Staff “getaways”, “get together”, or “retreats” are necessary events in the course of any successful organization. Just like sports teams who gather before the start of every season, organizations must have teams get together to game plan, show off their talents, and prepare for the new season. These types of events help organizations build camaraderie necessary for future success. If not careful, however, these types of events can be a simple waste of time and energy with little accomplished. Below are some things to consider to pulling off a successful retreat.
• Determine the Purpose: Having staff gather together is a lot of work so first an organization needs to determine what is the purpose behind this event. By having the purpose clearly decided upon it will help direct the rest of the planning for the event.
• Determine the Desired Outcomes: How will you know if you achieved your purpose unless you have some clearly set bench marks to judge success from in the end. Have key members before hand determine what the desired outcomes will be and how you will know if they are achieved.
• Budget: How much do we have to work with here? That question will determine key pieces like location, event swag, meal choices, social events, and type of facilitation. I recommend these events are built into an annual budget from the beginning because trying to “find” the money is not possible for most companies.
• Facilitation: Do you want the events to be facilitated by external personnel or internal personnel? Again, budget may determine this question for you but also the desired outcomes. Recently, Mandt’s faculty met with the goal to have everyone involved teach something to everyone else during the event. That outcome helped determine that we had the internal talent necessary and did not require outside facilitation for this particular faculty event.
2nd Event Execution:
• Agenda and Schedule: The execution of the event should be guided by an agenda and a schedule. The agenda and schedule should not, however, be so rigid that it does not allow for needed changes that occur during topic discussion. The agenda and schedule should guide the event to help achieve the desired outcomes but not rigid to the point where the outcomes are trying to be forced. Consider building in long enough breaks that when necessary can be shortened to accommodate break needs but also schedule needs that may call for more time to discuss key points.
• FUN!! These events must be fun. Work diligently to find fun icebreaker activities that help build the groups relationship while keeping the activity light. Also, key team building activities placed at the right times will bring group cohesion into the event. Team building games need to be safe emotionally and psychologically for the participants as well as physically. When done correctly, team-building activities can shine a light on possible problem areas and start the process of application into the organizations. Also, if the budget allows, t-shirts and other items as mementos of the retreat are fun ways to remember the event for staff in the future. If budget allows, think seriously about what type of materials people can receive that are useful, desired and fun for the participants.
• Socialization: Not only is it important to get people working together inside the event, it is also important to get people to socialize whenever possible away from the days events. Going out to eat, shows, or sight seeing are also important and should not be neglected unless the budget absolutely will not allow for it. Even then, people have to eat, so encourage them to do so as a group in a place that will accommodate multiple choices for food types.
3rd: Debrief and Follow-up:
• Debrief: Make sure you leave time at the end of the event to debrief takeaways for the participants. Also include in the debriefing process, what items should be included next time to assist the group with their desired outcomes. Discuss also, what follow up items are necessary after the event has ended to ensure desired outcomes are obtained.
• Follow-up: To ensure future success, follow-up the event with either a survey or some other way for participants to give feedback about things they liked and things they would change for the next time such an event takes place. This will help ensure growth in such types of events. Also, make sure that people who committed to do future things in the event, are held accountable and follow through with their commitments. All too often the events generate peoples excitement but once away from the event, commitments become less important.
In the Army, I once had a company commander that said, “This company will never retreat!! We will however, fall back, regroup, and change directions often.” In todays business that is a necessary truth. Whether or not you call it a staff “getaway”, “get together”, or “retreat”, it is vital that occasionally you fall back, regroup and determine the direction you are heading as an organization. By considering the above items, your organization can pull off a wonderful event that builds your staff and helps your organization better it’s self.
Tim Geels – Senior Vice President of Instruction