased employee engagement or a refocused staff? Do you just want to show your employees some appreciation? If so, it may be time to start discussing how to plan a company retreat! The idea may seem overwhelming at first, but we’ve created this guide to help you along the way.
In this article, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about planning a corporate or company retreat. Our tips, tricks, and simple how-to guide will take you through the entire process from start to finish.
How to plan a company retreat that will maximize motivation and boost team spirit
Event planners tasked with planning a company retreat may find the process stressful at first. There are a lot of different details to consider, calls to make, and information to announce. Planners may face an immense amount of pressure from their management team or corporate office to plan a monumental retreat on a miniscule budget.
Don’t let the process overwhelm you; take it one step at a time.
Step 1: Establish the retreat’s main goals and objectives
Have a clear picture of what you want to achieve at the company retreat. Start with a strong foundation of established goals and objectives before moving deeper into the planning process.
To help identify your retreat objectives, ask the following questions:
- What do I want to accomplish at this retreat?
Are employees learning any new job skills at the retreat, working on their communication skills, or brainstorming new product ideas?
Think about measurable, identifiable goals you would like to see accomplished by the end of the retreat. Set the primary objectives early as they will likely factor into many areas of your future planning.
- What is the theme of the company retreat?
Is there one topic that encompasses the overall spirit of the retreat: company culture, improving productivity, or team building? While you may be covering a lot of different topics at the upcoming retreat, or celebrating a variety of accomplishments, try to come up with an unforgettable event theme to help centralize your planning efforts.
- What goals should we focus on achieving at the retreat?
Break general goals down into more specific categories. When planning the overall event, keep individual employee objectives in mind, set separate team goals for different departments, and establish overall company intentions.
- What do we want attendees to leave the retreat with?
Put thoughtful consideration into what you would like team members to take away from the experience on a personal level as well. Challenge employees to set personal objectives in addition to company objectives during retreat activities or discussions. Promote individual growth as well as team growth, and help attendees see how the two connect.
Confirm two to three potential dates, retreat objectives, the theme, and other major details before establishing the event budget or booking accommodations. Make sure that members of the planning team and management are on the same page before moving forward, making reservations, or putting down deposits.
Step 2: Set limitations
Don’t get carried away trying to cram too many activities or events into a company retreat; start by planning the essentials. Clearly confirming expectations, restrictions and establishing limitations early in the planning process can save planners a lot of unwanted trouble later down the line.
Review the following topics with the retreat planning team as well as company management before booking accommodations.
What time of year works best for everyone? When is your company’s busiest season? We recommend against scheduling a retreat during a time when your team’s workload is heaviest. Keep area-wide travel demand patterns in mind as well. If you’re planning a retreat in a different location, booking in the off-season could save your company a significant chunk of change on venue rental, hotel rooms and transportation costs.
Before scouting retreat venues or reserving a block hotel rooms set a firm budget. Allocate portions of your ultimate budget to cover different expenses: event venue, accommodations, food, transportation, and other event fees. Will travel be required during office hours? If so, factor that into your retreat expenses to get a complete view of the retreat cost. Use the Conference Cost Estimator to help establish the budget for the retreat.
Brainstorm and compile a list of additional details you may need to consider in the early stages of retreat planning, such as:
- Dietary restrictions or allergies.
- Potential scheduling conflicts with speakers or performers.
- ADA requirements and accessibility needs.
Ask event attendees to anonymously submit any accessibility requirements or specific dietary restrictions they may have. Make sure the request process is 100% anonymous and that employees can submit requests in private.
Step 3: Book a venue for the retreat
It’s time to begin making calls, getting quotes, and solidifying plans for the retreat—starting with booking the venue. What limitations were established for the retreat? Will it be a one-day event, or take place over multiple days? Are you looking for a nearby location or planning for a destination retreat?
When evaluating venues, keep the retreat schedule of events in mind. If improving team communication skills and building trust are the primary goals of your company retreat, you may need to book a venue with a lot of space to accommodate physical activities. If group discussions will be a major part of the retreat, or teams will need separate space to work, you may require a large venue or conference center with multiple meeting rooms for breakout sessions.
Ask venues about package pricing, special services, potential fees, and their experiences hosting company retreats in the past. If they do not provide catering or transportation services, ask for their preferred services or nearby recommendations. Discuss setup needs, AV requirements, privacy needs, ADA compliance, and other pertinent details before signing a contract or placing a deposit.
Step 4: Book overnight accommodations
If you’re planning a multi-day company retreat, consider looking for a venue that can accommodate meeting space, meal, and overnight needs together in a package deal. Many conference and event centers specialize in providing all of the services a company retreat may require―from AV needs to entertainment.
Discuss group rates and concessions with the sales team at properties that interest you. Ask about complimentary room policies, complimentary event space potential for team meals or workspace, as well as shuttle, laundry, and dining services. Many hotels can create personalized web pages to streamline the booking process as well.
Personalized online group pages, or POGs, allow event planners to send booking information easily with their invitations or retreat announcements. When you open the link, it only shows the rooms available in your group block at the designated group rate. Planners contacting major event or hospitality brands should inquire about event and meeting planner points.
Step 5: Book transportation
The most important piece of information to consider when planning event transportation is the retreat location. For single-day events, there’s nothing wrong with asking attendees to provide their own transportation to the retreat, granted that the location is relatively close to the workplace.
