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Five ways to host a great in-person work meeting for employees

5 min
Posted: 02 November 2022
Three female professionals happy and working together

There’s something so valuable about a group of people being in the same room together and sharing new ideas. Offsite meetings, sometimes called company retreats, are radically different from one company to the next but have gained popularity as a significant touch point for distributed teams. Some might be in a hotel ballroom with a catered lunch, while others are more adventurous camping in a national park. But the one thing they all have in common is the goal to inspire employees.

Getting your team together for an in-person offsite might be more important than you think

Remote and hybrid workers under the age of 35 are driving the trend of “quiet quitters”. Quiet quitting is a trend where employees are no longer engaged at work. A new Gallup survey found that over half of the workforce isn’t engaged on some level and an alarming 18% of US employees are “actively disengaged” at work — the highest count since 2013.

Organizing an offsite isn’t for the faint hearted, but the service you provide your employees directly reflects your company culture and values. It’s an important moment to put actions behind your words in how you treat your employees, so we’ve put together six steps to organizing a successful offsite.

Step 1: Define your goal

Flights, hotel rooms, and meals can start to really add up. That’s why setting a goal or objective for your company offsite is a must. A good place to start is to ask, “What pain are you trying to relieve by bringing your team together?” There could be a blend of tangible and intangible goals.

Tangible goals can be tracked and have specific outcomes, including:

  • Fixing a process
  • Implementing a plan
  • Creating change for a specific part of an organization

Intangible goals are more difficult to measure but maybe even more valuable with:

  • Improved communication
  • Increasing trust and belonging
  • Changing how your organization thinks about your customers

When you agree on your mix of goals and desired outcomes for the offsite, you’ll be able to create a plan with intention and a specific approach.

Step 2: Pick a location

The timing and budget of your offsite will help narrow down possible locations. The demand for in-person events has increased very suddenly, so keep in mind that venues may be understaffed and at capacity. The more time you have to find a venue the better!

Try not to prioritize cost savings over employee satisfaction of the company retreat. 83% of workers see corporate travel as a perk of their job and even thinking about upcoming travel can increase happiness and hopefulness by 18 and 9 percentage points, respectively. Choose a location that’s exciting and energizing for your team. You might even want to make a list of possible locations that align with your goals and allow those invited to the retreat to vote on their top choice.

Some other aspects to factor into your location choice include the choice of quality food, comfort and appearance, accessibility for your remote team, distance from the airport, and available activities in the area.

Step 3: Create an itinerary

The last thing you want is for your team to be clueless about what to expect and why the company is hosting a retreat in the first place, so make sure you have a plan in place.

There are many different flavors and styles of company retreats. The big three are GSD retreats or “get stuff done”, skill-building retreats, or cultural team-building retreats. Whatever the goal is, make sure you create an itinerary that allows your employees to focus on meaning, passion and expression.

Employees are more willing to participate in an event that provides meaning and allows them to share what they are passionate about. It’s important to provide a meeting space that allows employees to express themselves. Being authentic improves productivity, increases performance and success, and means employees exert less energy and time censoring or hiding themselves

While putting together a schedule of team-building activities, discussions, and presentations think about what you can’t achieve virtually to include in your in-person retreat. Another major tip is to not over-program. Give your team some breathing space. They may be especially necessary for a remote team that’s not accustomed to being in a social space for long periods of time. You don’t want your employees overwhelmed with too many team meetings and sitting for hours on end in the conference room. Allow for some free time outdoors or schedule a longer lunch. Team members that have the flexibility for organic one-on-one conversations often generate some of the best problem-solving ideas.

Finally, carefully consider if your offsite needs to be mandatory. A hybrid virtual and in-person event is never ideal, but don’t assume all remote staff can easily leave other obligations for a work trip.

Step 4: Ask specific stakeholders to facilitate.

Facilitation is much more of an art than a science. Don’t expect that you or other facilitators can walk in the room and just wing it. This is an opportunity to delegate portions of the retreat to other team members to lead and guide meaningful conversations. Revisit your goal of the company retreat and think of open-ended questions that can catalyst great conversations.

And remember, things shouldn’t be too formal. According to researchers at MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, “conversations outside of formal meetings are the most important factor that contributes to team success”. People are more creative when they can brainstorm in a safe space and bounce ideas off each other.

Step 5: Evaluate the success

When all is said and done, and your team has returned to their place of work, don’t forget to send a follow-up survey. Gather information if your team thought the company offsite was a success or not. This will help you improve the next company retreat and examine what contributed to an effective offsite for your company.

The power of offsite meetings

According to the Harvard Business Review, face-to-face communication is up to 34 times more powerful than electronic communication. Team offsite meetings are a great opportunity to reconnect your employees to why they work for your organization. At the end of the day, people enjoy their work because of the people they get to work with. An in-person company retreat in a new environment will remind your team of the company culture they signed up for and boost team morale.

Looking for some support for your next offsite meeting? If pricing, location, and logistics are preventing you from organizing your next company retreat, check out “The Corporate Travel Checklist for Finance Professionals”.

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