Building Powerful Team Retreats Part 1 | Design & Delivery

This is the first of a two part series on building effective team retreats.

Vividly, I remember my first day as a staff trainer. I was clad in my McFinest, McCleanest, McBestest of uniforms…. McDonald’s green polyester. I was given a new gold embossed plastic name tag, with ‘Crew Trainer’ written on it. I had begun my climb up the corporate ladder. From being a burger flipping, minimum wage earning, lowly crew member I had grasped the next rung and rose into a position where I was permitted to share the trade secrets of the Big Mac and McChicken… as the prestigious Crew Trainer!

Oh, how I remember the sparkle in the eyes of each new crew as I showed them the secrets that my trainer had passed on to me. Invaluable life affirming skills like: how to place reconstituted onions perfectly on every Big Mac; how to mop floors until they were McClean; and how to scrape the caked on, baked on grease from the cooking grills! Everything that made us uniquely McDonald’s!

The training skills that I learned from McDonald’s may seem obscure in their application to the recreation industry. Frankly, they are if you take them for their surface value. But in my business of designing and implementing high quality training programs, I have found no better benchmark than McDonald’s. So many years ago, this multinational corporation taught me a very important thing about staff training and development. Simply, that every staff training program has the ability to create empowered, effective, and efficient human resources. Period.

I’m going to show you how to raise the roof on your staff training and development program. You’re going to have to read, think about, spill coffee on, talk with your peers about, implement, and evaluate the following pages to amass their total value. I’m going to share tricks in design and delivery and considerations for program components,that have shown phenomenal results for my clients. Now, my dad always told me that the best place to start is at the beginning. So we’ll do just that.

Design and Delivery

Step 1: Terminal Objective

Creation of an effective and efficient program requires that you have a clear picture of what you desire to achieve. You can establish your training and development vision by writing a Terminal Objective. This objective is kind of like your organizational mission statement but targeted specifically at your educational program. This statement should be less than 50 words and vision oriented. It should define your learner, program timeframe, and provide an umbrella for specific learning outcomes. When you have hit all the components of the previous checklist you have created a good Terminal Objective. Here is an example:

The Marketing Department of ABLE Communications will be engaged in a 3 day experiential based training and development retreat, which will position them for long term personal, team, and organizational success.

Step 2: Enabling Objectives

Next, take your Terminal Objective and think about what specific things you need to do to make sure that you achieve it. This checklist of needs will become your Enabling Objectives. These objectives will aid you in choosing training components and conducting a final evaluation of the program. Enabling Objectives should include: an action verb; a specific learning objective; and a description of who is involved in the learning in 20 words or less. For example:

Individuals from the Marketing Department will be able to:
– create a full year blueprint of their upcoming activities; develop team related behaviors;
– review specific policies and procedures;
– create individual indicators of success;
– create a behavioral contract for all department members;
– and have fun.

Step 3: Delivery Style

Vital to your training and development success is your ability to provide experiences that reflect your Enabling Objectives in a manner that is educationally appropriate for your learners. Basically, this means you need to provide your program in a way that your learners want to learn it. Find ways to provide sessions that meet your learners ways, speeds, and styles of learning. Some examples include:

Experiential and Adventure Based Learning Sessions are both great training tools for developing staff and students. Effectively conducted, these educational pedagogy’s utilize learners’ major learning domains (kinesthetic, visual, and cognitive). Outcomes for learners include: experience based judgment; development of self esteem, worth, and/or concept; experience risk taking behaviors; create team related behaviors; soft skill development (i.e. leadership, communication, etc.); and a whole bunch of fun.

Professional Speakers are excellent training resources. If you can find speakers who can successfully meet the educational needs of your learners these individuals can be invaluable. Learning outcomes that speakers can effectively meet include, but are not limited to; motivation, sales and marketing, health and wellness, human behavior, and personal planning. Speak with colleagues and trainees to find out which speakers will meet your program’s specific needs.

Open Spaces these sessions are something relatively new to training and development… but have shown me super results! Open Spaces are a great way to meet the needs of today’s chaotic, information oriented, and opinionated society. The technique is simple with only two rules. First, find something you would like to talk about related to anything at all and share it with others. Second, if you look at your feet it is time to move to another dialogue group. The facilitator places paper and markers in the center of a big room lined with round tables with a recorder for each table (human or automated). Learners come to the center, grab a marker, and in big letters write what they want to talk about on the paper. They scream out loud what it is, then position themselves at a table. People who don’t start their own groups go and join dialogue groups. After the session, compile the information from the recorders and share it with your learners, or do away with the recorders and have dialogue groups present what was learned.

