By CEO Jim Annis
How do you approach the times of “togetherness” at your workplace? Open and honest communication helps increase the transparency of the organization and equal truth in my mind. That is one of the elements for a great place to work. We have had several goals for staff meetings over the years, from over-communicating and getting everyone on the same page to making every meeting “fun” in some capacity. At the rate of change our work and nonwork lives are morphing with technology and cultural shifts, it makes sense the traditional all-staff meeting needs to evolve, so we’re changing it up.
We traditionally hold an all-staff meeting once a month. A few years ago, we charged ahead with open book management, giving employees all relevant financial information about the company, so they can make better decisions as workers. Traditionally, we’ve done the same thing for the last 13 years: I ran the meeting as CEO, started with a few jokes, played a few fun videos and then dug in to the nitty-gritty. The meetings are not as funny as they used to be. I know, it is hard to believe but true. People started not caring about detailed financial information. In the development of the company, that initial open book approach/get to know the CEO helped strengthen the organization, but we did not offer a great deal of training and many employees did not know what all our companies did “for a living.” We needed a fresh perspective. Recently, we hired a consultant to interview all employees, so the meeting results would be improved. We now strike a balance between fun and training. We still do birthdays, work anniversaries, treats and an occasional Pictionary game, but the focus is on cross training — both technical and high level. Our greatest ambassadors are our employees, so a sense of camaraderie is important and consistent key messaging about our companies’ offerings out in the field can’t hurt.
There are times when you simply need to have direct communication, and when it is all about you — the company — that’s ok. Avoid “this meeting was a waste of time” attitude with a well-planned and well run meeting, including an agenda and sticking to it. Ever been to a meeting and came out with the thought, “We all attended the ‘same different’ meeting”? It’s like the game of telephone because brains work differently. Ever notice people huddle afterwards for “the meeting after the meeting”? How do you combat that phenomenon? Using the agenda as a tool, deliver consistent messaging on important topics in a reinforcing, repetitive method. Eventually, employees will repeat those key messages without even thinking. If you are transparent you do not have as big as an after-meeting because you are communicating the real info versus employees having to interpret, then employees can feel secure and vested in the process.
Our goal is to focus on training for 2017 while remaining fluid in how we manage our together time. We can be progressive in the structure and information presented, and at the same time demonstrate we share the same values with employees who need the stability, tradition and comfort an all-staff meeting can provide.
When you think about how you will manage all-staffs at your company, be aware of what you are doing then judge using a litmus test, “Was that worth the time?” Experiment. You might get a few eye rolls or elevated energy and engagement. If you feel like you are in a bad episode of "The Office," then perhaps asking your employees for feedback will help your meetings in 2017, too.
Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied's COO, contributed to this article.