Making Employee Town Hall Work

Organizations communicate with the employee through different modes of communication, including intranet, newsletter, message dashboards, soft boards, common mailer and Town halls.  All these modes have its own unique impact on the employee. Hence, they are chosen based on the result to be created. Executive communication has the maximum impact on the employees. This is done through CEO’s letter, Hotline, Podcast, etc. Greatest effect is created by the Town hall as it allows direct interaction between the CEO and the employees. This event is organized to address many employees at a single point of time. Ideally they are arranged based on durations and event based to communicate any particular message .

Types of Town hall

  • Durations based: Quarterly town halls are arranged to communicate with the employees. Leaders share the business results, current scenario within the company and make announcements. This is a mass meeting to ensure that the voices are heard both ways.
  • Event based: During an organizational change these efforts are made to address the common concern. Employee fears and concerns are noted by the line HR and managers. This is provided as a  feedback to the head of the organization, who in turn address all these concern with the facts and its implication during the townhall.

Challenges: The challenges in arranging these sessions lie in planning and implementing them.

  1. Planning: Often detailed plans for the program are launched yet last minute faux pas kills it all.  Covering the gaps and identifying the probable last minute slump, needs to be mitigated right in the beginning of planning, for the session. Though an equipment-rehearsal at the venue is essential, yet keeping a buffer for every requirement is the key.
  2. Speaker: The speaker selection is primary. Generally the speaker is organizational head, such a CEO or a Managing Director, who leads the business. But the twist comes in when the top leader is not completely comfortable addressing the session attended by such a large number of employees. Sometimes convincing them is a hard task. In such a situation connecting the leader with one of the best communicator to preside the session would be the solution.
  3. Content: Mostly, the mailers sent before the event, would share the details to be discussed during the session. Preparing the content with the probable question holds the key. Often, Townhall presentations are made from the presenter’s point of view, which defeats the process. Creating an impact through the pictures, video and recorded sounds would require to be moderated as per the audience. Finally delivering the content on the spot will depend on what needs to be communicated and how would it help the participants. Creating takeaways with empathy which can involve the participants, will mark the success to the session.
  4. Communication gap: Certain times the milieu set for the town hall may not synchronise with the general feeling. Such as, if there is a merger to be addressed in a Town hall, a celebration might be arranged to correspond with the achievement through acquisition. But this may overlook the employee concern over losing jobs through the process re-engineering. More importantly the employee wants to be heard in these sessions. Focus on the open house for question from the employees. Encouragement would work through a nurturing environment. Before the session by the main speaker, a rapport building can be introduced through a surprise event such as a guest speaker or a pleasing announcement.
  5. Employee participation: Generally the town halls are open for all the employees to participate. Divide the employees in groups to manage the participation. Ideally, each team from every department is clubbed together. It gets easier to manage the question from every group and answer them. It further ensures participation by all.
  6. Post Town hall follow-ups: The gist of the discussion should be sent to all the employees through a common mailer. It reinstates the communication made during the Town hall. Furthermore, the concern raised needs to be resolved as early as possible. This impacts the employee belief on the communication made by the leader. Most of the time, there are many concerns raised during the session. Some questions are answered, rest are to be taken at a later point of time. But no sooner the interest wears out and the concern is left unattended. It would affect the credibility leaving disgruntled employees with little faith on the speaker.

The Town hall will remain a communicative medium as the organizations will gain from the live interactions. The success of one session, will build on to the expectation of the next session. The momentum will help building employee satisfaction resulting in higher productivity.

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