By Susanne van Lieshout, Branch Director, MDF Myanmar
Create to prepare
A good staff retreat doesn’t just start on the day itself. A bit of preparation by the staff helps them to mentally get ready for it. Ask each staff member or team to create something. This can be a poster for a Success Gallery, a painting of their vision on the organisation, or a short film/photo collection of their achievements. Keep it positive - do not ask for challenges or problems - and creative. Avoid endless Powerpoint presentations. Offering a prize or award for the most creative contribution will stimulate teams.
Get rid of frustrations
We get it. Not everyone in the retreat will be happy to be there. Staff retreats are often (partly) on the weekends, and take up valuable work time. People may feel frustrated and not interested. While we can’t ‘solve’ these feelings during a 2-day retreat, it is important to acknowledge and address this. Explain that retreats won’t work if people carry burdens on their shoulders. Ask staff to write negative feelings on a piece of paper, and burn them outside. Throw away stones, or bury something. It is symbolic.
Animated evening fun
If there’ll be an evening entertainment program, do it on the first night. This will break the ice and set a relaxed atmosphere. We recommend animation, but for no more than one-hour or so. While Karaoke and talents shows are popular options, other things are just as fun. Think of a quiz night where each team makes their own questions about their work (to be done before). Or make an Office Trivia with questions like: what colour are the floor tiles in our kitchen? A photo quiz, for example; show a photo of a mug and ask who it belongs to. Fashion shows, sand castle competitions, vegetable car races, scavenger hunts and photo safaris are tried and tested activities by MDF that have been super well received.
The important ending
Whatever your retreat objective and contents, we recommend that you pay proper attention to the closure. The more concrete the outputs, the better. Retreat resolutions – though well-intended - are often quickly forgotten, come the next day of work. Aim for a small number of concrete team agreements, and give those a name. Think: The Paris Agreement, the Hotel Paradise Convention, or the Asia Summit Three. Organise an ‘official’ signing or pledging ceremony. Use signatures or fingerprints on a flipchart that serves as a ‘contract’. Or stamped hand prints on a sheet. For pledging, we often ask teams to light a candle, use flowers or hold hands. Play music – a special song will remind of the moment where the team commits: “I will” or “I do”. Lastly, a small parting gift like a mug, a bracelet or a key ring will be appreciated and remembered.
MDF Training & Consultancy can work with your organisation to design a staff retreat that is meaningful and fun for everyone. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.