21 Mar Home Vs. Away: The Company Retreat Conundrum
When a business decides to hold a retreat for its employees, the first question to be answered usually is not, “What is our agenda?” or “Whom should we invite as a guest speaker?” Rather, the first item on the table is, “Where should we have it?”
Many employees, and some business owners, might assume a company retreat, by definition, must take place off-site. But this is not necessarily so. Holding an on-site retreat is an option — and a markedly cost-effective one at that. Then again, it also may recall the old adage: you get what you pay for.
There are several ways that staying put can better keep out-of-pocket expenses in check. The most obvious is that you will not need to rent one or more meeting rooms. Perhaps even more important, no one at your company will need to spend valuable time and energy calling around to various hotels, gathering information, and negotiating costs.
You also will likely spend less on food and beverages. A local restaurant can probably cater in the food for a nominal sum, and you could buy beverages in bulk. Furthermore, you will have no concerns or expenses associated with transporting employees to the retreat location (as long as your employees all work on site).
Problem is, employees tend to view on-site retreats as just another day at the office, making it hard to turn on their creative juices and accomplish goals. They are constantly tempted to run back to their desks to check their emails and voice mails. Worse yet, they may consider their employer a little too cost-conscious by staying in house.
Generally, people are better able to focus on a retreat agenda at off-site locations. They are in a new, ‘special’ environment that has no visual cues triggering their workday routines. So, even though you will incur additional costs, you may get a better return on investment.
During the planning process, remember that everything is negotiable. Hotels and facilities that host company retreats need and want your business. Get several quotes and compare prices and services. You will have more leverage if you avoid scheduling your retreat during a time of year when local venues tend to be busy.
Because hotels earn bigger margins on food, beverages, and meeting setup fees, many will provide complimentary or discounted rooms for guest speakers and out-of-town employees. Also, try to negotiate a set food and beverage price for the entire retreat, rather than a per-person or per-event rate.
In addition, do not be shy about asking for discounts. For example, if the facility requires an advance deposit and the balance at the end of the retreat rather than giving you 30 days to pay, request a prompt-pay discount.
Thinking it through
Not every company can afford to fly their staff to Aruba and hold beachside brainstorming sessions complete with tropical beverages. But crowding everyone into the break room and expecting mind-blowing strategic ideas to flow forth probably is not realistic, either. Find a suitable and productive point somewhere in between. Let us know if we can help with further information or more ideas.