Retreats

Why Companies Are Going All-in on All-Hands Meetings, and Why You Should, Too

These three companies spent big bucks on all-hands meetings -- and why they say the cost was worth every penny.
Why Companies Are Going All-in on All-Hands Meetings, and Why You Should, Too
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Everyone needs time away from the office to recharge.But many entrepreneurs struggle to disconnect. And because they're the leaders of their organizations, this inability of theirs to take time off may trickle down to their employees.

Related: 5 Reasons Why a Retreat Is Good for Your Business

In fact, research conducted in early 2017 by Project: Time Off found that nearly 80 percent of the 7,331 American workers surveyed said they felt more comfortable taking a vacation when they knew they could somehow connect to work. Almost 30 percent preferred frequent access.

Obviously, this trend to stay connected to work even on vacation is not sustainable. But what's the solution? Most companies can't justify the costs of taking their entire teams away for a retreat.

Or . . . can they? Here are three companies that have spent big bucks on all-hands meetings -- and why they say the cost was worth every penny:

AppsFlyer

Marketing analytics platform/Headquarters: Herzliya, Israel

Lower recruitment costs. Recently, AppsFlyer flew more than 300 of its employees from more than a dozen locations (that are outside Israel) to Israel for a week-long event. While the trip was expensive, CEO Oren Kaniel said he believed the event will save the organization money in the long-run -- in both recruitment costs and retained talent.

Related: 4 Unexpected Benefits of a Company Retreat

"Since the event, HR has seen a dramatic increase in recruitment referrals from employees," Kaniel said via email. "We have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have gone to head-hunters and recruiters."

Team unification. For Beverly Chen, senior marketing manager of AppsFlyer, the most memorable part of her trip to Israel was the "company fun day": The company rented out a private beach so employees could spend a day relaxing and getting to know one other.

"In those extended periods of time, I got a better understanding of how my teammates in other offices worked," Chen said in an email. "I gained a better insight for their responsibilities and, I hope, improved the way that we can work together in the future to make things happen more easily and quickly."

How to do a retreat on a budget. If your company is still small and has only one location, it's feasible to take employees on an inexpensive retreat together. Gather everyone at an arcade for an afternoon of fun. Or host a potluck picnic in the park so staffers can meet their co-workers' families.

AppLift

Mobile advertising platform/ Headquarters: Berlin, Germany

Fun learning and development. Last year, AppLift brought 200 employees to its headquarters in Berlin for an all-hands meeting. According to COO Stefan Benndorf, the cost of the trip was in the six-digit range. But getting everyone together in one place allowed for an organic exchange of ideas and knowledge. Employees could then return to their home offices and implement what they'd learned.

"While it's not easy to measure the ROI, we believe that the indicator for success is marked by how we incorporate the learnings and projects into everyone's day-to-day at the office," Benndorf said in an email. "A lot of the things we develop and discuss at our all-company all-hands [meetings] are still being used today."

Year-round motivation. At one of AppLift's yearly meetings, employees took turns painting designs on the Berlin Buddy Bears, colorful statues that have decorated the streets of Berlin since 2001. After the event ended, people took the statues home and placed them in their respective offices.

According to Johana Leeflang, senior marketing manager of AppLift, these statues are now a motivating reminder of that meeting. At the company's offices around the world, employees can remember all that they learned and why they love working for the organization.

How to carry out a day-long fun day on a budget: Have employees do a project together. Choose something creative, like painting a mural in the office,which allows everyone to express what the company, its mission, and their co-workers mean to them.

Cordial

Marketing communications platform/Headquarters: San Diego, Calif.

Shared memories. All-hands meetings shouldn't just be about work. Employees should get to have fun in new, exciting ways. This is why Adam Gillespie, co-founder and CTO of Cordial, decided to add a day of surfing to his team's trips to Portugal: Gillespie and his co-founder arranged for employees to take surf lessons, so everyone could spend a day learning together on the beach.

"It turned out to be a beautiful day at an amazing beach, with waves powerful enough to have fun, mellow enough to learn," he said in an email. "We had team members from Ukraine go from having never seen the ocean to riding waves and having a ton of fun."

Improved teamwork. In addition to a day of surfing, Cordial's employees also participated in a hackathon. They were divided into teams and told to develop a possible future product that would benefit the company. This provided an opportunity for employees to work on challenges with co-workers they didn't often interact with, and expose them to new perspectives and ways to problem-solve.

Related: How to Run Successful 3-Day Retreats

As Daniel Smith, an IoT platform architect with the company, said by email, at first the teams were extremely competitive. People hid what they were working on to improve their chance of winning. Then: "Around Thursday, the mentality shifted when teams realized that they needed help from others to accomplish their goals," Smith said. "Each team began trading work with others who had more expertise in particular areas."

How to get teams working together when your company is on a budget: Consider taking everyone to an "escape" room. This will force them to get to know one other and work together in a fun way.

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