Staff Retreats: Yes, they can be informative AND fun!
Treat, Re-Treat, Repeat
Fall is almost here – why not take your team out of the office for a staff retreat?
A productive group outing doesn’t have to be hokey or feel forced – you can actually have a lot of fun when you and your staff interact in a different environment.
Retreats don’t have to be expensive or far away to be effective, either. Here at Perry Davis Associates, we had a great time on our most recent outing, right in our own neighborhood.
We’ve put together some practical tips on organizing a retreat to have fun and learn as a team.
Find the focus
What do you hope to achieve through a staff retreat? Is it to learn something new? To build morale? Know your goals for the day and that will help inform the planning process. Go places that allow you to fulfill those goals – if you want to get to know each other through sharing stories, don’t go somewhere loud and crowded. If you want to build teamwork through physical activities, don’t go to the library.
Slice the pie evenly
Give everyone a chance to lead an activity. Learning retreats sometimes turn into lectures – avoid that by making it the responsibility of each individual to contribute a “lesson”. If your team is fewer than 10 people, this is an easy step. If your team is larger, try splitting into smaller activity groups. The same goes for the planning process – if everyone pitches in with suggestions about where to go and what to do, you’ll find that folks have more of a vested interest in the success of the retreat. They’ll be excited to share their piece of the pie with the group.
Map it out
Know where you’re going before you go! Have an itinerary and factor in travel time to and from each spot you visit. Figure out the accessibility of each of your destinations, too. If you need wheelchair access or team-members who can’t do stairs, make sure you know if ramps or elevators are available before you go. It also helps to have a backup plan for your destinations, in case of cancellations or sudden changes.
Break bread, build bonds
No retreat is complete without a meal involved. Make sure to plan for at least one sit-down with food. We scoped out the restaurants in our neighborhood to find the restaurant with space for all of us at a quiet table in the back. Make a reservation well in advance and confirm with the restaurant the day before. If you’re planning on dining at lunch hour, it’ll be crowded in a popular spot. You can even pre-order some appetizers, giving you something to snack on while you do some seated activities before your entrees arrive.
Time it right
Plan your retreat for a time of year when all your staff can feel more comfortable being out of the office. You can’t ask everyone to drop everything when it’s crunch time, so try a summer month, when things slow down, or a month around clusters of holidays. You want everyone to engage with the retreat, so make your retreat “official” by closing the office while you’re all offiste. Don’t check emails, don’t answer phones – give everyone a chance to really be “away”.
Order or make a little keepsake for your team to remember the day by. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive – we had some custom mugs with our logo and a “Keep Calm” message, filled them with candy and wrapped them in color cellophane. They were easy to take away at the end of the day and each time we look at them on our desks we remember what we learned and laughed about that day.
Don’t bring your team to a “destination” when your city is the destination!
A staff outing is about doing something special, just for your team. Signing everyone up for a webinar or bringing in a lecturer doesn’t count!
Finding ways to make your home base exciting again is a fun task for all of you to do in the planning process. Here are some unexpected “destinations” you might see differently:
The Coffee Shop
“Let’s grab coffee sometime,” is a thing you say to old friends or busy colleagues. So, as a group, go get a cuppa nearby and practice how to make the most of that time. Does your organization have a pitch or a summary that can be delivered in less time than drinking a cup of coffee? Practice pitching it to each other. If not, work together to develop one.
Who is your go-to florist for your annual events? Who are the people who print your letters or invitations? Do you have a caterer you prefer to work with? You’ve probably spoken to these folks hundreds of times, but have you met them? Go meet your vendors – ask for a tour of their facility and learn more about what, and how, they work their magic. Chances are they’ll be delighted to take you on a tour. While you’re there you might learn some pro tricks on making the most of your budget for events and mailings…
The team that eats together, stays together. Go out to lunch at a nearby restaurant and while you’re eating, take the time to get to know each other a little better. Have a list of questions or seated activities that you can go around the table with. Don’t forget to make a reservation!
Do you know an expert in something cool? It doesn’t have to be directly related to your work or fundraising, but learning what others do can inspire a creative application of tools and methods developed elsewhere. Sometimes being completely out of your comfort zone is when you get the most innovative. Seek out someone in your network who works in a different industry who would be willing to give you a tour or tutorial at their location.
Do It Again…
Once you work out a successful formula for retreats that your team responds positively to, why not do it again? Or challenge yourselves to top the last retreat. Or even invite a board member or lay leader to join your next one. No matter how small or simple a retreat is, it’s still a bonding experience. Shared memories formed outside of the usual pattern are those that stick with us the most. So get your team out there and have some fun!