Building Employee Culture and Self Love: 2020 Hitch Studio All-Employee Retreat

LOVE TANK = FULL. It’s always one of my favorite nights of the year. It was the all-employee retreat!!! This is my way of building friendships and camaraderie among our employees and being able to thank them in person with my whole heart. The theme for the evening: Self Care + Love. We each filled out gratitude sheets about each other, learned what our top “Appreciation Languages/Love Languages” were, got raises (!), opened gift bags full of self care items (including a lovely Hitch face mask) and practiced yoga to teach us how to love and appreciate our bodies. I totally loved it and I hope all the employees were able to take a piece of new information to love and grow themselves more. That’s what these are all about — growing ourselves, our friendships, and Hitch Studio. I can’t wait for our spring retreat!! I’m already planning it. To my Hitch team + family: How can I possibly tell you all how thankful I am for each of your talents and optimism you bring to Hitch? I guess I’ll use The 5 Appreciation Languages.

I think all-employee retreats twice a year are so important. But don’t just take it from me. Here are some testimonials from our Hitch Studio employees:

I have participated in five or six Hitch retreats throughout my time as a Hitch employee. Each one was thoughtfully curated by Renee. It is clear to see how much she loves and supports her staff. Each retreat has been educational and added value to each employee. The fall 2020 retreat focused on self-care and the five love languages; words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, gift giving, and physical touch. Renee carefully implemented each of these into our event. For words of affirmation, we do a gratitude board. There is an envelope with each employee’s name on it; we insert notes in each envelope reminding everyone why we are grateful for them and why we love working with them. For acts of service, Renee took the time to plan this event and coordinate the activities so that we could all attend. Obviously, Renee did a great job creating quality time for our tribe. We got to spend two hours together in a non-working setting. Lastly, Renee gifted us each with a self-care giftbag that included the book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White. Our all-employee retreats are very important because it shows that our employer (Renee) cares about us. We are more than just her staff. We are a family. We are cared for and we are appreciated. Not only does the retreat prove to us how much Renee loves us, but we also get to know each other on a more personal level. To round out this year’s retreat, Renee booked us a 30 minute yoga flow session. She truly cares about our wellbeing as employees, students, and individuals. This year has been stressful for everyone, to say the least, but events like this are what we need to keep pushing forward. I am so thankful to have Renee as my boss. She has created a wonderful tribe of empowering and inspirational women. 

~Tessa Ihnen, Certified Wedding Planner, Sioux Falls Division Manager

The Hitch employee retreat was a true representation of how Renee and her team invest their time and energy into everything that they do. Not only were we able to spend time together growing as a team, but we were able to do some personal growth challenges that opened my mind as an individual. One exercise that we completed was a quiz, based on the book “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” by Gary Chapman and Paul White. Each individual was able to learn their top languages, some of which were service, quality time, affirmation, physical touch, and tangible gifts. By learning these top languages, we will be able to be more aware of how we interact and appreciate our co-workers as we work. We were led by the owner of Prairie Soul Yoga in a much-needed yoga session, where we were able to release stress and pressure. Because of the positivity and growth that this retreat brought, the Hitch Studio team is now made stronger and we are ready to assist you with all of your event needs with open arms.

~ Shania Knutson, Wedding Associate

Hitch Studio holds a very special place in my heart. Renee and the rest of the staff at Hitch are some of the most hardworking, determined, and kind individuals I have ever met. The Hitch retreat this Fall was focused on taking time to reflect on self-care. As a college student, life tends to get very stressful. The Hitch retreat was just what I needed! We discussed our languages of appreciation in the work place, discussed self-care tips, and even did some yoga! The whole evening truly filled my “love tank” as Renee would say. Throughout wedding season, the Hitch team is very busy. The retreat gave everyone an night to slow down and relax. Thank you Renee for the wonderful evening!
~Galle Waletich, Wedding Associate

Being an employee at Hitch Studio means many things; you are valued, your work matters, and you are part of an amazing team. This year’s fall 2020 retreat was a great evening with an amazing group of ladies. We learned our personal Appreciation Languages and self-care tips. Learning my top 3 Appreciation Languages and my coworkers made me realize how much my coworkers help me and ways I can make my coworkers feel appreciated when they help me out with projects! It also let my managers know how I feel appreciated and valued as an employee. These retreats bring all of us together and it made me feel valued. It was a great way to help kick-off our busy fall wedding season!
~Aryanna Mulroy, Wedding Associate

