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5 Tips for Effective Team Building RetreatsTeam building retreats can improve employee performance, increase job satisfaction, and lead to greater cooperation and a heightened understanding of your company’s business goals and objectives.

Focusing on the following areas during the planning stages will ensure your next team building event has the desired, long-term results.

Make Team Building Activities Relevant

The team building events you choose during the retreat should have a direct correlation to the challenges your employees face in their day-to-day duties, and the solutions you hope to employ in the workplace. For example, if the goal of the retreat is to encourage better cross-departmental communications in the office, the activities they engage in during the retreat should focus on improving these skills. Choose and activity that requires them to work together but not directly in person or in silence are highly effective. Engaging in activities that don’t dovetail with your stated goals can result in frustration among attendees who feel their time would be better spent back in the office.

Select the Right Venue

One common objection to off-site team building retreats is that the cost doesn’t justify the results, when in fact taking the team away can help become more open to new ideas.

As Buffer founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne wrote in a recent blog article regarding retreats, “the conversations you have with team members are enhanced. You know the tone of somebody’s voice and the way they approach problems and discussions. You read their emails differently. This changes things, and is why we’ve found retreats to be not only a fun part of our culture, but an absolute necessity.”

When it comes to selecting an off-site venue, be sure to do your due diligence to ensure the facility’s amenities and accommodations meet for your group’s specific needs.  Think about the environment needed to be enhance your goals.  If you are trying to build a team take them to a place that is new to everyone and atypical of their work space such as a camp retreat center.  Using an online retreat center directory to compare and connect with multiple properties can save a lot of time and legwork.

Include Plenty of Free Time

When it comes to scheduling team building event activities, don’t make the mistake of equating quantity with quality.  Although it may be tempting to try and jam pack your event with activities, including ample free time will actually help you achieve better results.  In fact, many of the most impactful interactions between team members take place during unstructured times.  Make sure there are plenty of small group gathering spots such as porches or pavilions.

Feed the Body as Well as the Mind

One of the most common complaints employees have about team building events is the food and beverages.  What your team eats and drinks can have a big impact on how they feel, think and act, so be sure to provide a variety of nutritious options, and make accommodations for special dietary needs.  Don’t shortchange on food to save in the budget, but think creatively and appropriate to the venue.  Don’t serve typical white linen menu items at camp but you can still have great food!  Think about the menu planning as if you were planning for a family rather than a corporation and the results will be wholesome and worth remembering.

If your event is going to be held over multiple days  you might want to consider making meal time a part of your team building activities, instead of outsourcing all of these activities to a caterer.  This is a great way to reduce costs while creating a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose among event attendees.

Follow Up and Evaluation

Follow up is a key element of any successful  team building retreat.  In many cases, improvements made during the event can quickly fade as employees return to their familiar surroundings, and old habits.  For this reason, it’s essential that you establish some objective, attainable goals and monitor your organization’s progress in the weeks and months that follow in order to accurately judge the ROI of your team building events.  Communicate the desired outcomes in ways the participants will remember, perhaps even giving them names relating back to the venue.  Place-based learning has proven to be among the most successful pedagogical tools in education.  “Lessons from the Grove” or “Cabin Fever” are creative names for elements you want to be sure to bring back to the office.

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