More Than Trust Falls: 5 Tips for Brilliant Company Retreats

October 16, 2019

When you think of a company retreat, what do you think of? Motivational pep-talks? Awkward team-building events? 

As champions of the employee experience – including our own! – we don’t mess around when it comes to retreats. Next week, the Brilliant Ink team will put up our out-of-office messages for a few days and gather together for our 5th annual company retreat. Here are a few things we’ve learned to ensure a fabulous time: 

1. Ask the team. 

We ask our team to fill out a survey listing what they’ve enjoyed about past retreats and what they would like to try at upcoming gatherings. This helps identify what has been a hit (for our team, Murder Mysteries) and what they would like to try out next time (wine tasting? karaoke?). 

As with all things employee experience, people will enjoy it more and feel more connected when they’ve had an opportunity to weigh in. 

2. Set the vibe ahead of time. 

Will you go out to dinner and sightsee or will you spend time outdoors in athleisure wear? Letting the team know what to expect allows everyone to arrive ready to participate -- and majorly helps with packing! 

Send out communications as early as you can to keep the team updated (and excited!) for the retreat. 

3. Don’t over-schedule. 

As a fully remote team, we don’t get to be in the same place very often, so there are lots of hugs and conversations that need to happen during the short time we have together. Unstructured time to socialize allows us to connect and get to know each other better which, in turn, allows us to work better together.   

4. Keep it fresh AND create traditions. 

We’ve hosted retreats in Lake Tahoe, in the forest of the Catskills and on a goat farm in Marin. We’ve conducted photo scavenger hunts, hiked, had cooking competitions and created vision boards. We like to mix it up so our retreats are exciting and new, but we have a few standards that everyone can expect and look forward to. 

For us, it’s leaving notes of encouragement for each other, cooking together and games of Heads Up! Traditions keep us connected to the experience and create a foundation that we can build on each year.

5. Don’t be afraid to rumble. 

We love for our retreats to be a time of team-building and bonding, but we also make time to have challenging conversations. We all participate in an activity called “Start, Stop, Continue”, which allows our team to share the things that are going well and the places where there is room for improvement. 

Creating a safe space for these conversations allows us to be constructive yet actionable. After all, as our hero Brene Brown says, “Clear is Kind”.

And, most importantly, have fun!

Celebrate your team’s successes over the past year and get everyone aligned on company goals ahead. But please, no trust falls… ;) 

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