Small Business: Company conferences - Myah Preston

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Myah Preston, Human Resources Advisor at CQ Hotels Wellington talks about the business's staff retreats

CQ Hotels staff.
CQ Hotels staff.

The CQ Hotel complex in Cuba Street, a renovated heritage building, comprising the 3.5 star Comfort Hotel Wellington and a contemporary 4.5 star hotel Quality Hotel Wellington. In 2012, the CQ Quality Hotel was named as one of the Top 9 Quality Hotels in the world.

What are your beliefs around staff retreats?

As we are a company with many different departments, it is important to ensure that strong communication and relationships are encouraged between them. It is not always easy to achieve this in the workplace on a day to day basis, therefore we like to take the team out of the workplace to meet and socialise with one another on a more personal level. We find that by doing this, it creates a more community-like atmosphere within the hotels and employees meet with others and management that they wouldn't usually on a day to day basis. We like to encourage a healthy team and understand that shift work can often influence one's health so our retreats vary between sporting events and quiet socialising.

Where do you go for the retreats and how long?

We make a point not to go to the same place all the time as it's not refreshing for the employees and it is not always suited to all employees. Instead we mix it up depending on the choice of event but we ensure that we can assist with transport if is not within walking distance from the Hotel. In addition, we have woven it into the business plan to ensure that there is at least one a month if not more.

Sometimes they are two hours long, half a day or even a full day.

What sorts of ideas have you come up with on these retreats?

A couple of months ago on a Head of Department retreat, we created a new strategic 10 year plan and we have been focusing on this in the more recent retreats and figuring out ways to get there by breaking it down further into five year and one year plans. We find that people are more refreshed and focused when we go off site for this kind of planning and it's less disruptive. It is also a good way to ensure we have everyone's full attention so that communication is strong and ideas are understood and built on.

At "all staff" retreats we have come up with the following initiatives and/or events to take part in to further boost staff morale and relationship building;

• AMI Round the Bays (we organised T-Shirts, lunch and entries for employees that wanted to take part)
• Drinks and nibbles, then a movie at the Light House cinema
• Tough Guy and Gal Challenge (organised T-shirts, transport, lunches and ran it as a team)
• An evening of bowling
• We are in the middle of our internal interdepartmental WOW competition
• Armstrong half marathon
• Green Day - we give the employees the opportunity to give back to the community. For example, volunteering at Zealandia.

What is the feedback from staff?

We get a lot of positive feedback from staff - the retreats enable them to build stronger relationships with their colleagues away from the office and this ultimately improves our workplace culture. We also make sure we run a range of different styles of retreats at different times to ensure everyone has an opportunity to take part.

What tips would you give to other SMEs about taking staff retreats?

• Be enthusiastic and open minded whilst organising and encouraging the team to attend
• Mix it up, not everyone enjoys/ can do sporting events so keep an open mind
• Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to attend. If you have shift workers, choose a quiet time of the week and change it every month. Sometimes invite their partners and children (as this often holds some people back)
• Listen to and encourage suggestions that the team have as they are the key players in the event

Some SME owners would say they are too busy for getaways with the staff, what would you say to them?

Make time, your employees are the future and success of your business.

Many people tend to find their self-actualisation through these kinds of retreats and events. It is important to remember that: "Success is not the key to happiness; happiness is the key to success."


Next week: The characteristics or the DNA of an entrepreneur is something which has fascinated many business schools around the world. At this week's Morgo conference, the event designed purely for entrepreneurs, I will see these people up close and find out what makes them tick.

- NZ Herald

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