It's been a while since I posted “words of wisdom.” As you can imagine, my recent appointment has kept me busy learning the ropes of my new role and acclimating into a new organisation.
Over the past three months, I have had the great pleasure of participating in several town hall meetings, as well as other venues to engage employees.
We are fortunate to have many engaging leaders who excite audiences and garner great participation. Unfortunately, not all CEOs have natural charisma and they can fall flat when addressing employees. Knowing what a powerful tool the town hall is for employee engagement and how critical engagement is to the success of an organization, I am providing some tips to ensure success. I encourage you to contact your communications team for support.
1. First, focus on what’s important.
Often, we are so focused on sharing information – we bombard the audience with power point after power point. We forget the true goal of the tool, which is, to get employees energized about the business and engaged. Rather than allotting the majority of the time to the presentation – which is typically one-way – carve out more time for Q&A or interaction. In a one-hour slot, I recommend spending no more than 20 minutes on presenting and 40 minutes on listening and engaging. The presentation portion should focus on one or two topics, making it easier for employees to understand and stay interested. Bring the story to life by using specific examples or outside guest speakers to help convey the message.
2. Make Q&A exciting.
I realize that changing up the allocation of presentation and Q&A can leave one anxious about the need to fill the hour. With today’s technology, we can change the dynamic of the interactive portion of the meeting. For example, using new tools such as real-time voting on issues can help spur the dialogue. It may also be helpful to ask the audience a question and request thoughts from individuals. This is a safer way to engage rather than requiring the employees to ask questions. Planting questions is of course the fall-back strategy. Don’t be fooled, employees are smarter than you think and typically can spot a “plant.”
3. Understand the world is a big place. In today’s world, there are no boundaries. So while we may host a town hall meeting that might include a face-to-face component, we must also consider the virtual teams who are not able to attend in person. Consider using today’s technologies to keep up engagement even if some of the participants are virtual. For example, utilize web-based solutions to enable webchats, webcasts, or instant-messaging options to invite participants to ask questions, make comments and share ideas. We can also encourage virtual employees to submit questions ahead of time to ensure their voices are heard.
4. It’s a wrap.
After the town hall concludes be sure to make all materials available for those who were unable to attend. Sharing the transcript with employees demonstrates the willingness of others to participate and the importance of the content. This can encourage greater participation in the future.
Partner with your communications team to obtain feedback about the session. As a CEO, you want to see facts. Be sure when you are seeking feedback from the audience that specific questions are asked about the employees experience and attempt to capture the feedback in several ways. For example, in a survey one might ask “on a scale of 1-5, five being the highest, how comfortable are you asking questions? What about the prepared comments resonated with you? Do you believe there was enough time for Q&A?” In addition to issuing a survey, consider conducting focus groups. These more intimate settings can often empower employees to recommend creative ideas to increase participation and ultimately enhance the experience for all.
Regardless of industry we are all facing some tough economic times. Now more than ever we need to ensure we are connecting with our employees. Help them understand the business realities of today, but also share the company’s strategy to respond to the environment and profitability grow.
Recent studies show that employee engagement can have a positive impact on the bottom line.
Companies with engaged workforces report 87% reduction in employee turnover, 57% improvement in discretionary effort, 37% less absenteeism and 26% increase in productivity. Ultimately this translates into 19% greater shareholder return. Engagement matters!
Share your views on engagement and what you and your senior leaders are doing to create an engaged employee culture.