How to run a kickass corporate away day

The 5 things you need to consider to get the most out of your team building event

Remote and hybrid working have made team bonding difficult. Whilst technology has been a great help, operating remotely for so long has made it hard for team members to get to know each other. Forging deep and meaningful connections and learning each other’s preferred ways of working doesn’t just happen organically anymore. Managers must work harder to generate trust and collaboration within their teams, and somehow replace those all-important watercooler moments. This probably explains why team building events are currently at the top of most team leaders’ agendas as a key tool to get things back on track.

What is a corporate team away day?

At Let’s Talk Talent, we’ve run more than our fair share of team away days. We truly believe they are a great way to generate trust and collaboration. But they also need careful planning.

Team building events are not just about getting everyone in a room to quickly present the yearly objectives before moving on to ‘the fun part’ and making cocktails or going bowling. They need a clear purpose and defined outcomes to inspire and energise people. They take time to organise in order to be effective and contribute to reaching corporate objectives without completely overwhelming participants. 

Watch Jo Taylor’s summary of how to run a kickass corporate team building day

There is no universal formula for the perfect team building event. But there are ways to create truly unique experiences that will talk to your people’s heads, hearts and hands all at once. We’ve identified the five elements you need to focus on to organise a truly kickass away day. Here is our checklist.

The 5 elements you need to consider when planning your team away day

1. Purpose: determining the objective of your corporate away day

The first thing to get right is your purpose. What are you trying to achieve with your away day? Or as we like to say, what’s the big exam question you want to answer? Are you trying to get your team fully aligned ahead of a new project starting? Or are they in a storming phase and an intervention is needed?

Each event should be designed specifically around your audience and unique organisational context to be truly successful in creating employee engagement. To do so, make sure you set out the objectives of the day before you do anything else. And a little tip: if your main objective has lots of ‘and…’ in it, you’re probably trying to pack a bit too much into the day. Ask yourself if a one-off event is the right format. Several shorter sessions over the course of six or seven weeks could potentially do the trick and have more of a lasting impact.

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2. Balance: walking the line between corporate and fun

What’s the right balance between corporate activities and pure team bonding fun? Do you want to focus on defining your team’s purpose in a more serious and organised way, or is your objective for everyone to get to know each other on a personal level? It goes without saying that both types of activities will probably happen, but finding the right balance between presentations, group sessions and organised fun activities will entirely depend on your people.

Get to know your team members, ask for their preferred format, and try to create an agenda that takes their personalities into account. Forcing a group of people to work together to get out of a locked escape room may sound like fun for a bunch of extraverts, but it could be a horrible nightmare for a team of quiet introverts. Taking this into account will go a long way towards making the day an effective team performance tool.

3. Environment: choosing the right setting for your strategy day

Figuring out where to have your team building event can be tricky. However, whilst the office may seem like an easy solution, LTT has found that it is rarely conducive to creativity and innovation. Attendees will always be tempted to go back to their desks and sort the pile of emails currently accumulating. So what’s the next best thing? Meeting facilities? Teams virtual rooms? An isolated yurt in the woods?

Whatever you choose, make sure it is physically inviting. Have comfortable chairs set up, boards to encourage idea generation, Post-it stations and whatever else may help generate sparks and galvanise your team around a common purpose. We do believe in person is best, but if that’s not possible, virtual sessions should be spread out over a few days. Sitting still in front of a computer for several hours probably won’t achieve your desired goals, as participants are likely to drift off.

4. Schedule: finding the ideal pace for your team building away day 

The most common mistake we see when called upon to organise an away day: trying to pack too much into the day. During lockdown, social events and get-togethers took a backseat and now that restrictions are lifted, many team leaders are trying to catch up and get a year’s worth of team building into a single day. Make sure you leave space in your schedule for reflection time, and set up an agenda that caters for different learning styles. Some of us like to talk to think, others need to think to talk.

Considering all audience types and creating your schedule based on who will attend is key to getting the best out of your event. 

Also, bear in mind that a whole day may be difficult to fit into everyone’s diary. Rather than forcing attendance from reluctant, stressed-out participants constantly worried about work accumulating, ask yourself if a series of shorter, 90-minute appointments would suit your staff better. Don’t be afraid to redefine the format and step away from traditional team building schedules to adapt to your employees. Boot camps can be particularly effective as momentum is maintained over a longer period.

5. Follow up: following through on your team building event’s actions 

So now you’ve all spent a day together and had fun cocktail making or axe throwing (hopefully not at each other), you can all go back to your desks and your team’s performance will be magically improved, right? We all know that’s not the case. There are no silver bullets such as an away day that can be applied for long-lasting results. The work needs to carry on afterwards, so make a plan to keep adding to the fire you’ve likely managed to flame. Your team will be galvanised around a common purpose and ready to strive for more, so it’s important to come out of the day with a list of actions and outputs to help them do just that. And don’t forget to set ways to measure engagement after the event so you can adapt, improve and course-correct along the way if necessary. 

Conclusion: how to run kickass team building away days 

Away days and team building events are great for forging connections between team members and generating trust and collaboration. We believe they can be beneficial to all teams, but they do need to be custom designed for each one. Every organisation is different, and so is every team within it. There is no perfect recipe for an effective away day. No ready-made agenda that includes just the right amount of learning and team bonding. But there are common ingredients that can be used. All that is required is for you to figure out the right quantities to make the perfect mix. 

Make sure you don’t lose sight of why you are organising an away day or get sidetracked by gimmicks such as expensive guest speakers or napkin folding classes. Just keep your purpose in mind, and use the five ingredients. This way, you’ll most certainly end up creating an amazing, effective kickass away day experience.

If you think a corporate team building event would be just the thing for you and your team, book a call with our team, or visit the Team building away day page on our site.

We also offer an equally kickass team development bootcamp.

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