This article was originally posted via Inc.
Now's the time of year when I find myself talking about summer nearly every day. As the co-founder of an educational firm, my fellow advisors and I constantly emphasize how essential it is for our students to make use of "downtime" during the summer to enhance their profiles. That "downtime," of course, is actually full of upsides: opportunities for students to develop their personal narratives and continue learning.
And what if you're a business owner? In many organizations, the summer is synonymous with shorter workdays and long weekends. That said, I'm a firm believer that the so-called lazy days of summer can actually be an opportunity for innovation (with some relaxation thrown into the mix). But like I tell my students, the key is planning ahead. Here's how:
Schedule Your Annual Retreat for June
Our office holds its annual retreat in June to coincide with the end of the school year. In our business, the timing is obvious -- what better time to reflect on the past year and set goals than the end of an important cycle? For most organizations, though, the value of a summer retreat may not be as clear.
It may even seem counterintuitive, especially in offices with half-day Fridays or other benefits that reduce the number of hours in the work week. We've found that holding our retreat in the summer has two benefits. First, it has a built-in spirit of celebration and provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor team-building activities.
Additionally, gathering in June opens up space in July and August, when the sun is shining and focus may be waning, to begin implementing many of the exciting ideas that were previously introduced.
Focus on Hiring and Training
For any organization looking to bring on recent college grads, summer is the perfect time to hire and train. But it's essential to think ahead -- many students begin mapping out their next steps in the winter and spring prior to graduation. For this reason, March is an ideal month to begin recruiting, with the goal of starting training in the late spring or early summer.
Moreover, the comparatively slower pace of the summer in most businesses allows for more in-depth training, a benefit that will continue throughout the year. However, the summer isn't just a chance to train new talent; it's also an opportunity to focus on professional development. Encourage employees to take advantage of online or in-person courses during the summer months, or bring in guest lecturers on "summer Fridays."
Crack Open the Books
At the start of every summer, our team circulates a reading list to our students. The idea is to keep them reading over the school break and open their minds to interesting topics and authors that might fall outside of the school canon. This list is curated by each of our staff members, with everyone's individual recommendations featured.
What we've found, however, is that our students aren't the only ones taking advantage of these suggestions -- our team members are as well. Coworkers reading each other's recommendations inevitably creates opportunities for collaboration and learning that transcend the day to day and encourage creative problem-solving.
Similarly, as a founder, I assign myself "summer reading" with a focus on fiction, poetry and memoirs. I deliberately try not to bring any business books with me on vacation; instead, my focus is on learning something new or seeing the world from a different perspective, which comes back to work with me.
Since we were kids, we have been programmed to believe that summer was a break -- but this doesn't mean that you, or your employees, need to stop learning once the temperatures start rising. In fact, creating opportunities for enrichment in unique and unexpected ways just might have some unique -- and unexpectedly positive -- upsides for your business.