The corporate retreat: a weekend of clay pigeon shooting, quad biking, and even chocolate making. It’s as popular as ever and large corporations embrace it, sending employees off on weird and wonderful experiences like duck-herding (yeah, I’m not sure either) for the weekend, in an effort to make them work more effectively on their return to the office.
But what about small businesses? While paintballing or an intense game of beach volleyball might not seem right for your team of three or four people, it doesn’t mean you still can’t reap in the benefits that come with holding a company event or retreat.
1. Deliver your company message
A company event always provides you with a captive audience and, however you choose to organize the event, you’ll have your entire team together in a setting quite different from their usual one. You’ll be able to speak candidly and openly about your goals for the year, making it clear how the work of your team members can contribute to the success of the business.
Where should you go? Larger corporations may organize elaborate, and often glamorous, retreats. For your small business, it may be more appropriate to hold a chat around a table at a restaurant or even at a conference room in a nice, local hotel. (Price out the rates beforehand to see if the hotel is able to host you and provide a discount!)
If you feel you’d like your small business to have the big business experience, you could always go together to an industry conference. You’ll hear the messages that big businesses receive and it will give your team a chance to see more established organizations in action and network with outside companies. Follow up with a dinner for everyone, where you can discuss the messages from the conference and how they can apply to your business.
One of the advantages of holding a small business retreat is that you will be able to explain publicly and on a one-on-one basis how each individual in your team could contribute to your company’s targets. Huge corporations can’t do that. In this way, an individual’s targets can become a shared experience and a sense of a ‘we’re in this together’ mentality can be established.
2. Raise morale
Your company event is a celebration which will also give you the chance to lift spirits (perhaps quite literally!). A good way of doing this is to make a point of putting a spotlight on your team, listing the many things they have excelled at throughout the year and thanking your team members for all of their hard work.
If you really want to highlight the achievements of your team members, prepare a list of specific occasions when you noticed excellent work throughout the year. Make sure you include contributions from each team member, so no one feels left out.
3. Take questions
Your team members may not always feel they have the opportunity to grill you on what’s going on with the business and where it’s heading. A company event will provide them the opportunity to quiz you on their company. It works well if you positively encourage this and think about how you might respond to questions you’re asked in advance. Answer confidently, and focus on the kinds of lessons that can be learned.
4. Knowing me, knowing you
How well do you really know your team members as individuals? How well do they know you? You may know how they work as a team, but who are they? The company event will give you a chance to find out.
Discovering what makes your people tick is vitally important. Spend time finding out what drives and motivates them. Make use of an informal and relaxed setting to chat about their ambitions and financial aspirations. Use low-key events to bond together. Whether you go bowling, take a riverside walk or simply go out for a drink, use that occasion to discover the person behind the employee.
A small business can learn a lot from its larger counterparts, so follow in the footsteps of a big company and organize a company event for your team. You’ll benefit from increased awareness of your company’s direction and a mutual understanding of the message, as well as a chance to find out more about each other. You don’t have to be a big business to reap the same benefits. Size, after all, isn’t everything.
Heather Foley is a consultant at ETSplc, a UK-based HR consultancy company, specialising in 360 degree feedback.