In case you were wondering, here is my full schedule for the evening, along with the outline for the book “The 5 Appreciation Languages”:

All-Employee Retreat Agenda: Theme is Self Care

Schedule for the Fall 2020 All-Employee Retreat:

  • 6:00 p.m. – Meet at Ben Franklin Event Hall in Brookings, SD for snacks + drinks, introductions and gift bags. 
  • 6:15 p.m. – Self-care introduction and Appreciation Languages at Work introduction
  • 6:30 p.m. – Gratitude Board and Activity
  • 7:00 p.m. – Activity Review
  • 7:30 p.m. – Group photo (with masks)
  • 7:40 p.m. – Self-care talk and introductory yoga with Prairie Soul Yoga
  • 8:20 p.m. – Yoga concludes and final announcements
  • 8:30 p.m. – Conclude

Introduction: Name tags

  • Write your name at the top, then make room for these four symbols below. This will be our ice-breaker as you make conversation tonight!
    • When you were a kid, were you a rule follower or rule breaker? 
      • Write F for follower or B for breaker
    • Would you rather take a one-month vacation in the city you live in or a one-week vacation anywhere in the world? 
      • Write MONTH or WEEK
    • Ask me about the song I know by heart. 
      • Put a star on your nametag
    • I’ve worked at Hitch Studio this many years
      • Put a number of years with a circle around it

Self-care tips to help you:

  • What is self care?
    • It’s more than chocolate and bubble baths, especially during a pandemic. It’s what YOU need to feel balanced. (Look in your gift bags!)
    • Helps increase self-esteem.
    • Increases a sense of normality by letting you feel connected to previous rituals and routines.
    • Gives you a sense of control over something, keeping you grounded during times when you feel a lack of control in other areas.
    • Allows you the time and space to practice mindfulness.
  • Ways to get good at self-care:
    • Maintain your personal appearance and upkeep (hair, skin, nails. mani, pedi, facial) (Look in your gift bags!)
    • Create healthy habits (eating vegetables, etc.) and avoid mindless snacking
    • Staying active (8,000-10,000 steps, yoga, etc.)
    • At-home massages and baths (Epsom salt baths with lavender essential oil)
    • Do something fun + new! (Learn to dance, gratitude journal, play guitar, clean, bake, draw/paint, play games, read, focus on faith)
    • Ask for help if you need it. People love to help!
    • Get good sleep (keep your sleeping patterns). Your mood and immune system both benefit from it!
    • Drink lots of water (half your body weight in ounces per day)
    • Ease the stress and find ways to stay connected
    • Show more love. So many people are hanging on by a thread by now; financially, emotionally, spiritually… and lately; all we see is for or against. May we be respectful of each other’s decisions. 

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace 

(by Gary Chapman & Paul White)

Do you appreciate your co-workers and friends? The REAL question is: “Do they feel appreciated”?

  • “Feeling appreciated is so important because each of us wants to know that we’re doing matters.”

A big part of self-care is knowing how you want to be loved and appreciated — and then how to spread the love by lifting others up, using their Appreciation Language. You make a significant impact when you show appreciation toward others.

You will take an assesment of 30 questions, which will direct you to your primary and secondary langauges of appreciation.

Appreciation Language #1: Words of Affirmation

  • Be specific: (Instead of “Good job, everyone!”, you could say, “One of the things I admire about you is that you are always optimistic. I sometimes get discouraged, but when I talk with you, I always go away with a more positive perspective. I appreciate that.” or “You’re a really compassionate person. You genuinely seek to understand people who are expressing frustration and I truly admire you for the that.”
  • Give it the right way: 40-50% of employees do not want to receive recognition in front of a large group.
  • Tip: This is the MOST desired Appreciation Language. 2/3 of people say it’s their first or second love language.

