As ‘virtual’ becomes a way of life in business, employees are clamoring for opportunities to connect, communicate, and collaborate more. Here is a roadmap – compliments of recognition expert Christopher Littlefield – for organizing a killer virtual retreat.
- Put it on the Calendar. If the team has a standing weekly meeting, use that time slot. The last thing people need right now is another Zoom meeting!
- Outline the Program. Invite team members to plan it with you or to chime in. Either way, ask team members in advance if there are specific topics they would like to discuss or activities they would like to do.
- Set the Intention. At the heart of any great retreat is a clear intention. For example, “The intention is to have fun, reflect on how things have been going, and plan for months ahead.”
- Outline the Agenda. The best retreats have a mix of fun and discussion. For a 90-minute event, include the following seven components:
- Warm Welcome (10 Minutes Prior). Start the retreat on the right foot by joining in advance and greeting people as they enter. After a few people have joined, post a welcome question in the chat box to get people sharing.
- Introduction & Context (5 Minutes). Start by sharing the intention. Then put people at ease by acknowledging the circumstances – a messy house or kids interrupting is ok.
- Icebreaker (5-10 Minutes). Lead a fun activity to put people at ease. You can find several ideas to choose from here.
- Core Discussion (1 Hour). Based on the retreat intention, choose a few questions as the basis of the discussion. The leader can introduce the first question and then invite people to share their thoughts. Sample questions include: What are we doing well as a team? What is not working as well as we would like? What three things could we do to take our performance as a team to the next level in one month?
- Break (5 Minutes). People can only pay attention for a limited time and need breaks. After an hour, give people time to stretch, go to the bathroom, and get a drink.
- Reflection and Follow Up (10 Minutes). Fifteen minutes before the end of the meeting, leaders will want to shift from the core discussion to a reflection and follow up. Depending on the discussion, this is a good time to ask people what they learned and start brainstorming about next steps. If the discussion needs more time, this is the time to schedule a follow up session.
- Gratitude before Goodbye (5 Minutes). Before wrapping up any retreat, it is important to leave time for people to express gratitude and appreciation. This can be done by asking a question like, “Before we close today, does anyone want to thank anyone or share something they are proud of the team for?” After people share, the leader can thank everyone for their time and participation and say goodbye.
JILL, WHAT CAN I DO? Organize a virtual retreat! Follow this simple roadmap and even consider sending employees a snack pack or drink mix in advance, so you can toast your team accomplishments at the end.