Study: Employees Think More Critically about the Company Vision with Offsite Meetings


Whatever you want to call them – strategy retreats, away days, off-sites – out-of-office corporate meetings have become ubiquitous in the business world: oil and gas, energy, healthcare/medicine, or any other sector.
In exchange for the cost and resources required to pull them off, top executives (maybe even you) expect corporate meetings and workshops to deliver tangible strategic benefits and the type of team bonding experience that enhances employees’ focus and productivity.
But the jury is still out: Are these “away days” truly valuable or just an excuse for employees to cut loose from their usual routines and enjoy lunch on the company? Many businesses see workshops as a necessary way of allowing employees to step back from the daily grind and ruminate over larger issues. Others say off-site corporate meetings lack an overriding goal and send mixed messages to the participants. The few empirical studies of the effects of off-site corporate meetings have been inconclusive, small-scale case reports. What’s more, previous research has typically judged retreats mainly by whether they contribute to sweeping organizational changes within a firm.
A recent study, however, from a team of researchers surveyed those who collectively participated in more than 650 company-led workshops conducted in a wide range of settings of middle- and senior-level managers at firms of various sizes, from small localized companies to multinationals, the authors found that several basic design elements of workshops determine their effectiveness.
These elements include how clearly organizers articulate the purpose of the off-site corporate meeting, the level of detachment from everyday routines, the duration and scheduling of meetings, the number and variety of stakeholders invited, and the extent to which participants challenge existing strategies.
The aftereffects of corporate retreats trickle down into three areas of corporate culture and performance. The more that employees from different areas of the company participate in off-site corporate meetings together, the more their interpersonal relationships will flourish back at the office. Small group workshops were especially instrumental in allowing employees to bond with one another.
The main difficulty is in turning the discussions and activities of a workshop into practical solutions once everyone’s back at the office. For example, one of the fundamental characteristics of strategy retreats is their disengagement from the day-to-day routine. Conventional wisdom suggests that this temporary remove helps managers break free from their habits and allows them to stimulate innovative brainstorming. But this very aspect could also mean that the creative thinking that happens away from the office is difficult to bring back into regular organizational processes. However, according to the study, detachment from normal rituals gives organizations the ability to implement new ideas. The end result: refreshed and motivated employees.

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