Consultants can be valuable when designing your training and development program mix. These individuals vary in focus area as much as a chameleon varies in color on a plaid kilt. Consultants are an advantage to you as they give you the ability to hire the person, short term, that will best meet the specific needs of your training program. For example, your program might require outside development on new games and writing a constitution. By hiring two separate consultants your program will benefit from expert information in both areas. This helps you to meet your Enabling Objectives by hitting your specific outcomes head on. You are creating learning experiences that meet accepted peer standards and your learners specific learning needs.

In-house trainers can be your most cost effective providers of learning experiences. Look within the organization to find out what specific competencies the members of the workplace possess. These members can be valuable in providing training experiences for several reasons: they understand the organizations policies and procedures; they are already on the payroll; their participation adds value to their involvement within the organization; and they will be available for ongoing consultation with the staff members they train.

Step 4: Delivery Environment

Once you have decided on the type(s) of delivery style(s) that you are going to utilize to conduct your training and development program then you need to step into choosing the learning environment. In my experience this component of the program is often undervalued in the planning process. This is an unfortunate reality. Choosing the delivery environment can be a vital decision that could very well alter the specific learning outcomes of your training program.

By matching your delivery styles, learner needs, and, of course, budget with appropriate learning environments you will create a hybrid learning experience! People need to be comfortable in their learning environment as it helps them easily transfer the learning into everyday life. We’ve all heard our staff say things like, “remember when we were at camp and we played that mouse trap game and decided if ‘x’ happened we would do ‘y’.” A positive environment attaches easily to specific learning outcomes and results in easier recall, reflection, and application of desired learning.

Some of the learning environments that my clients utilize include:

Camp can be an excellent immersion environment for learners who need to know how to work well with each other really fast. I have had considerable success with training programs at camp designed for people working together as short-term intact work teams (i.e. Residence Assistants, Orientation Leaders, Summer Staff, Departments etc.). The success is created because you have the opportunity to practice a lot of group related behaviors like teambuilding, communication, group dynamics, etc. in a unique and relaxing environment. In addition, this environment is also conducive to the application of experiential and adventure based learning tools. A camp environment challenges people easily in many learning domains particularly kinesthetic and visual.

Workshop is a quick way to get learners together in a cost effective manner. The typical workshop that I run is about 4 hours in length. Workshops are used best as check in points within your training plan. For example, hold a workshop for summer staff mid-summer to reenergize them with more new games and renewed motivation. This quick fix session is a useful means of passing on information in a timely fashion. Being timely and effective is especially important when you are training as you are using up people’s valuable work hours. The outcomes need to be directly relevant to the participants’ immediate needs or they will become lost in wanting to do more job related work. At the same time, workshops can offer that break that everyone needs. I have seen effective managers use these times to run obscure workshops at a family picnic, going out for ice cream, or playing pick up basketball with their staff.

Training Centers offer diverse programs that can benefit learners by meeting specific learning needs. Training Centers offer learning specific to the individual needs of a particular program in areas that can benefit your staff team from time management to white water paddling skills. Going away to a Training Center is often seen a reward recognizing a job well done by an employee. When you send an employee to a Training Center you create skills that can be shared with other staff members through in-house training. Encourage your employees to search out courses that they want to take and send them!

Regular Meetings, when run effectively, can be great opportunities for training and development of your staff. One format that is extremely beneficial is
scheduling a 20 minute session on an open topic for a pair of staff members to facilitate. They choose what they want to share and teach it to the rest of your staff. Quick and dirty new skill development!

Step 5: Evaluation

The final step in the design and delivery of your training and development scheme is to decide on how and when to evaluate the outcomes. This section is made easier with the Enabling Objectives that you created in Step 2. Choose a way to create dialogue with your learners about what they just learned with direct reference to the Enabling Objectives. The information that you gather will help position your organization to provide more effective, efficient, and empowering training and development sessions in the future. Some techniques that you could choose from include:

Formative Evaluation:

An applied definition for formative evaluation is a type of evaluative strategy that helps you continuously and progressively develop your training session(s) to meet the immediate needs of your learners during the program itself. For example, in between sessions at a training camp you may check with your learners on their personal comfort level with providing a similar training program at a future date on a scale of 1 to 10. Then ask them what they need more practice with to become more comfortable with providing the training.

Summative Evaluation:

A summative evaluation is defined as the type of evaluative strategy that helps you create a final picture of the program’s learning outcomes. As an example, you may conduct a written evaluation of the program, or provide learners with 3 minutes to verbally sum up the experience and provide growth areas to the rest of the group.

Continuous Improvement:

This is a concept that I am particularly partial to. We live in an era of change and organizations need to see their training and development needs as fluid responsibilities. Going away for the yearly retreat is great, but in addition to that, allow your training needs and provision to flow like water from one crevasse to another. Stay in touch with your learners and find out what their ongoing needs are. Create opportunities that will allow learners to continuously improve themselves. This requires that you stay in touch with your learners and empower them to continuously evaluate their position and direction.

Part 2:


Tyler Hayden

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