Team-Building

4 Unexpected Benefits of a Company Retreat

We're searching for top company cultures to be featured on our annual list. Think your company has what it takes? Apply Now »

When it comes to company retreats, I know what you’re probably thinking: trust falls and motivational speakers. But these team-building trips go far deeper than that. Whether you’re running a company of five or 500, changing pace with a retreat will re-energize your team, encourage cross-departmental collaboration and strengthen internal bonds.

If you’ve read this great article, you know some benefits of company retreats. But packing this time with company-focused exercises can also lead to positive outcomes you hadn’t anticipated.

As the co-founder of Influence & Co., I just helped facilitate our third annual retreat, and it was by far the best one yet.

Here are some ways the retreat strengthened our company:

1. Helps people overcome their fears.

Forget those cheesy team-building exercises. Although your team members might be scared of heights that probably isn’t a day-to-day issue -- unless you work in construction.

One way to help people feel comfortable revealing their fears is an exercise called Nightmare Cards. You separate into groups and employees write down their worst department or industry-related nightmares. By doing this exercise, people are able to openly discuss their fears and stressors while having the support of their team. This not only helps create an action plan to solve these fears but also the company can prepare for worst-case scenerios.

2. Galvanizes employees to work toward a shared goal.

When running a growing company, department silos can quickly create barriers. Each department has different key-performance metrics and perceptions of a successful day.

Related: 3 Ways to Use Social Media to Align Your Team

For instance, to help break down barriers, founders can put together a company-wide exercise asking teams from mixed departments to create a full marketing strategy for a few clients. (This exercise can obviously be tweaked depending on a company's objectives.) This exercise forces each department to think outside the box and realize responsibilities and perceptions of other team members.  Challenging employees from various departments to collaborate on a project can test everyone’s industry knowledge and requires them to adopt new mindsets.

3. Exposes coworkers' hidden talents. 

Company retreats are great ways to discover things you didn’t know about your team. Maybe a leader is also an incredible chef or a developer is actually an accomplished musician. Getting away from the daily grind gives team members the chance to unwind and discover more about one another.

During our retreat, the underlying talents surfaced through a comedic video some employees created, a roast of two of our leaders and a talent show we put on to raise money for the Children’s Literacy Initiative.

4. Creates a stronger-knit team.

You see your co-workers every day, but spending a couple days away with them, talking, eating and sharing a couch (or a pillow) brings you so much closer. It creates that special feeling similar to gathering with your extended family on Thanksgiving. A team that acts like a family tends to have better communication, enhanced trust and appreciation for one another and increased productivity.

Creating this tight-knit environment doesn’t only strengthen internal relationships, it also filters into interactions with customers, which can make them feel like part of the team.

When planning your company retreat, think through your goals. If your only objective is to fortify bonds and establish trust among team members, maybe rope courses and trust falls are the way to go. If you want to challenge employees and inspire thoughtful conversations, mix up the groups and encourage people who don’t normally work together to share ideas.

Nominating a retreat committee and including individuals from every department will ensure that you’re considering buy-in from each area of your company in the planning process.

Lastly, consider creating one or two exercises, such as the Nightmare Cards, that force people to disclose any stressors or issues they face -- that’s when the real conversations happen.

Push those preconceived notions of retreats aside. Consider your company’s needs, and create an open, accepting environment where employees feel comfortable disclosing their fears or being their natural selves. The ideas you generate from unlocking their potential might just surprise you. 

Related: 3 Ways to Build a Happy Staff That Wants to Win