Corporate Retreats: An Enriching Experience

November 16, 201610:17 am583 views
Planning a corporate retreat these days is certainly a much more sophisticated affair than in the past. Organisations are now venturing into unheralded territory in a bid to craft memorable and enriching experiences. HRM probes further into the corporate retreat scene

Jason Chen, a Business Director with Dragon Boat Innovate (DBI), has worked with a wide range of organisations seeking to hold corporate retreats for their staff.

While that in itself is nothing uncommon, Chen provides a particularly unique insight into the rationale and the lengths to which companies will go to conceptualise and implement a retreat that meets specific strategic goals.

“Imagine training a group of insurance agents to become semi-proficient dragon boaters; they would later invite their clients for a session and together they form a team to compete in a race,” Chen explains.

“Think about the methodology behind it – they are saying ‘As your financial advisors, we’re in the same boat with you, part of your driving force and we’re in this race together striving towards the finishing line’.

“It’s a concept used for a few of our clients in the financial space.”

While all corporate retreats may be not be entwined with such strategic foresight, it appears that the era of organising run-of-the-mill events at organisations’ own backyards is slowly but surely phasing out.

“Companies used to engage and host teambuilding on their own premises,” says Zee Soh Fun, Senior Manager, Communications, Sentosa Development Corporation.

“More companies are now moving towards organising ‘retreats’ that are really an extended meeting in a pleasant setting outside of their workplace.”

Setting the backdrop

As the name clearly alludes to, DBI specialises in dragon boat activities for its clients.

Chen says DBI has crafted programmes that have reached out to more than 200 companies over the past three years, covering some 35,000 participants.

DBI’s clients have included organisations such as Fossil, Deloitte, DHL, DBS, HP, IHG, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Shell, GE, Google, SingTel and Starhub.

“Our main product and niche is in the field of offering dragon boating as a platform for engaging people,” says Chen.

“The power of our sport is the ability to bring people together in the simplest, easiest and shortest possible way.”

“People do not realise that the level of entry into this sport is so easy and extremely addictive.”

Another organisation looking to leverage on its high seas backdrop is Star Cruises.

According to Michael Goh, Senior Vice President of Sales, “MICE @ Sea” cruises for corporate travel groups is the company’s forte.

“MICE @ Sea cruises are perfect for companies that yearn for a distraction-free environment on an invigorating high seas setting,” says Goh.

“Since the event attendees are confined together, they will get to work, wine, dine and play as a team. As a result, dynamic teams with strong synergies are formed.”

Goh explains that MICE @ Sea cruises consist of a mix of management and staff retreats, seminars and conventions, teambuilding workshops, product launches, award ceremonies, dinner and dances, anniversary celebration parties, and MICE incentive programmes.

Zee says that besides setting aside hours for teambuilding, Sentosa Development Corporation places emphasis on the amount of free and socialising time groups have on the island.

“A simple lunch or dinner, or a few hours of free-and-easy programming will be beneficial as eating together and interacting socially in a different setting helps build relationships,” elaborates Zee.

“Besides the choice of hotels on the island, Sentosa offers unique venue options that take guests to the outdoors, from beachside pavilions to hill-top dining. Moreover we offer clusters of attractions all within touching distance of accommodation.”

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What’s in it for me?

Chen confesses that some people do have stereotypical notions of dragon boating.

“Many people have the perception that dragon boating is tiring, sunny and even has the risk of capsizing,” he says.

“But we are very confident that once our clients try it, they will never feel the same way and will always return for more.”

“Over the years, we have managed to counter these perceptions and make sure our clients never feel that way through proper consultation, sharing and even in some cases, offering trials.”

Citing the idea of customisation, Chen says the sport is easy to take up and is quick to get people enticed. DBI ensures company organisers planning the activities are also enthusiastic about the sport.

Chen says DBI carefully designs and plans activities in stages that best suit the needs of clients, adding that most programmes tackle aspects such as training, racing, debriefing and celebrating: all of which can be done in a session of approximately three hours.

According to Chen, several companies have provided feedback that the hours their staff spend in conferences and meetings can be intensive, yet dull.

