Congratulations! You crushed your staff retreat. You had a theme and went off-site; each member of your team led a session and participated in their teammates’ sessions; you asked your CEO anything (our Chief Whaler’s favorite James Bond? Sean Connery), scheduled in downtime, and made the most of the time you had to stop, collaborate, and listen.
A good staff retreat is like a good piece of content marketing: It has to inspire further action otherwise its efficacy is limited. And much like a staff retreat, the follow-up work afterwards doesn’t just… happen. To go with our 7 tips for planning a staff retreat, here are our 7 tips for what to do after the retreat to make it really count.
1. Plan your Post-Retreat While on Retreat
As your teammates go through sessions and presentations, take notes (written or mental) as to what’s sticking and where you may want to dive deeper. Make a series of “dots” for key takeaways — and ask everyone to add theirs — and see where they can be connected. On our last Whole Whale staff retreat, one of our fellow whalers led a rapid ideation session in which we wrote down ideas for improving three areas of our business on Post-It notes. The idea was to generate as many as possible, knowing that not all of them would be viable (much as we would love a massage therapist on retainer…) but starting with solutions allowed us to see patterns of areas that could use some attention.
2. Don’t Go Back on the Grid the Minute You Go off Retreat…
If you’re going off-site for your retreat (and even if you aren’t), don’t rush to dive back into your inbox the minute you return to civilization. Whether your retreat ends at 6pm on a Sunday or 2pm on a Thursday, take the rest of the day to let all of the information, feedback, and ideas land fully. As Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “When an idea thinks it has found somebody – say, you – who might be able to bring it into the world, the idea will pay you a visit. It will try to get your attention. Mostly, you will not notice.… The idea will try to wave you down (perhaps for a few moments; perhaps for a few months; perhaps even for a few years), but when it finally realizes that you’re oblivious to its message, it will move on to someone else.”
Give your ideas the rest of the day to flag down your attention (or at least give yourself the rest of the day to enjoy a bit of self-care). Your inbox will be there the next day. We promise.
3. …But When You Do Go Back Online, Make an Action Plan
Remember what we said about taking notes during the retreat? Once you’re back in the office, start planning your next steps based on the feedback you received. At Whole Whale, our last retreat ended on a Thursday. Come Friday morning, we were setting up projects and assigning tasks in Asana for next steps on several ideas that came out of our sessions.
Much in the same way that everyone on retreat presents, everyone on retreat also helps with making the next steps, be they big or small. For example, each of us at Whole Whale were each tasked with watching videos taken of ourselves during a public speaking session. (Protip: When planning your retreat sessions, think about what homework can be assigned to ensure that there’s something to connect retreat with the rest of the world.)
4. Keep Saying “Yes, And”
What happens on retreat doesn’t have to stay on retreat! Using the improv principle of “Yes, and” instead of “No/You’re wrong/But/Can’t” is something we use to keep retreats positive, open, and collaborative. And it’s an easy #retreatvibe to bring back into the office. Try it for a week and see how this small tweak of language impacts group creativity and productivity.
5. Get Personal with your Colleagues
Chances are on retreat you discovered something new about each member of your team. Maybe one of your colleagues moonlights as a stand-up comedian; maybe you have multiple published authors on your staff.
A “Beverage-of-Choice” is a catchall for any coffee/beer/kombucha/matcha/unicorn frappuccino you and your colleagues want to grab for a regular one-on-one check-in. It’s a good chance to catch up on bigger picture items on the business agenda, but also a nice time to see how their improv classes are going or which ramen joint they’re most excited about trying.
On a broader scale, try identifying some opportunities for informal group hangs for your team. We at Whole Whale love the summer because longer days and nicer weather mean more opportunities to try group activities like yoga, barbecues, or rock climbing — activities we discovered a shared interest in thanks in part to our time on retreat.
6. Start Planning Your Next Retreat
At the end of your staff retreat, there should be a buzz of excitement — a renewed sense of energy and commitment to the mission of the organization. It’s the perfect time to start thinking about your next retreat, whether that’s in 3 months, 6 months, or a year. Was the venue a win? Is there something you thought of as a potential theme for next year? Capitalize on the energy from this retreat and use it to make sure your next one goes even further up the charts.
7. Don’t Forget to Say “Thank You”
Thank everyone for making the time to attend. Thank everyone for planning (including anyone who was responsible for the overall logistics of planning if it wasn’t you). And if you were off-site, thank the Airbnb host who let you and your team take over their house for a few days. Retreats take a lot of time and bandwidth, but they’re also how we get some of our best ideas.