How About An Un-Offsite?


Often the words ‘offsite’, ‘away-day’ and ‘team building exercise’ bring imagery of leaders sunning their toes in exotic locales on company funded jamborees and discussing strategic decisions that impact employees.  Offsites cost organizations millions and there are recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of these meets.

However well coined the term – employees watch and wait for outcomes that relate to their lives right after such events.  Word also spreads about the costs incurred by the organization. Even income tax authorities view such initiativeswith distrust and challenge the benefits claimed.  Dpending on how well the business is doing, dissenting voices grow in number. Especially for key employee engagement indicators like trust, involvement and fairness, such company funded interactions may do more harm than good.

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Long after the ink has dried from the marker pens and the flipcharts are converted into elegant presentations or gathered dust in a remote corner of the organization employees wonder how leaders taking time away from work to discuss ‘work’ furthered their best interests.  Without doubt there are immense benefits of aligning leaders (if they aren’t already) and thinking ahead for the business without the distractions of e-mail, phone and everyday challenges. Some organizations do take the onus to update employees by sharing progress against objectives set at the offsite and what that means for everyone.

Here are a few ideas on how to turn the perception surrounding an offsite into opportunities for employee engagement.

  1. Give employees a voice on the corporate agenda: To avoid what scholars refer to ‘organizational silence’ it helps sense to allow employees an opportunity to reflect on topics that shape their lives. Organizational silence is a collective phenomenon that can occur within an organization if employees feel that their views are not counted or sought and therefore avoid sharing their opinions and concerns about organizational problems. This leads to a poor understanding about how employees feel and thereby even poorer decisions made by leaders. Putting the agenda for review in front of everyone can tell a lot about the honesty and direct behavior that most employees expect within firms.
  2. View leaders ‘live’ at an offsite: Apart from confidential financial discussions which can derail strategy or expose plans to competition, what if employees got to watch leaders as they went about taking key decisions or discussing relevant projects on a webcast from an offsite. Would the meeting stick to schedule? Was there a chance that decisions made would get more pragmatic? Do you think there would be quicker outcomes? You can imagine what it can do for leadership accountability and employee trust.
  3. Publish the leaders’ goals and meeting minutes online: What if leaders demonstrated ‘leadership’ in putting out their objectives for everyone to view? If the minutes that include next steps and ownership are placed on the intranet you can be sure that employees will value the transparency and believe in leaders even more than ever. More so if they see action taken swiftly – be it tough or popular decisions that might improve respect for their leaders.
  4. Involve employees in action planning at the start: Form teams much before the offsite from among interested employees. Give them ownership to identify themes and support their effort on plans.
  5. The ‘deliver and attend’ offsite model: Have a model that clearly calls out why and how employees who have performed get to go for the next offsite.  It will hopefully send out a message on your culture and you can also get to differentiate between the performers and the underachievers.

Overall, the actions and communication before and after an offsite differentiates a great organization from an ‘also ran’.

What do you think?

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