At Electrum, we see company retreats as a combination mini-break, strategy session, team-build and personal growth opportunity. Yes, that’s a lot to expect from a company getaway, which is why we brought in the professionals.
Company getaways have come a long way since they involved falling into a colleague’s arms in some kind of lame trust exercise. Since 2014, Aveleigh Gateman of NAMETAG has planned and facilitated our company retreats. “Electrum has seen massive growth, and that’s brought massive changes,” says Aveleigh. “But they’ve always recognised the importance of integrating new members into the team, and aligning everyone’s goals.”
“…we want to work in an environment where we’re all aligned, we all understand each other…”
From the start, we tried to prioritise company retreats because of the positive impact it has on staff’s well-being, relationships and performance. “We wanted to build an organisation that plays a positive role in deciding its own direction,” says Dave Glass, Electrum’s MD. “And at the same time, we want to work in an environment where we’re all aligned, we all understand each other, and, as far as possible, we all like each other!”
The retreats usually happen in the middle of the week, last two to three days and happen at a holiday house or estate within a few hours of Cape Town. Our getaways have taken us to Betty’s Bay, Elgin, Simon’s Town, Stellenbosch and Langebaan (and once to Mauritius!) and since team leads are given autonomy, they decide with their teams where they’re going next.
…although the approach is analytical, it’s positive and optimistic
As Electrum has grown, the retreats have necessarily changed in structure. “Recently we started splitting into functional teams to look at strategy,” says Aveleigh. “Although it was fun to do strategy with 30 people at once, the output in smaller groups has been more meaningful, and each person’s voice is heard more now.”
The schedule is flexible, but usually includes time for a bit of work, a bit of socialising, as well as time dedicated to visioning and strategic planning as a team. The strategic sessions involve discussing specific team goals, and although the approach is analytical, it’s positive and optimistic. It may involve questioning what the team has learnt from customers in the last period, what successes they’ve had, and what the priorities or focus for the team should be in the upcoming period.
“Electrum’s commitment… has helped shape it into a really great place to work”
NAMETAG employs a Plus-Delta tool to help groups and individuals evaluate an experience or project. Pluses are specific actions taken that helped make the project a success, while Deltas are suggested actions to take into future projects. The Plus-Delta lists become a working document for groups to track implementation of Deltas, so they come away with a concrete tool to improve their performance.
“Electrum’s commitment to doing regular check-ins on strategy and soft skills has helped shape it into a really great place to work,” says Aveleigh. By revisiting communication techniques again and again, team members are able (for the most part!) to convey their needs and voice concerns clearly and openly, and to work through inevitable conflict confidently.
…the whole team and their partners and kids enjoy a getaway
Since 2017, we’ve also hosted an annual Electrum family trip where the whole team and their partners and kids enjoy a getaway. This four-to-five day trip is much less centred on work, and the focus is on having fun and getting to know each other.
With the blistering pace of work in a growing Fintech firm like Electrum, the retreats give team members the time they need to reflect. Strategic planning sessions draw on everyone’s experience and get everyone involved in goal-setting, whether on a team or personal level. Thanks to NAMETAG’s facilitation, everyone stays on track, and we always come away with some concrete ideas to implement back in the office, as well as useful skills we find ourselves using every day.