Any company that wants to do incredible things needs one crucial ingredient: engaged employees. Getting and keeping them can be a challenge, however. In fact, according to Gallup, only 32 percent of U.S. workers are engaged, while a recent study by Deloitte found that 95 percent of job candidates feel company culture is more important than compensation. It's a critical issue, considering that low engagement rates correlate with poor employee performance and revenue loss, while high employee engagement results in higher productivity, far less turnover, and more job applications.
One way to spark engagement on your team: Uproot your office and take everyone on a "workaway" trip a couple of times a year. Boomerang, maker of a Web app that adds all sorts of useful features to Gmail, has taken its entire team to destinations including Hawaii and Switzerland, as well as places closer to home. Here's what Boomerang's chief of product, Aye Moah, has to say on the subject.
1. A workaway trip can be local.
A big house and fast internet are really the only requirements. Is there somewhere interesting within an hour or two from your office? "It doesn't have to be super exotic, expensive, or far away--it could be a little cabin in the woods right where you live," she says. "It just has to be somewhere away from your normal routine, and also not doing your day-to-day job."
2. Plan to work only 40 to 50 percent of the time.
The rest of your team's waking hours can be spent hanging out, cooking, swimming, sightseeing, and other fun activities people normally do while traveling. The goal is to bond with one another.
3. When you do work, make it collaborative and different.
A workaway trip is a great opportunity to get people who don't normally work together collaborating on something new. Deviating from what normally happens at work can surface creative ideas that might not have found the light of day back in the office. On one such trip, Boomerang came up with the idea for Respondable, the company's latest feature, which analyzes email content to help people get better responses to their messages.
4. It's a great time to talk about your mission, vision, and values.
During the normal daily grind, these high-level ambitions often get swept to the periphery. With everyone's schedule put on hold, a workaway trip is a great time to have discussions about long-term strategy and how employees see--or don't see--your core priorities being played out. "An important part of our workaway is everybody getting input into the type of culture that we want to create and cultivate," she says. "When you come back and start working with the same people [who discussed] these values, there's more engagement and more ownership."
5. Brainstorm what people want to work on before the trip occurs.
If someone from marketing wants to work on an emergency preparedness plan, so be it. Have the mindset that no idea is a bad one, and you might be surprised at what comes out of your workaway.
6. Track how getting away together affects your turnover rates.
Boomerang hasn't had one employee leave since the company's last two workaway trips. "People are staying longer, because they really feel like it's a place that they're enjoying and making the most impact," she says. "It's an emphasis on the company culture and how we work together. We care about the results and what we produce, but we care about how we get there as a team."