This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
A great company retreat has the power to transform your organization’s product and/or processes. Get it right, and you’ll embolden and unify your team. Get it wrong, and you’ll end up spending money for employees to have a day off, or worse, your team will come away less motivated than before.
At my company, we’ve done quarterly retreats since 2011 and have identified four critical elements to a successful retreat: learning, sharing, bonding and unifying.
Company retreats are a powerful tool for your bottom line. Follow these steps to ensure you don’t mess it up.
When people learn together, they develop a unique relationship. Learning during a company retreat can take on many forms. At our retreats, employees learn about:
- Financials. At my company, we practice open-book management, which means we share our financials with our employees and engage them in a discussion about what the numbers mean. When taught how to read a profit and loss statement (P&L), the team is more likely to understand and identify ways to streamline costs.
- Strategic direction. If your team was sailing to a faraway country that offered untold adventure and prosperity, wouldn’t you want everybody excited and committed to the journey? Share your vision and goals with your team — they’ll oftentimes find smarter and more cost-effective ways to get you there.
- Each other. Personality assessments give people a chance to see themselves in a different light and better understand one another. This opportunity provides a forum to talk about how to better communicate and collaborate.
- Business operations. We give the whole team the chance to learn about one core business function and brainstorm on what can be improved. These discussions pull individuals out of their own silos, and in this setting, the brainstorming and new ideas brought forward can be hugely impactful.
When people don’t feel they have a voice, they often check out or grow resentful. A good company retreat must incorporate time where everyone is given appropriate chances to voice concerns and ideas for the future. At our retreats employees share:
- Positive acknowledgments. Set aside time for employees to praise other team members, whether it’s sharing how other team members embody the different core values of our company, or sharing how other team members excelled with a certain client or project.
- Ideas for improvement. Employees often become frustrated when the organization doesn’t allow for their ideas to be implemented, or many times even heard. By engaging our team in discussions about process improvement, customer engagement and product development, everyone has the opportunity to be a catalyst for positive change. When an employee’s idea is supported and implemented, their loyalty to the company soars and ownership of the new process or product improvement skyrockets.
- Desires. My business partner and I take notes on what people say they want. Oftentimes, team members deliver solutions to satisfy the desires of others without additional costs to the organization. Additionally, as we do our strategic planning, this gives us an opportunity to work the team’s desires into our plan and then come back and show that the leadership team is listening.
Bonding time is invaluable because it fosters deeper relationships between team members. During our retreats, employees bond over:
- Learning new skills. At our last retreat, we unveiled a new marketing template that aligns our team and our clients around a clear, overarching goal. Our team practiced creating strategic plans using this new tool. As colleagues learn new skills, they bond with one another by offering different perspectives on the same new skill.
- Interpersonal interactions. Meals are a great way to help everyone relax and encourage them to dialogue in ways they haven’t before. During meals, we sometimes we play different games that encourage people to share personal experiences and perspectives with the larger group. These interpersonal interactions build and fortify friendships.
A unified team is unstoppable. Unifying a group means setting aside personal agendas to see larger goals accomplished. At our retreats we unify toward:
- Strategic Plans. As a leadership team, we set the strategic direction of our organization, and the team works with us to set the priorities and initiatives needed to achieve our targets. Our goals and responsibility for achieving them are shared across our entire company.
- Priorities. Gaining buy-in for your strategic priorities allows companies to gain the steam and traction they need to win in the marketplace. On the flip side, if people don’t agree with the priorities of an organization, they will decide upon their own priorities, which can cause a company to lose traction and progress.
- The company as a whole. At my company, we joke that we put the “cult” in culture. Ensuring that everyone is in alignment has allowed us to tackle huge issues in a competitive and demanding landscape. Our team gets to see that everyone plays a vital part in the success of our enterprise, and that we all need one another to make our company great. We take the time to celebrate our wins, strategize on our losses, and decide on our upcoming purpose and focus.
Utilizing these key concepts in planning your retreat will ensure that your team feels empowered, energized, and ready to tackle any challenge. Our retreats are a core element of our culture, and we have found that the time spent away from the office often yields a 10x return in productivity and eventual profitability. As my company expects to grow 50% this year without stressing or missing a beat, I can confidently say that a core part of our success formula lies in unifying our team around core strategic priorities developed during these retreats.