Hence, DBI always tries to put itself in the shoes of its participants to make sure that once a firm’s employees enter the boat, everyone can have a fun and energetic experience.

“DBI always ensures that our trainers and facilitators are experienced and full of energy to make sure that the experience is refreshing and to bring the mood up to a high,” explains Chen.

Another reason Chen says companies sign up for dragon boating corporate retreats is due to organisation relations.

He says that when people paddle in a dragon boat alongside their peers, the satisfaction of learning and achieving the possibilities is felt together in a team.

“This feeling actually allows individuals to think about how much they contribute to the team as individuals,” he explains.

“People literally step out from a boat understanding that there’s no ‘I’, but rather, a big ‘we’, and learnings come in an experiential way.”

Chen says DBI has witnessed dozens of examples of these learnings espousing common organisational values, such as respect, communication and leadership.

Flexibility is another vital cog in DBI’s offering, with the company designing flexible programmes to suit what clients want and need.

“We offer sound advice and provide suitable and successful examples to guide our clients to harness the best possible experience with the budget that is given to us,” explains Chen.

“We understand the difficulties in planning retreats and we are always committed to making sure the process is smooth and hassle-free.”

As for Star Cruises, Goh says its MICE@ Sea ships are well-equipped with state-of-the-art business and MICE facilities to meet business objectives.

“We can exercise flexibility and customise our unique cruise offerings to suit every budget and event requirements, like menu upgrades, dinner and dance entertainment, and teambuilding workshops,” he explains.

“No details are spared to ensure each corporate event attains perfection. Both event planners and attendees can enjoy a peace of mind while networking with one another in style, as they leave the rest to us to manage.”

Making it the right fit

In certain cases, companies that have already selected their MICE option will have further difficulties deciding how to exactly fulfil the occasion in order to cater to the idiosyncrasies of employees.

According to Goh, Star Cruises firmly understand the diverse Asian cultures, unique preferences, and evolving expectations of their valued MICE guests.

“This deep understanding gives us a competitive edge to shape new cruise itineraries, create differentiated onboard experiences with sensational entertainment as well as offer swanky retail experiences,” explains Goh.

“An all-encompassing cruise is a one-stop destination on its own. It balances the seriousness of business with leisure pleasures.”

Furthermore, Goh states Star Cruises’ friendly and well-trained crew (from 20 different countries) are highly devoted to the needs of their valued MICE delegates.

“We have a dedicated hotel operation staff to formulate and execute any MICE @ Sea events,” he adds.

“They are highly skilled to meet and exceed the expectations of our MICE guests with ever-changing demands.”

Likewise, Chen says DBI strives to package the most ideal MICE event according to an organisation’s best fit.

For example, he says there are several local locations for dragon boating and “amazing race”style events including Kallang Riverside Park, Kallang Water Sports Centre, Marina Barrage, Bedok Reservoir, and Lower Seletar Reservoir.

“We have also done dragon boat birthday celebrations where we paddle out into the reservoir and blow the candle out off a cake in the middle of it,” he reveals.

Chen says DBI is “constantly challenged by our returning clients to come up with more activities to cater to their huge numbers.”

“Thus we are also very proud to introduce and add on round-island or location-based amazing races, scavenger hunts, food hunts and drive trips.”

In addition, Chen adds DBI has also worked with regional partners to bring the same corporate experiences to Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur.

“We are currently working on other venue possibilities, such as going to Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan, and even South Korea,” he says.

Customised concepts

Jason Chen, Business Director, Dragon Boat Innovate (DBI), says the firm has categorised its “product” into three areas:

  • HR needs: Corporate teambuilding and retreats form one of DBI’s most popular services and are used to relate a corporate organisation’s values to its staff.
  • Marketing and activation: Leverages one of the biggest participative water sports to engage a company’s target segment or agenda. DBI also allows businesses to showcase their brands through engaging sports-related campaigns.
  • Business solutions: Assisting companies to engage their clients in out-of-the-box concepts.

The article first appeared on HRM Asia.


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