All hands meetings

All Hands or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Employee Engagement

We’ve all experienced it. An all hands meeting that left us feeling energized, re-focused and excited about our jobs and what our organizations are doing. When done right, an all hands meeting can be invigorating and inspirational for your staff. All hands meetings set the tone for the coming quarter and get every employee on the same page for upcoming company goals.

First off, why even bother streaming a live all-hands? Today, there’s more reason than ever. Companies are larger and more distributed, which makes it more difficult to share emotional messages with everyone. Transparency and engagement are two words which are top of mind for managers.

Let’s take a deeper look into what makes an all hands meeting such a powerful tool to communicate with your team.

Frequency: Quarterly, Monthly or Weekly?

Companies who do weekly or bi-weekly all hands use it as a way to address different teams, and different projects in an organization. Weekly all hands can be great for a company with a massive workforce, and a lot of moving parts. They allow different themes to be addressed, and make executives more approachable because of their conversational tone.

Not only that, they allow for deeper dives into specific subject matter, which is much better than a typical overview. Great examples of companies that frequently meet are Google with their TGIF meetings with Larry Page, Sergey Brin and other execs and LinkedIn with bi-weekly addresses from CEO Jeff Weiner.

Monthly all-hands can be great for small and medium-sized companies because time is more limited, and teams tend to be more connected. It’s an opportunity to share results and discuss project updates. It can also be a great time to put out potential fires. For example, if you believe you’ll be behind on a product update, a monthly all hands can keep your team in the loop about potential delays, avoiding over promising to customers or allowing marketing to pivot its messaging.

At the very least, schedule a quarterly all hands for an opportunity to discuss how your organization performed, and to build some excitement about future projects.

Presenter and Tone: CEO, C-Level, Manager

The most important aspect to any all hands is the content and the presenter. Your content will need to strike the right balance of being conversational and offering formal information. You’re not speaking to investors, or clients, you’re talking to your employees; your family. Be open, be intimate, offer insights into what’s working well, show vulnerability by discussing aspects of your business which need improvement.

Hopefully, you’ll get people thinking about those problems and providing solutions after you articulate them. Share anecdotal stories, talk about a satisfied customers, praise an employe who went above and beyond to solve a company problem, don’t just highlight the success, but rather, how they got there. That sales person who was 150% of their quota, what happened to get them there? The QA manager who got the product finished ahead of time, how did he manage that feat?

Consider adding new presenters to the all hands meeting. Yes, it’s the time for your CEO to shine, but opening up the floor to other C-level executives and employees can help create a sense of teamwork and recognition.

We’ve seen it at Apple. Tim Cook has the vice president of marketing, software engineers, and designers come and speak about the latest Apple announcements. Tim knows how to delegate and bring in the most experienced presenters. If your organization has made changes to core aspects of the product, have the engineer or manager who worked on the project discuss the details of the changes.

Having a presenter who worked on the initiative makes your all hands that much more interactive, like LinkedIn who have a different department head present in their company all hands.

Location: Headquarters, Remote Office or Offsite

Typically, an all-hands is broadcast from your largest conference room, or if your organization has one, a theater. But, there’s other options here as well. It’s a nice change of pace to broadcast from a remote office, if you’re visiting a European office for the week, use that opportunity to showcase that office and team. Afterall your organization is global, and we often neglect our outside teams. Another idea can be to broadcast from a trade show, like CES, NAB, or even, one of your company’s retail locations. There’s a certain energy in these locations which is fun to be apart of and will change the dynamic of your presentation.

Some food for thought. A lot of companies allow their all hands or other internal events to be viewed as a ‘video on demand’ asset. I think this can be a mistake, within reason employees who were travelling, or in an important meetings should have access to the video for a small window of time, but if these videos are made available indefinitely, employees will keep putting it off or will ignore it completely. Whenever possible for all-hands and town halls, we recommend doing it live, just like the Superbowl, no one wants to watch it the next day.

Getting your teams bought in is now more important than ever. Companies are investing more and more in their employees with better offices, more flexible schedules, better pay and stronger benefits. Part of that investment should also include programs and efforts that promote employee buy-in and engagement.

All hands events are a great way to keep employees engaged, and share important company information. When we want to share a company’s successes, help drive change or deliver an important message, an all hands is the perfect venue. Some companies have them weekly, and invite different executives to speak, others keep them more formal, and hold them once a quarter to discuss financial results and upcoming changes. No matter how you do it, an all hands is an important tool used to bring your team together to reflect and refocus as an organization.

It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.

– Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

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