If the retreat venue is more than 30 minutes away from the workplace, you might want to consider renting a shuttle service or bus for the day. Employees who already commute an hour to work shouldn’t be asked to drive any further than that. Have the bus pick everyone up at a central location.
For retreats that require air travel, planners have one of two primary choices:
- Book transportation for each individual attendee
- Establish clear booking and expensing guidelines and provide attendees with clear avenues to book their own transportation
If retreat attendees are responsible for booking their own travel, set clear guidelines for where to book, how to expense their travel, and a very firm booking deadline. Outline if they are responsible for overnight rooms, airfare, car rental, all transportation, or just certain aspects of event logistics.
Packaging airfare and car rental can save planners a significant amount on transportation costs. Consider requesting that employees double-up on rental vehicles or carpool from the airport to the hotel. If the hotel does not offer local shuttle services, be sure to have local transportation available for attendees to reference easily.
Step 6: Hire caterers
If your retreat venue does not include food and beverage service, that will need to be booked separately. Ask the venue which services they would recommend in the area, as they likely have a lot of experience working with the local catering companies.
The amount of food and beverage you include for attendees should be based on your budget restrictions and clearly outlined to attendees in advance. Some companies may choose to include breakfast and lunch, but not dinner, or breakfast and dinner services while employees can explore lunch opportunities on their own. Consider ordering bulk snacks for a multi-day retreat or using other budget-friendly catering ideas.
Step 7: Schedule fun activities, team building exercises and recreation
Include some of these creative event entertainment ideas to help spark some fun at your next company retreat:
- Include an on-theme motivational or inspirational speaker
Get the team in the retreat spirit by kicking off the event with a powerful motivational speaker. Invite a speaker or speakers who embody the overall theme of the retreat. Get attendees pumped up for what comes next with a high-energy speech that empowers and energizes the crowd.
- Celebrate team accomplishments and recognize staff
Prepare awards based on individual accomplishments to give to employees. Surprise team members with swag, certificates, and other rewards. Put together a highlight reel of photos and videos to showcase the “best of” the past year.
- Include networking opportunities
Provide at least one event session that gives retreat attendees to network with other professionals. One of the most powerful ways that companies can show appreciation for their employees is to encourage professional growth with impactful networking moments.
Including networking events and encouraging your staff to explore other areas of professional interest can help showcase the confidence you have in your team. Demonstrate your appreciation for their hard work and dedication to the company by investing in their professional growth.
- Host an “‘athon,” or mini-marathon
Create excitement and enthusiasm by turning work-related activities into mini-marathons. Include a “Pitch-A-Thon” at the retreat. Invite employees to freely pitch any new product idea, with no judgement, until the team has come up with five new winning product ideas. Employees can brainstorm and build off of each other’s ideas.
- Add some team-building exercises to the agenda
Incorporate activities that focus on building trust, improving communication, or creating a better atmosphere in the workplace. Include both discussion-based and physical team building activities to keep the event dynamic and provide attendees with an opportunity to get up and get moving. Encourage friendly competition with a kickball game, a scavenger hunt with partners, or an inflatable obstacle course.
Encouraging attendees to participate in new activities at the retreat might help them open up and share more, or become more comfortable trying new things at work.
Step 8: Follow-up with attendees after the retreat
After the retreat, be sure to thank all attendees and participants for their efforts. Post-event engagement is an important part of making attendees feel valued.
Share retreat highlights in a digital photo album or a video highlight reel. Celebrate achievements and breakthroughs from the retreat, and recap the goals or objectives that were established for the future. Sending an anonymous survey to attendees can help planners identify what worked, what didn’t work, and what they could do differently when planning future company retreats.
- How much does a company retreat cost?
The cost of a corporate retreat can vary greatly depending on how long it lasts and what it includes. Single-day retreats typically cost between $55-70 per person, while the cost of all-inclusive overnight retreats may be closer to $300-$350 per person each day. A single-day retreat at a local state park that includes two meals will cost significantly less than a three-day destination retreat that requires event space, overnight rooms, and transportation.
- What activities should I plan for a company retreat?
Plan a well-balanced mix of company-related sessions and activities with opportunities for outside networking, recreation, dining, and regular breaks. For multi-day retreats, consider planning group events most nights, but providing attendees with the opportunity to “choose their own adventure” one night. Provide information on area attractions, restaurants, shows and events to explore.
- Where to host a company retreat?
Each company will have its own unique goals, needs and restrictions to consider when planning their company retreat. Outside of those restrictions, a company retreat can be hosted just about anywhere: at a ritzy conference center, in the park, on a boat, or even at the beach!
- How to announce a company retreat?
Company retreats can be announced in a variety of ways. Some businesses choose to make the announcement face-to-face at team meetings while others send invitations via a letter, memo, or email. However you choose to announce your company retreat, be sure to include a follow-up communication, usually an email reminder and clear RSVP instructions. Clearly detail the dates, time, location, travel requirements, and any additional information related to the retreat to employees well in advance.
- How to make a company retreat fun?
Make your attendees feel welcome from the start. Choose how relaxed you want the retreat energy to be, and encourage that from the start. Don’t forget to mix things up either! Include a variety of events and activities for attendees. Move between different locations if possible and include a healthy mix of professional and recreational activities.