Whether you employ 10 people or 10,000, now is a good time to hold a town hall meeting. Employer-sponsored town hall meetings have similar goals to the events conducted by politicians: to provide information and answer questions. If Wall Street has a direct affect on your operation and you have not yet met with all employees, do it this week. And don’t assume that your employees are not concerned if your street is distanced from Wall Street. They are checking personal investments and have questions about any 401(k) or other retirement plan you offer.
Setting up a town hall meeting is easy. A senior executive, preferably the most senior executive, hosts the meeting giving them the opportunity to expand on organizational viewpoints or philosophy. Make certain that this senior executive is ready to answer tough questions on the spot. A rehearsed speech or video message does not create a town hall meeting.
The best meetings begin with a brief statement of business results or forecasts and then allow for audience questions and respond to inquiries solicited before the event. Employees should have the option of submitting questions anonymously. Don’t screen questions in advance in order to prepare and take the time to fine tune the message. Corporate credibility will be damaged when employees figure out that questions have been changed or omitted and they hear carefully crafted responses.
Ensure that everyone gets a chance by limiting the number of questions per employee in the room and putting a time limit on responses. A communications professional or someone else comfortable with this format should be involved to keep the meeting moving along on schedule. This person can also combine questions to avoid repetition. Have someone take notes or video the meeting in order to share the information. Avoid the spread of misinformation by sending out the content to anyone who was unable to attend. For remote employees or virtual teams set up meetings by web, video or audio conference.
Effective town hall meetings can be an important part of your workplace culture. If, for any reason, you can’t give honest answers don’t hold a meeting. When you are able to conduct these events you will give information, gain insight and improve trust among your workforce.