A friend once told me about a previous job where everyone knew when bad news was coming—it was the only time management would call an “all-hands meeting.”
Can you imagine? The only time you get the entire company together is to dump bad news on them—certainly not an effective way to keep a team informed and motivated.
All-hands meetings, also referred to as town halls, when done right, provide companies an excellent forum to update employees. And unlike my friend’s previous gig, they should be a part of your company’s regular internal communications.
What exactly is an all-hands meeting? It is a company-wide gathering where all employees and others vested in the company meet with the leadership team. All-hands meetings are useful as a company grows because everyone in the company gets the same information at the same time.
Although it is ideal to have everyone at the same location, if this is not realistic, make sure remote employees attend virtually. Typically, these meetings should be held quarterly, but for larger companies, a more realistic frequency may be every six months. The key to a successful all-hands meeting is transparency and open communication
The agenda should include highlights of company-wide, departmental and individual successes as well as any challenges the company and industry faces. Did the company increase its market share? Proclaim it. Is there a new product being released or updated? Give details. Did an individual break a company performance record or substantially improve their performance? Reward them. Are any new products or markets being developed? Share.
Just as you want to highlight the positive, you must also address the negative. Is a weak economy impacting sales? Is a new competitor cannibalizing your market share? What’s the solution? Have there been layoffs? If so, is the company now stable or could there be more layoffs? The key is to share what you know and what your employees need to know. Also, permit them to ask questions and be honest with them.
If you don’t openly communicate with staff, they will draw conclusions, often incorrectly, which can hurt company morale and cause some key personnel to look for employment elsewhere. By keeping everyone updated, it keeps all vested in the company motivated around a common goal while hopefully boosting morale in the process.
If you are tasked with putting together an all-hands meeting, you will most likely have two roles: strategic and logistical. The strategic planning of the meeting will include creating the agenda and messaging.
Find out from staff, including management, and key stakeholders what topics and issues they want to be addressed, soliciting any success stories about individuals and departments. Once this information is compiled, you must carefully evaluate and analyze the data to determine what should be discussed and begin crafting the message.
Wearing your tactical hat, all logistics must be worked out including crafting and sending invitations, selecting the right venue, creating menus, selecting and procuring any rewards and employee giveaways, and arranging for audiovisual including hookups for remote workers.
The following items should be arranged and budgeted for when planning an all-hands meeting that goes off without a hitch.