Generic name on thin cracking iceThe new year is sure to be filled with opportunity if we plan. Yes, I said it. If we plan. Though you may not be able to hold a traditional retreat with your bankers, here’s inspiration for a virtual event that gets everyone connected and moving your institution to new heights.

 It's as easy as 1-2-3.

1. create a theme

If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of a slumber party theme, a camp-out theme or something else “out there,” the time is now. When you announce the theme ahead of time, people will have the opportunity to work up a costume, special hat or a super comfy WFH outfit—whatever is appropriate. Include a contest for best retreat outfit and you’ll have people planning and buzzing ahead of time.

2. provide care packages (really good ones)

food: If your team were gathering in person, you’d feed them well. Starting with a good breakfast, grazing throughout the day, and maybe a happy hour would be part and parcel of a good retreat. That fuels a fun atmosphere and a lot of brainpower. So work with local caterers (your customers!?) to create packages that can be delivered for enjoyment during your event. 

swag: Now’s the time to give out some corporate swag that’s fitting with working from home or working in hybrid ways. Branded Ts or hoodies, insulated drinkware, halo lights for putting best faces forward, and quality ear buds are fun items that can also be used on regular daily video calls. They support your brand and let employees share their pride in your brand. Make sure the swag is high quality so people feel you appreciate them.

hands-on activities: A normal retreat would include time for fun surprises and action-oriented work. Giving people hands-on activities will engage all their senses and help them feel more connected to your virtual event. Play-Doh, scribble pads and stress balls will be appreciated. If you want to really knock their socks off, include a custom magic 8 ball.emoji sticks employee retreatOvercome difficulties of talking and muting with visual props that share feedback.

Since it can be difficult to navigate speaking and muting with a larger group of people, you should supply an array of popsicle sticks with emojis attached so attendees can hold them up to share their feedback at appropriate times. You could also include a few blanks so people can draw their own.

3. create strong interactive programming

goals: What do you want to accomplish? Define your goals for the day, then ask various teams in your company to help create different segments of the retreat that advance those goals. People support what they help build, so this is an opportunity to develop excitement and buy-in from the beginning.

maximize your tech: Keep it lively, changing the ways you mix groups and ask for input. Many online meeting platforms offer breakout rooms, polls, whiteboards, screen sharing and chat features. Be sure to make the most of these so your participants feel included in a conversation in instead of feeling like bored bystanders.

break it up: Combine elements of serious planning, enjoyment, team building and brand building. Here are some ideas for functional fun:

  • company trivia contest: ask questions throughout the day and award prizes to the winners. Questions can be about the company origin, its first address, first customer, original logo and tagline, first year’s sales, first expansion and more.
  • success stories: there’s no denying that 2020 has had challenges. Be sure to emphasize and celebrate successes and give credit to those who have helped create it. Can you share a “top 10” list? Make sure you can offer shout-outs to many different people and departments. Can they be announced by the CEO for added importance?
  • pet parade: who hasn’t enjoyed getting to know pets and family members during online meetings? Why not formalize it and let employees show off their important pets and people at home?

Don't wait. The time is now to set the tone for a successful 2021. Whether it's a pivot, innovation or simply maximizing your good fortune, it won't happen on its own. Wheeeee!

If you'd like to talk about your employee retreat, schedule a meeting with Martha Bartlett Piland to talk about building more love and loyalty for your institution.