In the 1990s, the corporate retreat became another inflated part of the bubble. Instead of productivity and planning, companies opted for teambuilding on trapezes and hula performances on the beach. But in the post-9/11 world, corporate retreats have become more focused and less frivolous, an identity shift that has caused some executives to become uncomfortable even with the semantics.
"The word 'retreat' bothers me a bit," says Nancy Harvey, president of TenFold, a Utah-based software company. "Retreat conjures up a hideaway, while we use our retreats as a way to get a few days to focus intensely while being insulated from the huge number of obligations we have every day." Last fall at the Sundance Resort, eight people from TenFold's top tier spent two days "focusing, recalibrating and setting our sights forward," Harvey says. While Harvey admits that creating that kind of time for her team is difficult, the face-to-face time sans interruptions is incomparable.
Goals for a retreat usually include boosting morale, building loyalty, introducing a new vision and setting financial targets. Sometimes, companies use retreats to develop interpersonal relationships between employees through teambuilding activities. By leaving hectic offices and daily routines, participants often have more time and the freedom to think creatively and discuss issues that wouldn't otherwise be broached in "normal" meetings.
Most often, these goals include employees other than top-level execs--and what better place to introduce new ideas or products to other employees and corporate partners than off-site in a focused environment? Many Utah companies consider incentive trips and dealer conferences types of corporate retreats, another example of the shift from frivolous 90s executive spending to a more open, inclusive approach.
Orem-based Tahitian Noni has been holding annual "Vision Retreats" for distributors and top managers in Hawaii since 2000. Each year, the events staff chooses a new Hawaiian island and resort to "offer some variety to participants," says Melissa Smith, global events coordinator for Tahitian Noni. This fall, 1,000 people traveled to the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Wakiki to meet and learn about the company's latest products. Tahitian Noni also holds annual planning retreats exclusively for its top execs.
The adage "location, location, location" guides most...