Corporate retreats might sound innocuous.
But more than a few companies have discovered that a corporate retreat can quickly turn into a corporate nightmare. Just ask AIG about the PR firestorm they created by blowing $440k on a corporate retreat, one week after receiving an $85 billion emergency bailout loan.
It's not that retreats are worthless. A well-planned retreat has the potential to deliver a range of intangible benefits that will ultimately make your company more productive and better equipped to reach your strategic objectives. But at the same time, it's important to be aware of the potential disadvantages of corporate retreats.
- Cost. A corporate retreat can be expensive, depending on its venue, duration, and location. Generating goodwill and a sense of community among your employees is great. But if you have to sacrifice your marketing budget or lay off a salesperson to do it, it's probably not worth the cost.
- Hard feelings. It's rare for a company to completely shut down for a corporate retreat. That means someone is going to have stay behind to receive customer calls, handle crises, and generally tend the store. As a consequence, the people who are left behind quickly take a turn toward the disgruntled, especially if everyone else is off "retreating" in a sunny, fun locale.
- Execution challenges. There is actually a lot of work involved in organizing a successful corporate retreat. Here's what you're up against: After relocating your staff to a retreat-friendly corner of paradise, you have to create an agenda that can compete with the pool, the mountains, the nightlife, etc. Having fun is one thing, but planning a retreat agenda that is worthwhile and has lasting value for your business is something else entirely.
- Bad imaging. As the AIG example demonstrates, planning a lavish corporate retreat during tough economic times is never a good idea. At the very least, consider the timing of your retreat. If you hold the retreat immediately before/after a significant price increase, you'll displease your customers. If you hold it immediately before/after cutbacks or layoffs, you may have a staff mutiny on your hands.
- Personnel risks. Most employers don't like to think about it, but corporate retreats are hotbeds for personnel problems. Drunken spectacles, not-so-secret trysts – if it's going to happen, it will take place at a corporate retreat. The best thing you can do to avoid incidents is to set a positive example and keep a close watch for potential problems.