Corporate summer outings have come a long way from the traditional outdoor picnic. Today, offices do everything from sponsoring a volunteer day to attending sporting events, to participating in competitive cook-offs, laser tag and go-cart races. While the purpose is often to build camaraderie and reward employees for their hard work, corporate events also provide an opportunity to reinforce your company mission and brand.
Here’s how to make your corporate summer event hold more meaning than just time away from the office.
While everyone is together, showcase your best work and recognize your employees. This has become increasingly important as more employees work remotely. Before heading out for their summer event, employees at Havas Worldwide in Chicago are briefed on new business initiatives and clients, and employees are praised for their contributions, says Jennifer Marszalek, Havas' chief talent officer.
The summer outing is a good time for everyone to reflect on the vision and mission of your company, says Steven Handmaker, chief marketing officer and owner of Assurance. "You can’t build engagement if you’re not all on the same path," he says.
To remind Assurance employees that they are "industry rock stars," last year’s outing was built around a rock theme, Handmaker says. Employees were given the opportunity to play rock band karaoke, climb an indoor rock wall, and make jewelry from stones he says.
Ubiquity Retirement + Savings combines its corporate outing with a half-day, off-site brainstorming session, held on the day before the outing. Partnering the outing with a retreat encourages employees to talk about the mission and vision for the company and is especially important because so many employees work remotely, says Lisa Chui, vice president of finance and HR for Ubiquity Retirement + Savings.
Use your summer outing as an opportunity to tell your brand story and help your employees see that their work is
broader than their day-to-day job, says Jessica James, founder of JessicaJamesConsulting. For instance, she says, if you run a financial services company and you sponsor a volunteer day, partner with a nonprofit and have your employees help low-income families build a daily budget or get their credit scores.
Public relations firms Momentum Communications Group and Colangelo & Partners used their summer outing to take employees on a mini press tour of two New Jersey wineries. The companies, which operate as one LLC, represent the wine and spirits industries, but not every employee is able to visit clients, says Eric Katzman, senior account executive.
After the wine tour, the group had dinner at a restaurant owned by a client, who paired dishes with wines made by clients. "The event," says Katzman, "made what we do in the office more relevant and increased employee knowledge about the firm’s clients."
Hand out branded T-shirts, beach towels, and water bottles before the outing and encourage employees to proudly wear their swag. Throughout the year, Paul Marobella, CEO of Havas Worldwide, will randomly hand out gift cards to people wearing company swag each month, Marszalek says.
Provide activities that allow employees to get to know each other better and build relationships, Marszalek says. Last year, Havas held a ping-pong tournament and employees rallied behind their favorite competitor. "We noticed that when employees bond like this and begin creating memories together it helps them collaborate on projects and ideas in the future," she says.
Shared activities also provide a good opportunity for managers to get to know their team members better, says Mary Olson-Menzel, president of MVP Executive Search and Development. "If I’m going to be an effective leader, I need to know that makes this person tick and look at the whole person," she says. "This insight will help you manage better."