BID® Daily Newsletter
Sep 28, 2022

BID® Daily Newsletter

Sep 28, 2022

Planning an Effective Executive Retreat

Summary: Following two years of remote and hybrid work, executive retreats are more important than ever as a way of creating unity among leadership and identifying collective goals. But creating an effective executive retreat necessitates more than just gathering people together for a few days and requires looking at such gatherings in a whole new way.

The castaways of “Gilligan’s Island” made living on a desert island look fun. For anyone who wants to find out firsthand, Airbnb is offering stays at Brother Island —  a tiny private island in the Philippines, featuring a single house that can be rented for just a few hundred dollars a night. Unlike Gilligan and his fellow castaways, visitors to Brother Island get three meals a day and the peace of mind of knowing they will get off the island.
As businesses seek to rebuild the camaraderie and cohesiveness many organizations lost over the past two years, executive retreats are making a resurgence. While a destination like Brother Island may seem like the perfect place to foster team building among leaders and shut out the noise of day-to-day business operations, an effective executive retreat is about more than just an enjoyable location.
The value of getting away. It probably seems counterintuitive to whisk key employees away from your business, while many organizations are struggling to lure employees back to the office. With hybrid work arrangements here to stay and 37% of companies having abandoned physical office spaces entirely, the value of executive retreats has only increased. They are a valuable tool for building interpersonal relationships between the key people in your organization and helping leaders collectively determine your business’ priorities. According to the findings of a survey from event agency Freeman, 85% of people believe that in-person events are irreplaceable because of the interactions and innovation that they drive.
Thinking outside the box. As anyone who has ever attended a conference knows, making people attend back-to-back lectures or presentations is the opposite of engaging. Instead, organizations need to change the way they approach planning retreats to include activities employees will find valuable and enjoyable.
Here are a few things to think about before organizing your community financial institution’s (CFI’s) next off-site retreat:
  • Location, location, location. The destination you choose for your executive retreat doesn’t have to be the lap of luxury, but it should be somewhere people can relax and adequately disconnect, but which isn’t overly familiar to them.
    At the same time, given the nightmare that traveling has become since the pandemic, try and avoid destinations that may be difficult to get to or are so far away employees need to sacrifice the majority of their weekend to attend. Since childcare has become a major issue for many families in recent years, something to consider is offering employees larger rooms to accommodate family members or providing babysitting services.
  • Focus on networking. Build in an adequate amount of time, roughly 40%, for people to get to know one another organically. This particularly applies to individuals who don’t haven’t met before or who have only met online. One way to foster such interaction is to put people into small groups at mealtimes.
  • Shuffle jobs for a day. Consider role playing as a way of getting better buy-in from attendees and helping people to think from a different viewpoint. One way this can be done is by holding a mock annual meeting where executives are asked to pose as CEO and pitch their ideas and goals for your organization for the next few years. Others in the company will take on the role of “investors,” asking questions just as real investors would. Individuals tasked with serving as CEO should be notified a couple weeks in advance of your retreat so that they have time to adequately prepare. Having people assume roles different than the ones they hold in your organization can lead to innovative ideas and is a good way to get everyone actively involved and thinking about your business more from the customer and investor perspectives.
  • Bring other staff along. Take advantage of the downtime of a retreat by bringing along key support staff who can help executives with things needs they have that they don’t always have time to deal with, such as training on new software programs or even ordering new devices or needed upgrades.
  • Include relaxation time. Be sure to include time and ways for people to unwind and focus on their own wellness needs, such as yoga classes or other stress-relief activities.
The activities above are just a few approaches to consider when planning an executive retreat for your CFI. The most important thing to remember is to determine what types of activities people will enjoy and be engaged by. Be sure to maintain a good balance of educational opportunities, casual networking, and downtime to ensure the retreat is well-rounded and refreshing for your business and your leadership team.
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