Wouldn't you like to go on a weeklong, all-expenses-paid vacation on the company's dime? Of course you would, but what if you're the one footing the bill? Odds are you aren't saying "yes" quite so quickly. However, before you reject the idea, you should consider all the benefits a company retreat can provide. The truth is that they're not just good for your employees, but they're also good for the company.
While retreats can benefit any business, they're especially helpful for virtual companies. The distance between employees makes creating a vibrant company culture very difficult. Common complaints from poorly adapted virtual companies are confusion as to what people are doing, slow results because of inadequate knowledge sharing, and a general lack of cohesion among employees.
Why Should We Spend Money on a Company Retreat?
Companies rarely spend any significant amount of money unless it's required - or they're sure they'll receive a good return on their investment. The price tag for a retreat can vary greatly, depending on the destination and how many employees you have.
When considering whether a company retreat is worth the expense, I look at it this way: Our company has far fewer expenses than a company with a central headquarters. We don't pay rent, we don't pay a cleaning staff, etc. Our seemingly lavish retreat to a Greek island cost roughly $20,000, far less than a year's rent. Our retreats are a people thing; we have extremely low turnover in our industry, and our team excels in remote communication, where others struggle. The annual retreat plays a significant part in that. If you're on the fence about splurging on your own company retreat, consider these four main benefits:
- Understanding Personalities: Even the best online communication still loses something in translation. It's amazing how getting to know a person makes it easier to work together. You can better understand his reactions and reasoning, which allows you to communicate far more effectively. Meeting people face-to-face will help you understand any differences far better than you ever could virtually.
- Having the "Hard" Conversations: Confrontation is difficult for most people, doubly so when they're communicating online. In many cases, people will avoid a confrontation online, simply because they know how easy it is for their meaning to be misinterpreted. An in-person meeting will allow co-workers to become a stronger team because it gives them a chance to air their grievances, express themselves efficiently, and resolve lingering problems.
- Team Building: Shared experiences bring teams together. Company retreats give co-workers a common ground to build upon, strengthening trust and building strong bonds.
- Hiring/Retaining Employees: This is a hidden benefit, but it shouldn't be underestimated. Company perks, like gourmet cafeterias, massage therapists, and on-site dry cleaning, have become extremely popular. While smaller businesses and virtual companies can't offer many of the same benefits the big boys like Amazon or Google can, any kind of retreat can go a long way in hiring and retaining quality employees.
Related: Get quotes from employee recognition gift providers.
It Isn't in the Cards Right Now - What Else Can We Do?
If a company retreat just isn't in your budget yet, there are a few alternatives to get you by until a retreat is a viable option. First, you can sponsor regional meetings, centered on a conference. While conferences can be great resources, they can also get in the way of getting to know one another and building relationships between employees. Therefore, you should make it a point to get employees together after the conference's activities are finished for the day. Let people relax, talk, and get to know each other.
Another option is to encourage, and perhaps provide incentives for, travel to visit co-workers. This allows them to collaborate in real time, develop a closer relationship, and spend some personal time in another place.
Finally, if you work in a virtual environment, why not host virtual after-hours get-togethers as well? Provide a video chat room for people to have a drink and talk about life. Name it something fun, like "No Work Allowed" or "Happy Hour Happenings." Though this strategy doesn't provide the benefit of meeting face-to-face, it still allows people to see each other and talk about things other than work.
The bottom line is that trust is absolutely critical to a company. Without a doubt, personal relationships are the gateway to trust, so relationship-building strategies - such as company retreats - are indispensable tools for organizational health.
Author Bio: Peter Baumgartneris the founder of full-service Web studio Lincoln Loop, makers of Ginger, an online platform to help distributed teams communicate. Peter is an expert in Django-based Web development and a thought leader in entrepreneurship and remote teamwork. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him on Twitter or LinkedIn.
(Image: photostock via freedigitalphotos.net)