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In the US, town hall meetings have served as a means of communication since settlers first arrived back in the 1600s. These meetings were public events that brought about a healthy, robust, but organized dialogue between municipal officials and citizens.
While still inherently hierarchical, modern workplaces are becoming more democratic in that corporate leaders more often seek ideas and viewpoints from all areas of the organization now rather than just giving strict top-down decrees. Copying the town hall tradition in your company-wide all-hands meetings will help increase communication between managers and other team members. These events not only let you share results and upcoming initiatives, but also allow for dialogue between groups that might not normally engage each other.
If you run a business, you should make having a monthly town hall a priority. Here’s why:
A town hall project shows you value employees and their ideas
Team members whose ideas are valued tend to feel valued themselves. When they feel appreciated, it leads to high employee engagement, improved performance, reduced turnover, and greater job satisfaction. Creating a space for people to ask questions, and for you to provide answers, shows that you are invested in all workers.
Don’t leave anyone out. Make sure your virtual town hall meeting is accessible to everyone at the company, from those working at home to those in far flung cities working at satellite offices.
Town halls align everyone with what’s happening at the business
As much as employers love to throw words like “sleepy environment” around, there’s sometimes no avoiding the reality that people often operate in silos. Having town hall meetings can counteract that isolated feeling by keeping employees in the loop on what’s happening at the organization.
When people know what’s going on, they feel more invested and might even have ideas to share with others that would otherwise not normally come out during day-to-day operations.
Gamify and incentivize contribution in order to motivate workers to increase the amount and quality of ideas they share. Each month, give an award to a core contributor, highlighting them to everyone else. Doing this gives deserving people recognition which can in turn motivate their individual work.
Monthly awards for greatest contributions can be incorporated by department to get employees collaborating before the town hall even occurs. Try categories like increasing efficiencies, cutting costs, increasing quality, reducing issues and boosting morale. These are good catalysts for ongoing town hall discussions.
Town halls show overall employee satisfaction
Reading email, attending meetings, and standing at the coffee machine can give a leader a sense of the attitudes of individuals, teams, and even departments. Rarely does a leader ever get to see the attitude of the whole group about the company, rather than the direction of a single product or service.
When you bring everyone together to take and ask questions, you start to feel the general mood of the company. Similar to a quarterback hearing the crowd at a game, a leader responsible for marching their company down the field needs to hear the reaction not only when they get a first down, but when they fumble too.
What a successful town hall should include:
You may increase the engagement at your town hall if you follow a certain meeting agenda or format each time. It’s up to you how you’d like to plan the proceedings, but here’s a quick formula that could work:
Where you’ve been
A successful town hall can start with key updates over the last month in business and priorities. What were the goals? Have they been met? Talk about what company leaders and staff learned. What were the high points (and not-so-high points)? Employees can contribute ideas on how to make the high points even higher and how to avoid the pitfalls they experienced.
Where you’re going
Addressing the goals moving forward is important. Democracy is great, but employees often still like feeling that someone is in charge and that there is a direction to follow. Now is the leader’s time to inspire people with that direction and to make them feel like moving this way is for the benefit of the whole organization. Workers should also feel they have a part to play in getting there.
Where you are
As a founder or executive, you’ve taken the lead in presenting last month’s KPIs and other stats, as well as revealing the path forward. Now it’s time for employees to shine.
Recognize last month’s contributors for their ideas. Give them the chance to present what they’ve been working on to share with the entire team so their efforts can be seen. You could even bring in a customer to talk about their recent experience with your business. This will help everyone remember how their work impacts clients.
A Q&A at the end
Letting employees submit questions at this critical point helps them gain clarification, share concerns or enthusiasm, and leave with a greater sense of ownership in their role at the company. Questions can also be directed to presenting coworkers that they wouldn’t normally get to see because they’re in a different department, on a different floor, or even in a different city.
Obviously this format is just a template and you can change it any way you feel is best. The point is, there’s so much you can do at a monthly town hall. Have a moderator profile some of the Zoom attendees in different time zones. Talk about health care initiatives. Discuss key decision-making at the company. Bring in guest speakers. Ask the team what they’d like to see for upcoming town halls. The sky’s the limit. And the hope is, so it will be for your company.