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Work Retreat: Waste of Time or Invaluable?

I have never been on or heard  about a work retreat that was anything but awkward. Have you ever been a valuable work retreat? Why was it valuable? What was the ROI?

Answers

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

I am not sure you can measure an ROI on a retreat. They are typically used for team building. The key is to make sure you have it well planned so that people aren't sitting around looking at each other.

If you are a person that doesn't particularly like crowds then they probably are somewhat awkward. But that doesn't mean others aren't getting anything out of it.

But I think the key is to have some type of objective for the meeting and then have each person do an evaluation of the event.

I think retreats can be good especially if you have a new group or a group that seems to have lost its way and needs to come to an agreement as to a common direction.

One more point, make sure whoever is leading the retreat is committed to it. The worst thing you could have is a leader that thinks retreats are worthless and/or awkward. That attitude will rub off on the others and bring down the meeting.

Mike Haile
Title: Founder
Company: Haile Consulting Solutions
(Founder, Haile Consulting Solutions) |

I agree with Scott. I worked in an organization where the senior management team would have regular work "retreats" These were organized to get everyone out of the office, team building, and work on the business strategy. There were some serious workshops but also some fun ones which were on occasion facilitated by 3rd parties. I found them to be very rewarding and productive.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

I have been on a number of work retreats and the biggest advantage I have seen is the ability to get to know peers away from the office. I learned a lot about different peoples passions and expertise that I was able to use back in the work environment. It was also valuable to make connections with those on the organizational chart above me and get to know each other in an informal setting.
I will also highlight in a previous company I worked for, we made a change from group meetings that everyone attended to multiple sessions at the same time where each individual was free to attend the one of their choice. We were amazed at the positive feedback we received. And, it kept people up and moving around rather than sitting in the same auditorium all day.

Anonymous
(VP and Special Advisor to the CEO) |

The retreats that do stuff where everyone opens up to their personal issues and such are not a good idea and are not successful. As stated above, the ones that have a business focus, strategy development, training or otherwise, are well worth it. The business ones usually have some aspect of fun in them too.

Sara Voight
Title: Controller
Company: Critical Signal Technologies, Inc
(Controller, Critical Signal Technologies, Inc) |

Retreats that are part of an ongoing professional development program have the best chance of success. Nothing is worse than going to a retreat, returning to the office with the warm fuzzies about the organization and your colleagues, to have it go sour in less than a week.

When a retreat focuses on both what the company needs to be focused on, and what people need to focus on to develop themselves, should get the most participation and excitement. I am finishing a year long program where we have been working on both and the results have inceased work productivity and collaboration as well as job/personal satisfaction. That kind of program requires a long term commitment beyond just the one-three days away from the office.

I also agree with a previous post that requiring the sharing of personal information is not a good idea. That usually happens as people choose to open up, but making it part of a program will alienate some people very fast.

Topic Expert
Mike Caruana
Title: Director of Financial Services
Company: Diamond Resorts International
(Director of Financial Services, Diamond Resorts International) |

I agree with Sara...and have been at executive team retreats that haven't been awkward. The key is properly balancing time in soft activities with crucial conversations around the business. Each retreat will likely have a different focus, too.

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