Field Trips Educational, Refreshing for Work Teams

Posted by Kristin Arnold on September 19, 2008

One of the best ways to educate and energize your team is to take a continuing education trip together.  Not only will the team learn great new ideas, it will share in a powerful team-building experience, if all goes well.

Unfortunately, many teams just decide to “up and go” and then return terribly disappointed.  Charlene White, a Norfolk-based orthodontist consultant, has some great ideas to plan a terrific continuing education trip with your team:

Know Thy Purpose.  Why does your team want to go on a “field trip” together?  What do you want to learn?  What’s the best way to learn this information?  Where do you want to go?  Many teams like to go to a workshop together.  Others like to visit a team in the same industry (e.g., an orthodontist team visits another orthodontist’s practice).  Or “benchmark” a different industry that performs similar processes (e.g., a hospital emergency room team visited a NASCAR pit crew!).

Who, me?  If you like to take trips with your team, make this very clear in the hiring process and your job description.  If this isn’t a clear expectation, then be sensitive to individual responses.  Not wanting to go on a trip does not necessarily mean that the person is not a team player.  It is much better to make the trip an option rather than a demand.

Fun vs. Education.  Try to balance the fun and the learning.  Make sure that the expectations for education are outlined in advance, including the meetings that they are expected to attend and even curfews, if appropriate.

Describe the Details.  Conflicts will occur if people don’t know what’s going on.  Charlene recommends a wonderful “Continuing Education Trip Guide” form to prevent misunderstandings.  She recommends that the team come together to go through the details and to ask/answer any questions about the trip.  Hearing things through the grapevine creates problems.

Keep a Journal.  When going on a multi-day trip, exciting events and insightful information might get lost.  Encourage team members to write down their insights as they arise or to spend a few moments at the end of the day to summarize the tidbits and lessons learned.

Compensation.  The payment of hourly wages or salary should be clearly stated in advance of the trip.  While your organization’s policies probably provide some guidance, you should never ask a team member to lose income or vacation time to participate.

Travel Expenses.  Quite often team members do not have extra money in their budget to take work-related trips.  The organization should pay for all registration fees, transportation costs, meals and accommodations.  Pre-calculate all meals and daily expenses for the trip.  Give each team member a check before the trip to cover all their expenses.  Have them keep receipts and balance out any money owed to them or back to the organization when they return.

Follow Through.  When the team comes home, find out what lessons can be applied to the team’s work.  If they do their journaling, the follow-through will be a snap!

Question:  Where did you go on your last field trip and how did it benefit your team?

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