Break the Silence: 6 tips for improving employee participation at All-Hands meetings

Break the Silence: 6 tips for improving employee participation at All-Hands meetings

When I think of a successful all-hands meeting (also known as a town hall), there’s a part of my mind that replays the ex-CEO of Microsoft, Steve Balmer, entering the stage dancing and screaming at the top of his lungs, ending in him being out of breath and struggling to utter his next few words.

In today's world, this can be quite different.

We click on a calendar link.
Immediately hit the mute button.
And watch the CEO speak for an hour (45 minutes, if we’re lucky).

What happens in the period between the mute button and everyone waving goodbye?

As the CEO goes on… and on… about the sales team's achievement, we contemplate…

  • Hey! What about my department?
  • Should I turn my camera off and continue working
  • Shall I ask that one question that’s been on my mind? Never mind, let me mute.

So, does that mean all town hall meetings are unproductive? No. Not if done right.

In this article, we’ll talk through

a) Why are all-hands important

b) 3 Reasons why your team may feel disengaged

c) 6 tips for a successful all-hands meeting

Why are all-hands meetings important?

All-hands give a unique window of opportunity for employees and leadership to build trust, feel connected to the business and align on business objectives. 

Rather than being passed messages down from a string of 10 people, all-hands let the team hear the voice of executives (first-hand!) and help them feel personally invested and connected to the broader mission.

🤐 3 reasons your team doesn’t speak up at company-wide meetings: 

So why do some all-hands meetings force teams to switch off, feel disengaged, and unproductive? Like that ^

1. Top-down communication

If all-hands were meant for simply sharing key updates with the team, we could just send an email blast out to every colleague.

But we know this top-down approach would feel cold, impersonal, and fail to catch anyone's attention.

Yet, our executive team can sometimes fall into this top-down communication trap. They turn what should be a collaborative meeting into a one-way webinar.

That’s when your team begins thinking about turning their cameras off, slowly winding down the volume button, and getting on with “real work”.

2. Employees feel like “no one ever listens” :

You're guaranteeing the funeral for your feedback culture if your team feels like this:

😟 Unsafe:

Team members live in fear, worried that speaking up can lead to repercussions.

🦻 Unheard:

Team members pour their heart and soul into sharing feedback, only to feel like there’s no one on the other side listening or responding to them.

📉 Undervalued:

Team members feel like they are just small cogs in a big wheel, where their voice is drowned out and their work is nothing but a KPI on a graph somewhere.

If your team feels unsafe, unheard, and undervalued, what is in it for them to speak up and participate during your leadership meeting? Nothing.

3. Ignoring the elephant in the room

Most CEOs fall into this trap.

They feel obliged to sell the company to motivate their team. In the process, they paint a rosy picture of the company on a rocket ship, reaching new heights and waving to Elon Musk on the moon.

On the receiving end, employees feel it lacks substance and authenticity. You have to remember that your team is living and breathing through your company's daily challenges, so as much as they want to hear the positives, they want to hear where the company is falling short and how you’re planning to improve this..

6 Tips for Improving Employee Participation at All-Hands Meetings

Just like a relationship with a significant other, if one side feels they are always the ones sharing their feedback and emotions, and the other side isn’t reciprocating, acknowledging, or even responding, it will make them feel unheard and undervalued. In the workplace, it’s no different. We have to nurture the relationship between Employees & Leadership.

This is your opportunity to use the main stage and do just that!

1. Let your team harness the power of anonymity

Give your team the power of anonymity.

Use this as an opportunity to build trust with your team.

Prove that you welcome and encourage tough questions. With this approach, your team will naturally begin to share feedback more openly in the future.

2. Automate Surveys before your next all-hands meeting:

Prompt your team to share feedback and questions before your next all-hands meeting. Collect feedback and plan to respond during the call.

💡Pro tip: If your team uses Slack, make your team’s lives easier and ask the questions directly in Slack

3. Create a transparent feedback culture

What if you could create a way to naturally make your team curious, spark creativity, and inspire them to ask questions?

As your team responds to your survey, let the responses be shown publicly to your team. Why?

⏩ As these questions naturally flow in, it will spark creativity & improve participation.

⏩ The team can vote on the comments that resonate with them the most.

⏩ Your leadership team can prioritize the topics with the most upvotes.

By discussing topics with the most upvotes, you can guarantee that your all-hands meeting will captivate your team's attention and make it an engaging, informative session.

💡Pro tip: With the right feedback platform, you can moderate responses before they are made public, to ensure your team only sees relevant comments.

4. Use an AI Assistant to help you…

It’s not easy scanning through hundreds of feedback and responses over the previous month.

Use an AI assistant that analyzes all your feedback for you, creates key themes and automatically shares these insights before your next all-hands meeting.

This will save you hours of work and more importantly, help you address topics your team cares about.

💡Pro tip: Integrate your AI Assistant into Slack (if you’re a Slack user)

5. Talk about the good bad and ugly! AKA Reciprocate!

All the previous tips have led to this.

You’ve created a clear and automated process for collecting feedback for your all hands.

Now it’s important to show the team you’re listening, understanding, and actioning feedback.

The best companies dedicate a slot called “The Employee Voice” or “The team’s voice” during their all-hands meeting. They use this slot to present all the key feedback themes and promote a healthy discussion.

CEOs typically craft their responses before the meeting and share their perspective on the call. This makes your teams feel heard and valued during the discussion.

For your team, it sends a strong message telling them the leadership team is actively reciprocating, listening, and responding. This gives them all the more reason to participate and share their questions for the next meeting.

💡Pro tip: If you would like a free template showing how companies present their “employee voice” click the image below.

Click here to view template

6. End strong. Put the spotlight on company values & employees.

Use the main stage to recognize and appreciate team members who are key pillars to your company culture!

This will encourage your team to proactively recognize one another too!

Make it easy:

The easier you make something the more likely it is that your team will use it. Have you thought about automating all 6 steps above - all inside Slack?

If you're looking to level up your all-hands meetings, check out the Incognito AI Assistant on Slack. It’s designed to create a thriving feedback environment where your colleagues feel safe, heard, and valued

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