Before You Plan Your Back-to-the-Office Retreat, Read This

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After over a year of working remotely, your team needs to reassess.

All of your organizing, trainings, actions and events have moved online.

What changes will you keep?

Which ones will you change?

A team retreat may seem like a natural option: get everyone in a room to figure it out. After all, now we can be in person!

But there’s something important you should consider before you do.

The Forgetting Curve

In 1880 a German psychologist named Herman Ebbinghaus conducted an experiment by memorizing random strings of letters.

What he found is that after learning something new, the brain forgets quite rapidly. On average, learners forget 90% of what they learn in just one month.

Source: https://elearningindustry.com/forgetting-curve-combat

Over years of study, Ebbinghaus found some effective ways to combat the forgetting curve using something called “spaced repetition”.

In order to retain knowledge, you don’t just review it once and move on. That doesn’t work. Neither does reviewing it over and over again like re-reading a book chapter to cram for a mid-term exam.

Instead, plan multiple times to review and gradually increase the time in-between.

Before you review each time, try to recall what you learned, this is called “active recall”.

You can apply this to your post-pandemic strategy sessions to help people put theory into practice.

The Spaced Strategy

A retreat, by design, removes people from their daily routines.

While that can reduce stress and increase focus, people eventually need to incorporate what they are talking about into their day-to-day.

To help your team do this, try the following:

  1. Schedule follow-up sessions in spaced repetition to measure progress on the goals you set during your retreat. Do this after two weeks, then after a month, then after six months. If you have regular team meetings you can set aside time on the agenda to do this.

  1. Assure that supervisors and team leaders are prepared with adequate questions to practice recall of agreements from the retreat. What goal did we name for our environmental advocacy work? What technique was introduced to use during our deep canvass? Incorporate this as part of measuring progress on team goals.

  1. Assure that any goals that are set meet the SMARTIE framework. Always take notes and save them in an easy-to-access place. That way you can compare what you name from memory to what you originally came up with as a team.

If people can’t remember it, then they can’t apply it.

To build a better world we need not just learning, but action.

So, are you planning a team retreat anytime soon? How will you assure that folks remember what is learned in your session?

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Riahl O’Malley and Indira Garmendia, co-founders