How Our Hitch Studio Employee Retreats Improve Our Company Culture

I have a unique employee situation as a wedding planner and wedding decorator, so I feel like I need to do unique all-employee retreats to match that! The majority of my employees work from midnight until 1:30 a.m. and rarely do we do much “bonding” during that REALLY late night (except giggle at drunk people from the wedding dance together). Plus, I have over 20 employees who rarely ALL come together at one event. I’ll have four team members at one wedding, five at another. So, to keep our relationships strong and company culture vibrant, I schedule “All-Employee Retreats” twice a year. These are important to me because I value my employees so much and I am a teacher at heart, so every retreat has a learning component to it. Actually, all of our retreats have three components:

  1. Education
  2. Gratitude
  3. Gift/Craft/Some kind of take-away

As far as education, we’ve done retreat topics like self defense (we load our van late at night and in some very dark places, so I wanted to make sure my team knew how to defend themselves), yoga + love languages, speaking skills 101, resume building, entrepreneurship panel, and more. This particular retreat? I wanted to teach them dinner etiquette throughout a 5-course meal. I also taught them 5 napkin folds to use around their dinner tables!

For gratitude, I have something called the gratitude board with all of our names posted on envelopes. Each person is given 3-5 gratitude slips and they can compliment another team member about how grateful they are for that person’s particular qualities. At the end of the night, you get to take home an envelope full of gratitude as a feel-good element! Another value of mine is optimism and gratitude.

For the gift/craft/take-away portion, this is usually something like a cute charm necklace with a safety whistle (for the self-defense class), or a notebook/pen set for the resume class. This time, I’m gifting each of them with fancy crystal wine glasses and dinner name/place setting cards.

I know I ask a lot of my employees. It’s early mornings. It’s late nights. It’s drunk people. It’s heavy lifting. It’s a lot of travel. So, this is my way to create connection and appreciation among them.

Here’s what one of my employees, Lyric had to say:

I’m sure most people at some point in their life have been on some sort of job retreat where they do forced activities to “bond” with people they barely know or have never even met. This sounds quite intimidating and unappealing to many! Well, what if I told you that you could be sitting in a room with your 22 closest friends, eating a 5 course meal, sharing stories, learning about dinner etiquette, and writing gratitude notes to each other? This sounds like a MUCH better time!

Before the first retreat, I was a little skeptical of how “fun” it would be. First of all, I didn’t know anyone, and second, I had only ever heard about the stereotypical retreats that I mentioned above. This retreat wasn’t lame at all. As a matter of fact, I went home with 10 new friends, public speaking skills, a bag full of thoughtful gifts, a full belly, and an even fuller heart. I couldn’t wait for the next one!

Fast forward to the most recent retreat; the one where we all sat down to a 5-course meal. We were greeted at the door by Renee’s smile, then welcomed into a fully decorated banquet room with gifts and activities waiting for us. Throughout the night, we got to mix business with fun by trying new napkin folds, which is a skill we will all use at weddings, that we could use at our own tables at home! We also filled our bellies with delicious food and wine while learning about formal dinner etiquette. In between courses, we got to engage in meaningful conversations with the women at our tables, learning about each other’s hopes, heartaches, and heroes. We got to celebrate the college graduates and our new team members, too. Near the end of the night, we wrote each other love-notes expressing our gratitude for one another so that we could all leave feeling loved and appreciated.

Our retreats continue to grow in attendance. This is a clear sign that the team members at Hitch WANT to come. They WANT to participate, laugh, enjoy, and share. I love that Renee takes the time and care to create such a positive environment to learn and grow in.

These are not your stereotypical retreats; they are sooo much more.

Take a look at the photos below of our dinner etiquette employee retreat. I hope this sparks some ideas for your team! It’s much more than taking them bowling. It’s education + gratitude + take-aways.

Here are what the employees said about the retreat afterwards:

” I loved the theme, and I tend to be shy and reserved, but i felt so welcome.”

“Loved getting to meet people, having something useful to take away from it and being able to learn more about Hitch culture, especially as a newer employee.”

“I think it was so well organized, and there was plenty of time in advance so that I could plan ahead and put it into my busy schedule as early as possible! I think the time length was perfect. I loved having enough time to mingle with my table members between activities. I think this is so important for these retreats – to get that quality time to see your fellow teammates.”

” There is always a variety of events and I love that we just get a space to get to know each other and learn a new skill.”

“The food was delicious and I feel like I learned so much!! I even shared what I learned with my family when I got home!”

“I met new people, had amazing food, and learned some new things! It was very uplifting and definitely worthwhile.”

“I loved the program. I think that it is a great life skill, to know proper table etiquette. I loved learning more about wine also. The gratitude activity was great!”

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