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Producing a Successful Offsite Part 1/6: It’s All About the ROI

Vayomar team

| 6 minutes

Executive retreats, also known as “offsites,” whisk a group of employees or senior managers away from their office environment, most commonly for 1-3 days, to enable them to experience “deep” and intensive processes that help them return to work rested and charged to drive business goals forward. These processes take the shape of various strategy and team building activities (i.e. – annual sales kick-off events, quarterly reviews, a conference about corporate values, etc.).  

Yet, despite their high cost and massive potential, offsite retreats don’t always drive the productive learning, networking, and bonding experiences organizations seek. Why not?

Having made it our company’s mission to design and run precisely these events for organizations just like yours, we often find ourselves asking the following questions aloud: 

What is the winning formula for amazing, inspiring, and productivity-driving offsites?  

Does a universal formula for producing a highly successful offsite – one that generates lasting impact and motivation among its participants – even exist?

The answer to both questions is a resounding YES.  

When produced properly, offsites are one of the best ways to get “out of the weeds” and really dive into high-level strategic processes. This is especially true in today’s high paced world which leaves little to no time for lengthy thought processes and in-person socialization, yet company culture and strategy are key.

Regardless of the product or service my clients are selling or where they are physically located in the world, 6 principles must be followed for them to run and experience successful offsites. Unless, of course, employee engagement and satisfaction aren’t among your goals 😉

To produce offsites that yield tremendous value and outweigh their cost, you must: 

  • Establish a clearly defined and relevant “offsite ROI”.
  • Leverage the power of “total immersion”.
  • Leverage the power of a theme.
  • Use witty and intriguing teasers to create excitement about the offsite.
  • Conduct thorough and consistent follow-ups.
  • Build your agenda wisely.

This series of posts will delve into the above principles, so you can create winning offsites for your organization and empower your teams to lead. 

Let’s get started with the first and most important principle:  

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DEFINING THE OFFSITE'S RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)

A proper multi-day offsite can be extremely costly (for instance, the annual kick-off event or the company’s annual customer conference, can cost millions of dollars. Even more modest offsites, such as a 2-3 day annual strategy offsite for the executive management team, can cost tens of thousands of dollars. While some of these events are pre-budgeted (though they do face significant pressure for budget cuts), smaller offsites almost always require a lengthy persuasion process on the part of the HR manager seeking to create the events. 

Adopting a business/ROI oriented mindset from the very start will prove extremely effective in getting the target budget approved. How? Start off by planning the events according to your boss’ desired outcome. It is crucial that this outcome not be presented in purely “soft” terms (such as: “The managers will be inspired” or “It will enhance collaboration and employee satisfaction”, etc.), but rather in terms that relate to existing business and operational KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).  

But to do so, HR managers must remove their “HR hats” and instead don the hat of the businessperson, thinking in terms of:

 

  • Objectives – How will this offsite clearly and measurably contribute to your organization’s current business and operational objectives (not just in context of the offsite, but in general)?
  • Obstacles and Complexities – How will this offsite clearly and measurably contribute to the elimination or overcoming of current obstacles and complexities currently preventing your organization from achieving the aforementioned desirable outcomes?
  • Constraints – How will the offsite’s design enable the event to run smoothly, despite any operational constraints: timing, location, participants, etc.?

Your job is to present your answers to these questions concisely and in the form of measurable KPIs.

For example:

The proposed offsite is designed to address the new strategy presented by you several weeks ago, so that each member of our organization is empowered to better operate on location, regularly interface with our key stakeholders, play an active role in deepening ongoing relationships with existing clients, and identify new business opportunities to grow revenues in the coming fiscal year.”

Offsite targets

  • Promote a more proactive approach among the participants with respect to their customer relationships and the overall customer experience they generate.
  • Shift the participants from supporters to active revenue contributors.
  • Expand participants’ focus from bring solely operational (SLA focus) to including a business orientation.
  • Provide the participants with a fun and inspiring experience that fosters pride and a sense of belonging.
  • Ensure shared cognition among the participants regarding the organization’s grand strategy.
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DEFINED KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS FOR THIS OFFSITE:

  • Number of potential business opportunities validated within eight weeks after the offsite.
  • Revenue generated by Q3 of next fiscal year.
  • Overall NPS (Net Promoter Score).
  • Number of opportunities found throughout the offsite.
  • Number of potential business opportunities curated during the offsite.
  • Offsite satisfaction survey.
  • Follow-up conversations about above stated purpose, initiated by participants.

The significance of this component is in how it frames the conversation you will have with your boss: you are no longer talking about an offsite (INPUT-oriented, presented in HR language) but rather, you are talking about business and operational goals (which is “OUPUT-oriented,” presented in business language).   

When the ROI is clearly defined and aligns well with your boss’ expectations, their willingness to invest (not spend!) resources increases dramatically.

A significant byproduct of this approach is better branding; you gain an HR manager who actually speaks the team’s “language.”

Note that a good “ROI Statement” is condensed into one page. Your boss does not have a lot of time, even if they want to support you with this activity. Always keep in mind that they have many other things on their plate. This one-page summary says: “This is the ROI that we will generate from this retreat – and this is the investment required to secure it”.

In our next post, we will elaborate on the value of having a theme for your offsite.

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