WRITTEN BY ROY WAINER, FOUNDER & CEO AT TOWNISH
The world is coming out of Covid-19 and companies are looking for ways to bring their teams together. A very common way is corporate retreats. And while there is nothing new about corporate retreats – they have been a part of the modern workplace for quite some time – they have evolved in recent years.
There are three major components to every team retreat – there are activities that are purely for fun (i.e. food & wine), activities that are purely work-oriented (i.e. strategy sessions for the next quarter), and something in between, which is called team building – a combination of games and activities that are aimed at building the connections among the team members and helping them work together more effectively.
It is still the same mix, and most retreats consist of these three components, but they have changed in composition over the years – though fun is always a part of the retreat, the work environment has become more flexible, office time has been reduced, and research has changed as well – this has led colleagues and employers to seek out more intentionality in their gatherings, so they can use it for creative and strategic tasks that are a vital part of how a company can grow and innovate in the future.
Over the past two years, the number of corporate retreats has risen significantly, and Allied Market Research predicts that, over the next decade, the market for corporate retreats and meetings will grow by 19% annually. Even with some headwinds caused by higher interest rates and some troubles in the tech industry, it is well deserved that retreats are gaining popularity, as they generate a high return on investment and increase employee productivity and morale as well as increasing employee retention.
What’s the science behind corporate retreats?
Researchers from MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab have used electronic badges in order to record everything from voice tone to body language in order to conduct a study on what drives performance in a variety of industries. It was found that in-person communication was the most valuable form of communication and could be attributed to 35 percent of the variability in team performance as a result. In another research, a Harvard Review study found that 95% of people believed that face-to-face meetings were essential to building and maintaining long-term business relationships. According to the survey, 81% of respondents believe that traveling to meet in person offers value beyond the meeting, and 93% of respondents believe that in person meetings are critical to bridging cultural differences.
Intentionality and purposefulness are what matter most about corporate retreats – something that is not possible in remote cultures, as well as in offices that are chaotic, noisy, and, according to some studies, hurt employee productivity. As a result, corporate retreats aim to improve team cohesiveness, provide coaching and training, as well as provide fun for employees. Creating alignment and camaraderie within a short timeframe (usually three to four days) is essential to building company culture.
Science-backed key benefits of corporate retreats
Some of the research around corporate retreats has shown that they improve employee retention, team cohesion, engagement, collaboration, and motivation.
Corporate retreats boost team cohesion and trust
A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that team-building activities, which are often incorporated into corporate retreats, can boost team cohesion and trust. In the survey, 89% of participants reported feeling more motivated to work with colleagues after participating in team-building activities.
Corporate retreats decrease turnover rates
In a Gallup study, companies with engaged employees experience lower turnover rates, higher customer satisfaction, and increased profitability. Employee engagement can be enhanced through well-designed retreats that facilitate learning, collaboration, and relationship-building.
Corporate retreats boost creativity
Breaks from routine and exposure to new environments can boost creativity and problem-solving skills. Employees who take regular breaks and engage in leisure activities perform better at work and are more creative, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
Corporate retreats cultivate motivation
Quantum Workplace conducted a survey that found 91% of employees who attended corporate retreats felt more motivated, and 85% reported feeling more satisfied at work. A retreat that incorporates fun activities and recognizes employee contributions can have a positive effect on the morale of the participants.
Corporate retreats improve communication and collaboration
Enhanced communication and collaboration: The Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology published a study indicating that team retreats can improve communication, cooperation, and collaboration among team members.
How to design a scientifically successful corporate retreat
Scientifically successful corporate retreats incorporate factors that enhance team dynamics, engagement, and productivity. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but there are some key principles and considerations to keep in mind.
Establish clear goals and objectives
Identify the specific outcomes and goals you hope to achieve during the retreat. This may include enhancing problem-solving skills, improving team communication, or strengthening team cohesion. Having clear objectives will guide retreat design and activities.
Identify your team’s needs
Understand the dynamics, strengths, and areas for improvement. Consider conducting surveys, interviews, or assessments to find out what individuals and teams prefer, what challenges they face, and what expectations they have. Using this information will help you tailor the retreat to suit your needs.
Use evidence-based team-building activities
Select activities that have been shown to build trust, collaboration, and communication among team members. A few examples include problem-solving challenges, outdoor team-building exercises, and structured group discussions. You can choose activities based on case studies and research evidence.
Encourage open communication and inclusive participation
Make sure team members feel safe expressing their ideas, opinions, and concerns. It’s easier to openly communicate, take risks, and innovate when you are in a psychologically safe environment. During retreat activities, encourage inclusive participation, active listening, and respect for diverse perspectives.
Unwind and bond
The retreat should include focused work sessions, but there should also be time for relaxation, socializing, and recreation. Building social connections and letting employees unwind can contribute to a more positive and enjoyable work environment, ultimately enhancing team bonding and engagement among employees.
Help your team develop new skills
Give your team members the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge through workshops, seminars, and training sessions. In order to deliver engaging and informative sessions, consider bringing in external or internal subject matter experts.
Facilitate reflection and action planning
Provide participants with time to discuss key takeaways and identify action steps for implementation back at work. Set specific goals and strategies for applying what participants have learned during the retreat.
Follow-up and evaluation
Collect feedback from participants about their experience and the impact of the retreat after the retreat. This feedback can be used to improve future retreats or ongoing team development efforts.
Obviously, all of the above should be taken with a grain of salt. Every company is unique and requires a different level of customization (which Townish would love to assist you with! ), as well as a range of dynamics and personalities.
Organizing a corporate retreat involves a lot of moving parts. Such events are time-consuming and can take a lot of effort to plan, and most companies do it ineffectively. As a result, many companies do not organize events as much as they should. It is unfortunate because retreats are the best way to unite a team, and when done properly, they can boost productivity and morale. Additionally, choosing the right partners will make organizing your retreat easier and less expensive, and as the science proves – corporate retreats are highly beneficial. The best time to plan your next retreat is now!
ABout the Author
Roy Wainer is a Toronto-based entrepreneur who is building Townish, a platform for planning and organizing team retreats. Townish partners with villas and hotels, chefs and caterers, and local experiences, as well as professional coaches to help teams succeed. Roy is very engaged in the Toronto tech ecosystem and is always willing to have a coffee with fellow founders who need advice.