Company Town Hall meetings: Communicating is caring

Company Town hall meetings, all-hands meetings, q&a meetings or sessions, are defined as a way that the management of a company has to meet and connect with their employees. A member of upper management (CEO, board member, or a country/regional manager) usually hosts these meetings that are attended by all employees, or in these times as video conferences.

Topics may vary depending on what’s going on in the company. They usually share the status of the company and the most relevant issues at the moment, and there’s a Q&A section at the end where employees can ask could find answers to topics that are interested or worried about.

All hands meeting

This post was born by an interesting twitter question (or thread) started by Oscar Pierre, Glovo co-founder, where he was asking his followers to share how do they prepare Q&A meetings with employees. I also included it first in a newsletter in June 2020.

He was asking for scale-up startup experiences. Startups are more eager to change in a short period, and it is crucial to communicate appropriately. But I think that this kind of communication is not limited to fast-growing startups. But it is true that when a company grows, it makes it challenging to coordinate this communication effort

The example of Google and TGIF

We have a recent example in Google. They used to have a well-known Q&A weekly meeting named TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday), that at some point evolved to biweekly, and was dramatically cut last year by Sundar Pichai.

Arguments were that attendant ratio decreased, the coordinated effort to communicate worldwide and that employees could no longer be trusted to keep matters confidential.

As said by Sundar Pichai, it wasn’t working in its current form. Regarding some sensitive topics, Google may address such issues in specific town-hall meetings when trust and confidentiality are warranted.

What a pity. Google lost part of its essence. Quoting Laszlo Bock’s post at Think With Google when talking about transparency, “We share everything we can. We have a weekly all-hands meeting called TGIF, hosted by our founders, Larry and Sergey. In the first 30 minutes, we review news and product launches from the past week, demo upcoming products, and celebrate wins. But the second 30 minutes is the part that matters most: Q&A”. Laszlo is a former Google SVP People Operations and Work Rules! Book author, a book that I recommend.

Facebook is still open to candid questions

This kind of meetings are not the property of Google, lots of tech companies (and I guess non-tech) do it. Looking for big and well-known players, Facebook is another example.

Facebook uses to organize all-hands meetings every Friday afternoon. Facebookers can question them about anything, there’s a poll, and as seen on the twitter thread, questions get sent and upvoted by employees during the week.

They aren’t free of leakage. Facebook has had several tough moments, but until now, they have managed brilliantly. The Verge had access to leaked audio from a Q&A session, and the response from the Facebook team was doing an open Live Q&A meeting.

Regarding the last controversy with Mark Zuckerberg and politics, the question maybe is how long will it take until they modify it. I hope they don’t. These meetings should continue to be a source of pride for Facebook and a symbol of trust from its employees.

Ideas and tools from the discussion

Returning to the original thread, it was an interesting thread but not very successful in terms of participation. But you could take some ideas from there.

For example, submitting questions before the meeting is a good idea. It seems a fundamental sense, but I am pretty sure it is not as usual as you could expect. People usually don’t like to ask public questions, and everybody knows it, and use it on their benefit. If there are no questions in the Q&A, it is probably not because everything is clear, it is because there is not enough trust, or there’s a lack of commitment. In any case, it could raise a problem.

no stupid questions

The frequency may vary, companies do it monthly, weekly, but I found satisfying one answer that shared that they used to do it monthly, and during COVID lockdown, they increased to weekly. It seems to be a good idea to increase town-hall meetings or add special Q&A sessions in these uncertain times.

Tools like Slido, Wooclap, and Mentimeter could help to interact with the employees, and vote about the questions, or other sensitive topics. You could find here some of the applications available and compare them.

And what about you? How is your company communicating and interacting with employees? Is it also building trust through transparency? Do you use any new tools?

I hope you liked it. If so, please share it! Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and experiences! And, if you want to stay up to date, don’t miss my free newsletter.

Thanks for reading.

Also published on Medium.

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