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5 Secrets To Running an Unforgettable Off-Site With a Great ROI

Genevieve Michaels

Think about the last time you received an invite to an off-site. 

Did you feel a sudden rush of excitement at connecting with colleagues and growing your skills? Or was it more of a creeping sense of dread, as you imagined sitting on a plane just to waste a few days in a conference room? 

If it’s the latter, then your organization needs to rework how it plans these events. Off-sites are a great opportunity to solve tough business problems—the kind you can only solve when you get the right people in the same room. 

But they should be fun, too!

In a recent episode of HR Superstars, 15Five’s Chief Evangelist Adam Weber sat down with Nadia Alaee Senior Director, HRBP at Deel, to get her insights on how her team makes every off-site an unforgettable event.

Here’s the low-down on her top tips.

Tip #1: Create an iron-clad playbook

Many organizations approach off-sites in an ad-hoc way. They may not have dedicated event planners on staff, or haven’t had the resources to make off-sites as great as they want to. 

Whatever the reason, there’s no set-in-stone process for planning, running, and approving off-sites. The result? Managers must go to their HR or Biz Ops team whenever they want to plan an off-site, relying on them for help and approval.

This leads to some teams feeling left out because they didn’t get to plan or attend an offsite, even if they were trying to be responsible. After all, these events come with a dubious return on investment (or ROI).

At Deel, Nadia makes sure leaders always know the what, when, why, and how of planning off-sites. “There are a lot of different aspects for going to and planning an off-site. We don’t have an internal events team right now, so we wanted to give leaders and managers a really crisp playbook.”

Tip #2: Start with the “why” and go from there

When planning an offsite, it can be tempting to focus on just getting everyone together first. Flights and hotels can feel like the biggest logistical hurdle. Plus, the team is likely excited to see each other!

Isn’t the most important thing just to get everyone in the same room?

Actually, no. The best way to make sure your off-site is completely forgettable—and that you don’t get your next one approved—is to not have a clear idea of the event’s purpose. Before you start drafting up the guest list or figuring out your budget, think of what you’re trying to achieve. 

  • Is there a particular business problem you can only solve by getting people together?
  • Are you trying to rally the troops before a big project or initiative?
  • Or do you just want to build team bonds and culture? 

To even get an off-site approved, managers at Deel need to clearly articulate the business purpose behind it. 

Nadia typically asks offsite planners questions like:

  • “What is the purpose of this off-site?”
  • “What is the impact across the business?”
  • “If you get together to solve a problem, who will be positively impacted?’”

Tip #3: Create a comprehensive agenda for your event

There are so many details to figure out when planning an off-site, that it’s easy to forget about the actual agenda!

But if you’re too focused on getting people there and not what they’ll be doing, you might end up having done all this work just to host a so-so event. 

Remember, your off-site has to have some kind of positive impact on your people and the business as a whole to be worthwhile—even if that impact is just motivating the troops!

Nadia emphasizes how crucial it is to make the most of every off-site hour. “You have limited time and you’ve potentially traveled from a far-away place,” she says. “You really want to maximize those hours you have together to solve the problem you’ve promised to solve as part of getting your budget approved.”

Tip #4: Give people opportunities to get away from the laptops

Your off-site shouldn’t just be an opportunity to hang out for a few days. But you can’t have everyone stare at their laptops the whole time, either. 

The recipe for a great off-site? Striking the right balance between fixing a business problem and getting to know each other. 

“Have a clear business case, but do something that builds relationships beyond the day-to-day work, away from your laptops,” explains Nadia. “That can be a cocktail-making class, an archery lesson, or a big team dinner. Give people social experiences outside of the work stuff.”

This is especially important for teams that have gotten used to working remotely. When everyone’s in the office, there are a lot of opportunities to build lasting relationships, but when you’re remote, you have to go out of your way to create these opportunities yourself. That’s where a well-planned off-site can really shine.

Tip #5: Have a post-mortem after each off-site

You’ve put in the work to create an off-site that balances ROI and team bonding. But even the most careful planning doesn’t guarantee that everything will go perfectly!

Any off-site will have hiccups. Don’t panic at these slip-ups — treat them as opportunities to do better next time. 

In Nadia’s experience, post-mortems have been an essential part of iterating on the off-site playbook at Deel. “We always follow up with leaders or managers to get a post-mortem of how it went and what the output was,” she says. “If we’re asking the team for the business case but not getting that actual output, then we need to go back to the drawing board.”

Making time for post-mortems keeps everyone thinking about the problems they’re trying to solve—even if it’s between cocktails.

Make every off-site unforgettable

An off-site should be that perfect mix of getting to know the people you work with and solving the problems that are keeping your business from growing. But with so many details to keep track of to run a great event, you have to ensure you have a top-notch playbook, that you know the “why” of getting everyone together, and iterate on your process as you learn.

Want to hear our full conversation with Nadia? Check out the podcast here, on Apple and Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.