By Isabella Sturgis, Associate, and Bridget Ring, Graduate Public Relations Intern
After almost two years of remote and hybrid work, one thing is clear: the “new normal” is now just… normal. After an initial rush to adapt, leaders now need to take a moment to evaluate the ways they are engaging employees and building a culture that does not depend on the physical office. One area that leaders can focus on evolving is the town hall, one of the most effective ways of both maintaining culture and communicating business priorities at the largest scale.
These all-staff meetings are nothing new, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be improved. Many run the risk of being bogged down by too much information, or too little interest—giving them a reputation of being boring or a waste of time. So, how can leaders make sure this time is used efficiently, both from a business and cultural standpoint?
Here are a few best practices for planning an effective and engaging town hall:
- Stick to a few main topics and incorporate story arcs (situation, conflict, resolution) where applicable. This could include focusing on recent news since the last meeting, present work and upcoming business priorities. Create a detailed yet focused agenda.
- Why? It’s easier to focus on fewer, more in-depth topics than a myriad of surface-level topics, and information is more likely to be retained when delivered with storytelling techniques.
- Break important company news, announce awards and provide crucial employee policy updates. Make sure to advertise that important updates will be announced during town hall.
- Why? Providing important, exclusive content will incentivize attendance and make the meeting the authoritative source on the latest need-to-know news.
- The top leader should drive the agenda, calling on other senior-level leadership and subject matter experts as necessary.
- Why? Involvement from the highest level emphasizes the importance of the meeting and incentivizes attendance and engagement. Consistent leadership from the CEO demonstrates their commitment to communicating with employees, while the range of speakers provides diversity in topics and voices.
- Make the meeting interactive. Depending on the size of your organization, this can take several forms. Everything from live polling to celebrating employees to music at the beginning to a Q&A can make your meeting exciting for employees.
- Why? Making the meeting relevant and lively will gain the attention of employees and get them focused and involved.
Foster two-way communication.
- Give employees a chance to voice their thoughts before, during and after the meeting. Source questions and topics while planning, leave moments open for Q&A and have a live chat for conversation during the meeting. Afterwards, send out a survey to gather feedback and future questions and topics.
- Why? Connecting with employees will ensure the topics covered align with employee interests and concerns. Opportunities to engage during the meeting will also keep people from “checking out” and show that leadership truly values employee feedback.
- Share an on-demand version for employees who were unable to attend live. Reinforce the key points with a company-wide email containing links to the most important clips for rewatching. Summaries are also an accessible and time-efficient way for employees to reference the key takeaways from the meeting.
- Why? On-demand options make town halls available to those who couldn’t join live and easy-to-digest formats can better capture attention to ensure key messages and actions are noted.
More than ever, employees need meaningful interactions with organization leaders, and a well-executed town hall is a win-win for employees and employers alike. The above strategies should help leaders share important news, build company culture and foster meaningful collaboration throughout the organization.
If you have questions or are seeking counsel related to Employee Communications and Engagement, email GP Ooi at GOoi2@golin.com