NB: This is a guest article by Andre Kiwitz, CEO at Viventura.
We often work in very decentralized organisations in the travel industry. One unit is located in an outgoing market, another office is located at the incoming destination.
An additional unit might be working independently from a third country. A usual scenario in our industry and one which Viventura is dealing with every day.
As CEO, I recently tried an expensive experience - inviting 32 employees (from Germany, France, US, Peru and Colombia) for one month to Costa Rica.
Read on if you would like to find out if this might be something worthwhile doing in your own company or department. In our case, Viventura's main motivation was to bring the teams together, to increase identification with the company and for each other.
For years we have relied on Skype calls and individual visits. But not being able to work together on a day-to-day basis resulted in parallel company cultures and different understanding of the various units around the world.
So I had an idea...
As we couldn't pay for something within our existing budget, we initially asked the team the following:
"Let's say we would work from one month in Costa Rica, would you like to come along if your contribution is Euro 800, Euro 400 or just if it's free?"
- 25% willing to spend Euro 800
- 50% willing to spend Euro 400
- 25% would go if the whole trip was free.
We decided to set a specific sales goal for the first quarter 2012. If we met the goal, the trip would be free. It wasn't the original goal for the project, but this particular quarter rocked.
Every sale was cheered for, and it turned out to be by far the best quarter in our history. It basically financed the trip to Costa Rica.
November arrived and the trip started, our offices were just left with an emergency staff, so that most people could be in Costa Rica at the same time. We found a great location: Hotel Casa Luna in Costa Rica.
Why was it great?
So was it worthwhile?
- location had a perfect climate, not too hot, not too cold
- staff were very helpful, we had a separated area in the restaurant and a room for meetings
- we were served free water and coffee throughout the day
- we could work open-air. This made working here so different and special
- we organized a stand-alone connection from a provider, used just by our staff
- the hotel was 40 minutes by foot to the next village, so mos people didn't leave the hotel after work
- we worked at three huge tables, naturally making sure that people needed to talk to each other
The feedback was overwhelmingly very positive. I hadn't a clue what the outcome would be - and the employees felt the same way. This was the reason they initially didn't plan to come for the whole month. But once they arrived, travel plans were changed.
Various team members moved their flights to November 30, to stick around to the end.
The understanding between the offices has improved massively. They were able to sit and brainstorm with "new" people, colleagues that they only really knew from pictures or Skype, and they also got to hang out after work - important for establishing cohesion in any team.
The communication with the IT team also worked out extremely well. Our programmers actually didn't have a project planned for that particular month, so they focused on helping out their colleagues, explaining systems, etc. The understanding of how our technology works dramatically increased over the course of the month.
Most importantly, perhaps, affinity with the company as a brand was increased massively. As the understanding for different business decisions and strategies improved, identification with what every member of the team was doing also increased.
At the end of the month, we had just one topic: where will we go next year? And the decision was made: we will offer the same incentive for November 2013, the destination is still open :).
Crazy or clever? Is this something you would consider in your company or your department?
NB: This is a guest article by Andre Kiwitz, CEO at Viventura. More on the background to the trip.