A virtual team retreat replaces the traditional, expensive, and time-consuming face-to-face retreat.
Mayo Clinic’s Employee Learning & Development (ELD) team
Similar to organizations throughout the world, there is a significant increase in virtual teams at Mayo Clinic, with staff working in 38 states. With teamwork as one of Mayo Clinic’s foundational values, colleagues must examine new opportunities for building rapport and supporting teammates dispersed across geographical locations.
As a result, teams are exploring alternatives to expensive, time-consuming, face-to-face retreats. After successfully launching various virtual learning and development programs, ELD decided to use the same concepts and principles to develop a virtual retreat.
Using lessons learned from establishing and building virtual training programs, ELD planned and prepared for a virtual retreat that proved to be inclusive, dynamic, and allow for innovative team building. Participants attended the retreat via a virtual learning platform, all from the comfort of their own workstations.
ELD identified a theme (the Olympics) to tie the multiday retreat together and engage participants in a dynamic way. Using the theme to build the agenda, the team incorporated an opening ceremony, events, and closing ceremony, as well as facilitated brain breaks. ELD shortened what was previously a full two-day retreat to only six hours.
One of the highlights of this event was a skilled colleague who facilitated an exercise that prepared the team for the work to be accomplished. Implementing many techniques used in face-to-face sessions—verbal discussion, powerful questions, excitement of attendees—the group identified team and individual strengths and opportunities for improvement. These activities were conducive to creating a psychologically safe and fun environment for the retreat.
In addition, breakout sessions, small group discussions, polls, whiteboards, and other software tools helped to keep team members engaged and participating throughout.
Holding a virtual retreat ensured a level playing field for all involved. With a computer-based virtual retreat, participants joined in the discussion from their own space and experienced the retreat in the same way, avoiding the isolation and disappointment that often results if a portion of the team participates remotely. In previous years, this team incurred almost $thousands in travel, lodging, and food expenses for eight team members to travel. This year, it incurred no additional cost.
Qualitative data from retreat participants reveal positive outcomes. Action items and next steps were identified and implemented shortly after the retreat. Word spread quickly about the team’s success and other work units throughout the organization reached out for more information, guidance, and recommendations for conducting their own virtual retreats.
Through focused design and preparation, virtual retreats are effective, efficient, and dynamic. As organizations continue to experience an increase in virtual teams, the virtual retreat framework is a model to implement now and in the future.
Explore new options and think outside the box. Healthcare is, so should you.