Offsite meetings have become an almost essential activity for teams and companies of all sizes, with many of them spending significant time and resources on these events.
Offsites typically focus on teambuilding, particularly for teams that don't work in the same office, or on business strategy - that is, getting the team together to set goals and measurable objectives for their annual planning process.
Yet, talk to employees who attend offsites, and you're likely to hear a decent amount of grumbling about losing time to focus on their daily work. So, how do you make offsites valuable not only for your company, but for every person who's there?
To get insights on what makes a good offsite, I talked with Megan Beck, co-founder of Curvejumping, who's made a career out of engagement programs. Here are her tips for making your offsites ten times more effective.
1. Clearly define the goals of your offsite. Don't be afraid to set expansive goals.
First, consider the desired outcomes of your offsite. This will help you design the offsite to be a complete experience, with each activity and agenda item working towards supporting your goals.
Remember that it's okay for your goals to be expansive. Of course, concrete business goals like "Define the roadmap to ship X by the end of the year" are helpful to grounding your offsite in business strategy. But less measurable goals focused on building team capabilities can be equally as important.
For example, you might set a goal to build team a connection and rapport among remote team members who rarely work in the office. Design and marketing teams may set a goal to help team members brainstorm and develop original ideas more regularly. While not immediately measurable, these goals are important to helping teams learn new skills that will increase productivity and innovation in the long run.
2. Start the day with a physical activity.
Whether you're focused on team building or identifying business strategies, people are at their best when they can engage both their mind and body. Getting people up and moving together at the start of the day helps everyone get into a more focused mindset for brainstorming sessions, discussions, and workshops.
There are lots of great options, depending on the interest of your team. A guided bike ride or walk through an interesting neighborhood can stimulate the mind. If your offsite is in a more remote location, starting the day with a hike helps people feel ready to tackle big challenges as a team.
3. Think of logistics as an opportunity to create an experience for your team.
Too often, logistics are thought of as a purely tactical exercise - people need to eat and move from place to place.
Think of your team offsite as a complete experience, and plan logistics accordingly. For example, meals are a great place to offer a special experience. Talk to a local, up-and-coming restaurant about having the chef prepare a group dinner and speak to your team about their own story and business journey. Not only is it a special culinary experience, but it's also an opportunity to learn how a chef approaches inspiration, problem-solving and business challenges.
This can also be a more cost-effective option than traditional corporate meals too, particularly if you work with a chef looking to building visibility for his or her work.
4. Build in lots of relevant playtime -- more than you might be comfortable with.
In the corporate world, we have a tendency to assume that fun and work are opposites. But actually, the most effective offsites are able to blend these seamlessly.
Beck said that Curvejumping has seen the best offsite outcomes when the agenda balances business strategy with teambuilding and activities that inspire creativity.
For example, Curvejumping helped plan a tour for a team of UI/UX designers at a Japanese garden for about $12/person. As an added bonus, the team learned about Japanese design principles and left feeling creatively energized when it came to their own design work.
Building in more relevant playtime like this also helps team members feel more comfortable connecting with each other and sharing new ideas that may not normally see the light of day.
There are countless simple and affordable ways to take your offsite to the next level. All it takes is a little creative thinking about the logistics, agenda, and interests of your team -- and you'll find your employees come back from offsites feeling engaged and refreshed.