Everyone involved in People Operations within a company will gladly acknowledge the inherent value in holding a company retreat. Traditionally these events are invaluable for training & upskilling, team building & alignment, promoting company values and more. However, for those businesses which fall into the 100% remote category, the retreat has now become for some a question of if to have it and for others a question of how.
Naturally the event can be held online, becoming a virtual panacea to a potential issue as gathering your now fully remote staff is often a logistical nightmare unto itself. The key is not to allow the preparation, planning and execution of a virtual retreat become another logistical nightmare. I’d like to share our experience with holding our third virtual retreat this year, all the while in the face of a recession that is hitting the tech industry hard and fast at the moment.
Why Even Hold a Retreat At This Time?
Of course, at a time when the business is having its back pushed up against a wall with no way out, holding a virtual retreat can seem counterproductive. I mean, “Shouldn’t it be ‘all hands on deck’, nose to the grindstone to fight through the rough patch we’re experiencing now?” I imagine that just went through your mind as it went through nearly all our staff’s minds like a collective group thought, ha-ha.
All joking aside, the question and observation is entirely valid and warranted. However, there is another viewpoint that begs attention. Nothing can be more demoralizing for your staff than a recession which sees your business heavily impacted or worse yet, facing potential cutbacks. We felt it was necessary, even critical to hold the annual virtual retreat. It gave the company the opportunity to provide support, boost morale and continue to foster the remote community we have developed.
Additionally, the retreat can help to re-energize the team, create meaningful connections among team members, and set clear goals for the future. It can also provide an opportunity for employees to come together and brainstorm ideas, build relationships, and gain valuable insights into their roles and the company.
What Tangible Value Does It Deliver?
Tangible value, that is a good question. As mentioned above, there are a variety of benefits for both the company and staff to take away from the event. I’m aware the “re-energizing the team” is not exactly tangible or quantifiable in any meaningful manner. That said, it is something that has inherent value to those within your organization who are tasked with leadership roles. Leading an energized team is fundamentally opposite from an unenergized team.
Consider that if your team is not energized, you must expend a certain amount of time and energy getting them geared up and into the task at hand. Why is this necessary? Well, I believe we can all agree that an energized and engaged employee is a more productive and active employee. Don’t we want our staff to be happy, engaged, energized and producing at their highest ability?
There is value to be had in allowing team members to connect and collaborate in news ways, outside their usual daily routine tasks having them expand their horizons. This will lead to individual and team growth on levels which are not always attainable through the daily routine no matter how hard you try to make them so. Moreover, it also allows for conversations that would not be possible without the retreat; these are extremely conducive for building trust and understanding among the entire staff which leads to a more successful work environment.
Are There Any Additional Benefits to the Company?
Certainly! For one, this is the tech industry and new ideas are always needed. One way to get those new ideas is by giving the staff opportunities to share and discuss in an open forum; those ideas with the most veracity and traction will rise to the top. It’s two birds with one stone in that the company gets to hear new creative and innovative ideas from the staff, and the exercise alone lends to motivating the employees.
Tech industry employees are some of the shyest individuals, yet they have the innate ability of coming up with some of the most profoundly innovative ideas. Yet they must have the right avenue and platform to share their ideas openly, receive feedback from their trusted and respected peers, to further hone their idea into a viable product or solution. You never know, your next virtual retreat may be the origin point for your company’s next great product or solution!
How Do You Organize and Hold a Virtual Retreat?
At Slash we believe it’s key to have a strategic plan in place that outlines the objectives and goals of the retreat. Of course, this is not much different from the norm I suppose, but saying and doing are two different things. A virtual retreat requires much more focused attention on the detailed plans and executing them. It’s simply not as easy to adlib and change the script when things are not in person.
Start with a clear agenda and schedule of activities; as well, a list of participants who can ensure your goals are achieved. In addition to those participants who help you achieve your base goals, it’s vital to also have a list of back up participants who can step in if or when things go awry. Hopefully things don’t go awry, though even the best laid plans need to be flexible and allot for potential changes on the fly.
When all is said and done, the benefit will be clear and selling it to your upper management will be a moot point. You have worked hard to move your company to a remote style of work and continue to foster the new environment for everyone’s sake. Holding your virtual retreat, regardless of any negative external forces outside of your control, will prove in the long-term to be the right choice. Last but not least, don’t overlook the obvious benefit of a virtual retreat requiring a whole lot less out of your operating budget!
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