September 1, 2009

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Team R and R

Low-budget Retreats as Good as Gold

By Sarah M. Cutler

September 1, 2009

Trying to decide how to motivate and reward your employees without spending big bucks on a retreat? There is a way to keep your employees smiling without a breaking the bank. Work around the economic storm and keep everyone aboard happy with low-budget, motivational retreats that boost employee morale and enhance communication. An in-house retreat could be your company’s overlooked pot of gold. Sarah Merz, CEO of FranklinCovey Products LLC, has hosted retreats from fancy trips to the Grand Wailea, Hawaii, to an overnight retreat at an employee’s house. “I have found that over the years it’s not how much money you spend, it is how much preparation and the tone of the retreat that people feel good about it in the end,” Merz says. Whether you’re looking to take your company’s retreat far from the office or keep it close, Utah offers numerous places to celebrate your employees. Ask your Employees Including employees in on planning retreats can have great results. “This past year at FranklinCovey Products, we asked the employees to design the annual kick off. We picked one person in each department and they created the activities,” Merz says. “That was really successful. They were more excited. They felt more ownership. It began to boost moral right up front because they designed it.” Keep it Simple Staying a night or spending an evening away from the office provides the opportunity for employees to connect. Taking your employees to a bed and breakfast or a cabin getaway are two low-budget retreat options. Low-budget activities range from playing a baseball, soccer or Frisbee game, to taking a hike or mountain bike ride, to sharing a potluck meal. These retreats are also great for small companies with only a few employees. These cost-saving options can turn your retreat into one that your employees remember. Team Work Merz’s team also created another de-stressing tradition by participating in an effort to log 100 miles via running, biking, swimming or some form of physical movement. For every mile logged, money was put into a fund. Once the team hit 1,000 miles they went to lunch. “It pulled the team a lot closer together,” she says. “It was kind of goofy but it was designed to help provide a useful way to burn off some of the stress we knew was going to be there [because of the recession].” That Pot of Gold Though planning a low-budget retreat will save your wallet, it can also strengthen company loyalty, provide intensive training, employee bonding, positive reinforcement and relaxation. Kicking up the fun with low-budget retreats saves the company funds not just through decreased spending, but through increased employee vitality. After a rejuvenating experience that increases communication and motivation, employees are more likely to go back to work ready to increase sales and productivity. And that’s money. “There are two types of benefits: the clear understanding of the company goal or the initiative that we are kicking off,” Merz says. “And a morale benefit. Often we are working so hard we don’t relax like we need to.”
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