- In light of the COVID pandemic, it’s important to gauge employees’ preferences and comfort level, and give them a voice in the planning phase to help them feel safe in attending a retreat.
- Enable opportunities for meaningful connections to be made between team members, whether that’s breaking up into smaller groups for increased interaction, offering diverse activities, or establishing beloved traditions.
- Have a plan and basic structure for a retreat, but don’t be rigid. Allow people flexibility in choosing what to do so they can customize an enjoyable experience for themselves.
In the last few weeks, our team returned from our annual company retreat (theme: In It To Win It!) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After the last year and a half, it was great to be back with everyone in person. We can honestly say that we were all genuinely excited to see each other. A lot of other companies may say they enjoy being together, but at capSpire we actually mean it.
We’re intentional as an organization, and how we conduct our retreat is no different. Each year since our company was created in 2007, we’ve taken the time to step back from our day-to-day responsibilities for a concentrated period of time to better connect with each other and reflect about the organization and its future. It’s a significant part of the capSpire experience that we all anticipate each year.
So, what did we learn in preparing for our first in-person retreat during a pandemic? Here’s what we discovered to be the three most important tips for hosting a successful and fun retreat, especially in the COVID era.
- Be mindful of the current situation.
Although we’re excited to be at the point at which we can all be together again, we recognized that we needed to have some guidelines and parameters around our retreat so everyone would feel safe.
At the beginning of the year, we distributed a survey that asked our team members if they would prefer an in-person or virtual retreat for 2021. The majority chose in-person, so the planning began! We let everyone have the opportunity to change their minds in either direction at any time, and we put in place guidelines asking everyone who arrived in person to take a COVID test four days prior to arrival. Everyone went out of their way to make this happen, and it gave each attendee a better sense of safety.
Yes, it’s a few extra steps at the beginning, but it was well worth it to gauge everyone’s comfort level. The more you include everyone in the planning phase and accommodate group preferences, the better the turnout and the higher the excitement.
- Find a location that fits your company’s vibe. Once there, foster an environment that enables more connections to be made.
Because you can often find our team of consultants traveling around the world to visit clients, we stay in a lot of hotels. With that in mind, it’s our goal to make our retreat not feel like a “typical Tuesday.”
This means forgoing large conference center venues for retreat centers in which we can spread out, drive around in our beloved rented golf cart, play volleyball to our hearts’ content, and finish a 1,000-piece puzzle of cats on the beach. The priority is to create an atmosphere that feels like a quiet, peaceful escape from it all.
We want both the location and the size of groups to encourage collaboration. To create an environment in which everyone is engaged and feels confident in participating, we like to split everyone into smaller teams upon arrival. We create these teams to help bridge connections with all levels, locations, and teams throughout the organization. We sit with our assigned teams during the company meetings and then compete with them as well during our planned events and games.
Additionally, our retreat includes our company’s beloved traditions:
- We start the morning meeting with “ice breaker bingo,” during which we learn fun things like who has tattoos, who added to their indoor plant collection over the past year, and who carries their phone without a case.
- The previous year’s Ignite graduates choose a theme, create a shirt, and host a party each year. This year’s party theme was Minute to Win It. Previous themes have included Amazing Race, Survivor, and World Series. At this point, it’s become a favorite rite of passage.
- Employees who have hit the milestones of their fifth and tenth anniversaries with capSpire are acknowledged. Our 10-year anniversary group is officially inducted into the “Ten Timers Club.”
- Have a plan—but keep it loose.
It’s good to be prepared. People want to know what to expect generally, and no one wants to hang around idly wondering what to do. Each night we have different food trucks for fun and diverse dinner options, and we have games of every variety to enable organic interactions. We fully plan the logistics, agenda, and transportation, but give flexibility to how people spend their free time.
This type of event structuring allows room for organic movement and planning. Our team frequently initiates their own activities like volleyball tournaments, kickball matches, and fishing. There are also strategically placed games of every flavor from Spoons to Settlers of Catan and Cards Against Humanity that anyone can join.
If you’re walking around the lodge late at night and stumble across a group of team members roasting s’mores around a crackling fire under the stars, we’ve set that up as well. Feel free to join in—even if you had no idea what s’mores were previously. (That’s a true story.) It’s these unexpected encounters that make our retreats so memorable and meaningful.
Hopefully, it’s clear that we like to have fun and don’t believe in a business-as-usual approach. The fact that everyone actually wants to come to our retreat speaks volumes about the type of company we are and the team we’ve cultivated. It’s just one of the reasons why we’re consistently selected as a best place to work.
Perhaps this gives you some good ideas for organizing your company’s next retreat. Or maybe you’re a fun-loving, challenge-oriented problem solver who’s looking to join us at our next retreat?
For more information about what makes capSpire special and why our retreats are such a hit, read up on our unique culture.