Jul 31

Eight suggestions for a successful workplace retreat

The objective of any workplace retreat is to take time out from the daily hurly-burly: an ideal way to refresh, reflect and plan…with colleagues.

Sometimes, those last two words “with colleagues” do not seem to be factored into the actual preparation or roll-out of a retreat. I suspect that a fair proportion of readers of this blog may have experienced a work retreat that has been less than ideal, less than collegiate in the course of your working careers.

Worse still, what happened at the last retreat can feature largely in workplace investigations and reviews that we undertake at Worklogic, as inappropriate behaviour at the retreat wreaks havoc on the team.

To avoid this situation – and to ensure your retreat is a refreshing, energising and inclusive experience for all involved, we have put together the following suggestions:

Eight suggestions for a successful workplace retreat

1.Be inclusive of preferences

Of course, I hear you cry, why would we not be inclusive?

But, if your workplace retreat agenda is on a “set and forget” course which may be some years, even decades old, then consider a new place to berth! That mandatory round of golf, paintball, skiing (insert similar) may be an annual joy for some, but for others a chore at best.

Consulting with staff about what they may also wish to do as part of the leisure component for the retreat is vital, and will enable you to jettison those items that are stale or do not reflect everyone’s interests or capabilities. Take on board other suggestions which ensure that there is truly something for everyone.

2. Live your values

If, for instance, your values are “respect” and “innovation”, ask how your planned retreat reflects this. Review your agenda in the light of your values and consider how you can re-focus the retreat to reinforce and support your organisation in living these values.

When on retreat, turn to your values as needed. So, if a session or activity is clearly not working, and your values are innovation and flexibility, then change what you are doing!

Call that session short, break for lunch early, cancel the naff activity which for whatever strange reason had seemed such a good idea ahead of time, and reflect with co-retreaters as to what would now be the best use of their time.

3. Set clear standards for behaviour

Too often, unacceptable, disrespectful and even criminal behaviour can occur at retreats – often fuelled by a lethal mix of an unrestricted supply of alcohol and a night or two away from home.

Think about the amount of alcohol you provide for retreat participants on the retreat.

Make sure that you are proactively clear about the standards of behaviour expected of everyone. Use your messaging to really encourage everyone to bring their enthusiasm, respect and ideas to the retreat.

4. Offer rich and relevant content

Retreats are a golden opportunity to roll-out all those ideas, suggestions, topics, themes, plans, visions and brain-stormings. Don’t re-launch the same tired, unexciting subject matter which was presented at a team meeting six weeks ago, or information which is neither exciting or novel for those on board.

Do take the time to not only consult on content, but also really examine and vet proposals so that there is a veritable flotilla of good ideas on offer.

5. Provide a variety of learning styles

Some people learn visually, and some by listening, some by reflection, others by talking, and others again by doing. Be mindful and consultative about not only what you are presenting, content-wise, at your retreat, but how you do so.

The adage “death by power-point” resonates for a reason.

6. Have fun

If your last retreat resembled a long stroll off a short gangplank, don’t put everyone through that torture again.

Laughter, humour and fun, when respectful and inclusive, are such a fabulous tonic for any workplace.

Humour relieves stress-levels, encourages group bonding (without the paintball), and harness team-support through tricky times. It also helps creativity, innovation and lessens status differential in the workplace. Aim for retreat activities and engagement which will spontaneously facilitate healthy fun and laughter.

7. Appreciate everyone’s work

Retreats are an absolutely fundamental opportunity to really say thank you, and mean it – and to convey these thanks in a way which acknowledges everyone in the room.

You don’t need to change your workplace into a cult, but do identify, in language that works for you, what is fantastic and fabulous about the workplace, and clearly articulate how everyone has contributed to that.

8. Book in an external speaker

Variety is indeed the spice of life, so if everyone’s already completely across the internal “knots and rigging” of your workplace presenters and facilitators, have a think about asking someone to provide insight that encourages them to consider other perspectives, ways of improving themselves and the organisation and their teams. Your staff will love it.

Full declaration: as an author, speaker and trainer, I am regularly chopper-ed in to speak at an annual governance dinner, conference, seminar or retreat to provide that “little bit something extra”. Whoever you tap on the shoulder to be “the talent” at your next retreat, make sure that they are informative and entertaining. One without the other doesn’t quite cut it!

We hope the above provides you with plenty of leads, suggestions and ideas to fit-out your next retreat for resounding success. Have a ball, disco, yoga session, intense butchers-paper strategic session with coloured post-it notes, walk through nearby nature, play hilarious charades, role-plays or what have you but, whatever you do collectively decide, enjoy your retreat. You and everyone who sails with you, deserves no less!

About Grevis Beard

Grevis Beard, Worklogic Director, is a highly experienced and widely respected author, dynamic speaker and trainer, and workplace investigator. Grevis speaks knowledgeably and diplomatically on how to resolve workplace conflict, manage people risk and build a positive culture at work.

Grevis is an engaging and lively speaker, who provides wisdom, insight and humour on the subject of workplace culture and communication, and tips and traps on improving workplace dynamics. His latest speaking presentation is “Building Fantastic Workplace cultures – 10 lessons to learn from popular films!”