Appreciation Language #2: Quality Time

  • Find the right kind: Do you want time with your co-workers for a drink after work? Do you want Renee’s undivided attention to tell her about how things are going, accomplishments, frustrations, suggestions? Do you like going out to eat together as a small group? Volunteering together?
  • Tip: Find their favorite “Quality Time” and offer it, even if it isn’t your Appreciation Language.

Appreciation Language #3: Acts of Service 

  • How to fill their love tank: People who like this language, love hearing, “What can I do to help?”  and “Is there anything I could do for you that would make your work go better?” 
  • Tip: Use the word “make your work go better” instead of “eaiser”.
  • Tip: Most people will decline your offer for help. Instead say, “Really, I can stay 20-30 minutes longer. Isn’t there something I could do that would help a little?
  • Tip: People who love Acts of Service, are often perfectionists, so 1. Ask before you help. 2. Don’t leave your post to help. 3. Do the help their way. 4. Do it voluntarily and with a good attitude. 5. Complete what you start.
  • Tip: Ask “What would be helpful to you? How would you like the task done? When would be the best time to help?

Appreciation Language #4: Tangible Gifts

  • What to give: Do they want a small, personal gift (their favorite cup of coffee)? Do they want tickets to a concert? Food (bagels, pizza, treats?), gift card to the spa? Time off?
  • This isn’t raises and bonuses. It’s not a recognition program (which is often based on performance and longevity). SURPRISE!
  • This is the least desired Appreciation Language (6-7%), but that doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful.
  • Tip: People who love tangible gifts might want time off, to come in late, paid lunches, rather than flowers or an award.
  • What I found interesting: For younger workers, a handwritten note of encouragement adds NO VALUE to them. This is true for 50% of twenty-something women. What they’d rather have is a speedy feedback response (electronically is fastest, so that’s what they prefer).

Appreciation Language #5: Physical Touch

  • Appropriate ways to express physical touch: hand shake, high five, or a hug from a close friend/associate.
  • Although Physical Touch wasn’t on the MBA inventory, it’s very important to self care.
  • Tip: If you grew up in a “touchy-feely” family, it will be important to determine if touches are affirming or irritating to others. Read their body language.
  • More than half of American women have experience unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances from men. (Abuse)
  • People in this category really struggled during the pandemic, saying “Not expressing physical touch feels like ‘sitting back in loneliness and physical isolation’”.
  • Example: When I know you can’t hear me during the loud music when taking down a wedding, I often put my hand on your back to let you know I’m talking to you — or not to startle you.
  • Example: Former co-worker during presentations would touch your shoulders. How to say “I don’t feel comfortable with that.”

How to know/learn your friends’, significant other’s or co-workers’ appreciation language if they haven’t taken this quiz:

  • What do they request of others? (Do you want to go shopping, take a trip, come over for dinner?) (Does this look alright? Did I do it the way you wanted? Do you think I did the right thing?) 
  • What do they complain about? “No one even got me a birthday card, flowers or a gift”. “I’m so overwhelmed and nobody offers to help me. They just go out for drinks after work and leave me to do all the work.”
  • Ask them. “When you’ve been discouraged in the past, what has someone done that you found encouraging?”

Tips for “Love/Appeciation Languages” in any relationship:

  • Communicating in our least important love language takes effort. It doesn’t come naturally.
  • Do your Appreciation Languages and Love Languages ever overlap? Yes.
  • Do your Languages ever change? Yes, but they do stay quite stable. 

Ending Notes:

  • Write one more gratitude sheet using the words of affirmation we learned tonight.
  • What are themes you want for next time? It’s so important to me that you get a lot out of these retreats!

If you are considering hosting an employee retreat with your staff, I would highly encourage it. It boosts morale, builds your positive employee culture, allows you to have one-on-one time with your staff, and gives them a chance to build relationships outside of work (I’ve had employees be in each others’ weddings, be roommates, be best friends, etc. and it warms my heart that Hitch could be that bridge of friendship for them). I hope this outline helps inspire something for you! We’ve had themes like finances, dinner etiquette, public speaking 101, self defense, Appreciation Languages, and more. I had a request for dinner etiquette training again for the spring along with a creative element (Napkin folding?! Fresh floral arranging!? Crafting?!), so I can’t wait to tell you about the next retreat! Good luck with yours!

Wishing you all the best,

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