I feel like I’ve planned hundreds of in-service days but the truth is that it never gets any easier. It only gets harder every time especially if it’s with the same team. I don’t want them to be bored so I need to make sure that every time I plan one, it is going to add value to their work, their careers or their lives.
Let’s take a step back. What do I even mean by an in-service day? This could mean a lot of things. When I talk about an in-service day, I’m referring to a day set aside at least a few times per year where a team gets together, preferably off-site (not at work), to reflect, reenergize and strategize. There are so many reasons why having in-service days is so important:
- It’s time to do team building, for us to get to know each other better and for us to work better together.
- It’s time to recharge and get excited about our work again, or maybe more excited than we were before.
- It’s time to engage in some reflection, remember why we do what we do (mission and vision) and get refocused on our core values.
- It’s time to plan for the future (strategy) without interruptions from our day-to-day work in the office.
- It’s time to learn and grow as individuals and as a team, to gain new knowledge and skills and to make improvements to products, services or processes.
- It’s a time to clarify expectations and get everyone on the same page.
So, how do I plan a fun and productive in-service day? It’s just like planning any event. It takes committing time to it and depending on the goal, some resources.
Venue and Food
It’s important to pick a venue away from work. If an organization has a big budget, these in-service days could be more extravagant but it can also be done for a very low cost. I plan most of mine at free venues like the local library, park district or village hall.
Be sure to serve breakfast, lunch and snacks. Depending on the agenda, these days can feel very long. If budget is tight, do it potluck style and have everyone bring in their favorite things to share.
Agenda and Presenters
Prepare an agenda and communicate it ahead of time. Determine estimated times for each topic as well as presenters or facilitators. Give the presenters and facilitators ample time to prepare their content and return it to be organized appropriately.
Be sure the agenda includes a good mix of fun activities and productive discussions and that these are alternating on the agenda throughout the day. If all the fun happens in the morning, the audience will be bored by lunch time.
Of course, ensure that all technology works appropriately. Confirm that a laptop, projector and all cords are available for use.
Be sure to incorporate technology into the day too, when possible. This can be in the form of polls, quizzes or games on a mobile phone, videos or interactive iPad activities. Don’t set “no cell phone” rules, please! It’s almost 2017! Use their phones to your advantage to engage them!
Learning and Activities
Plan learning opportunities and activities into the day. There should always be some sort of professional development to help the team gain new insights, knowledge, skills or experiences.
Be sure that learning opportunities are interactive, not one-way. Don’t lecture!
Don’t forget to celebrate! Not only is it a long day but if it is productive as planned, the team deserves some down time. Take them out for a happy hour. Informal team building is just as good as formal team building!
Be sure to thank the team for their participation and engagement throughout the day.
It’s planning time! Dive in and plan a first or next in-service day to increase employee engagement and team building.
Lotus is also on Instagram as odaadvocate, Snapchat as lotusyon and Periscope as lotus_yon.