The phrase “company retreat” often comes attached with a stigma of corny song-singing and boring group exercises and drills. However, a well-designed company retreat consists of a lot more than these stereotypes. To learn how to plan an effective retreat that will bring you and your employees closer together and more focused than ever, read on:

Eyes on the Prize

While your office is going on a retreat, you’ll still want to keep the focus of the trip on business. Establish the means by which you will measure success. Create a list of goals and limit your big goals to two or three. One should generally be educational– for example, covering a new policy or methodology relevant to your field your team needs to know about or relearning a basic skill set your team needs to improve.

Another should be oriented toward team building or collaboration, such as helping the group better understand each other’s talents and mesh together. Write down your goals and why you think they are important. Better yet, ask your staff to contribute their own suggestions–possibly anonymously– on what they would like to work on as a group.

Set an Agenda

Start with a baseline agenda of activities toward accomplishing your goals. Have your team analyze case studies as part of the educational component, or engage in an old fashioned Lincoln-Douglas style debate on a hot topic in your field. Accentuate the interpersonal component with some pertinent team exercises or collective experiences (such as cooking lessons or art classes) that could provide unique opportunities to bolster your team’s sense of camaraderie. An outline of activities will help guide your budget, location, and results.

Go Off-Site

It’s important to shake things up. Break out of the office bubble to remind your team of the big, lively world the effect of your efforts. Whether it’s a vacation home or events center, or something more subtle like a quiet public park, or even a local university–many have free space in the summer months, and well-manicured campuses.

Not to mention, there’s something about that collegiate environment that makes learning feel all the more meaningful and exciting. Spending at least some time outside is highly recommended–there’s no telling what creative juices flow when surrounded by Mother Nature.

Splurge on Quality, Not Quantity

Seeding your event with cheap tchotchkes from the dollar store ultimately leaves a lot of cash in the trash. Cheap food goes uneaten. Cheap books go unread. Splurge on the things that count–get a meal catered by somewhere really nice! Rent a gorgeous venue! Spring for an unforgettable excursion like kayaking or a tour of a relevant historical site!

These are the things people remember–not nicely coordinated paper plates or balloons. Focus on the essentials and one big “wow” factor to unify things.

Follow Up

After the retreat, thank everyone for attending and solicit their feedback. Bring up key lessons or experiences to reinforce the relevance to the day-to-day workflow. Look at the performance metrics you have available, and the HR metrics, like attendance–easily managed via FingerCheck HR and time tracking software, which uses cloud computing to store data for reports.

Many businesses find that retreats help lower absenteeism, boost productivity, and build morale.

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