All-hands meeting is a valuable chance where employees gather with leadership and discuss organizational topics. Use a well-structured template to kickoff your meeting successfully.
Some icebreakers to help people loosen up.
Reiterate the company vision and retro on goals to keep everyone aligned.
Bring in high-level metrics like revenue increase to let all employees know where we are going. Celebrate wins with all hands.
Share news on promotions, new hires, fundraising, work anniversaries, and others that should be known to all.
Invite a leader from a different department (most often the team that has made significant progress) each time to share the updates and experience.
ASK ME ANYTHING session. The CEO or leadership team will take questions from employees and give answers.
An all-hands meeting, sometimes called a town hall, is a company-wide gathering between an organization’s leadership, its employees, and stakeholders to share updates and discuss important issues in the company. They involve everyone in the organization, regardless of their teams, departments, and roles.
The goal of an all-hands meeting is to bring everyone up-to-speed on important developments in the company while allowing them to engage the company’s leadership on related matters. So, essentially, they are a great tool for company-wide alignment and accountability.
There is no fixed cadence for all-hands meetings. Compared to more micro meeting types, such as one-on-one meetings, many organizations only have all-hands meetings occasionally - especially when they are large. It is not uncommon for companies to only hold them when their leadership sees the need.
Therefore, the cadence of all-hands meetings is usually determined by a company in line with its unique context and would usually revolve around factors such as:
Company size: The larger a company is, the more complex planning and holding its all-hands meetings would be. However, it is recommended that companies hold all-hands meetings at least once quarterly.
Business stage: Where a company is in its growth journey will influence how frequently it should hold all-hands meetings.
Businesses in their early stages might meet more frequently to update new developments because they need to iterate their vision more often to ensure everyone is aligned and on board.
Companies in more advanced stages, however, are usually more stable and have all-hands meetings less frequently.
Amount of changes occurring in the business: Sometimes, new projects, restructuring, or alterations in internal or government policy might cause more frequent changes to occur within the company.
These situations require careful accountability from the company's leadership and must be managed with continuous realignment, reassurance, and reiteration of the company’s vision. A company experiencing changes frequently tends to have more all-hands meetings.
After deciding the cadence, you can determine the length of your meeting. While all-hands meetings usually last one to two hours, you could reduce the length if the company holds all-hands meetings frequently. The only rule here is to ensure they are not too long and drawn out.
All-hands meeting has been considered “likely the second-most important meeting” after the leadership team meeting. A major reason for this is that they help clarify the big picture to every member of the organization and more.
Create opportunities for multi-way dialogue
In addition to facilitating vertical dialogue between the company’s leadership and employees, all-hands meetings also enhance communications between teams, departments, and employees.
This does wonders for cross-team relationships and gives employees a sense of community within and outside their immediate teams.
Boost employee engagement
All-hands meetings help employees see the value and purpose in their work, which is an effective way to make them more enthusiastic about their job and connected to the company’s mission.
Also, the sense of community they experience from engaging the leadership and other team members eliminates the feeling of working in silos or being disconnected from the whole.
Demanding accountability from leadership
All-hands meetings often have a question-and-answer (Q&A) segment where employees can freely ask the company’s leadership questions relating to the business, their concerns, or other operational issues.
This gives employees a chance to demand accountability from leadership or seek clarification on their reasoning for making certain decisions.
Acknowledging and encouraging good performance
Acknowledging performance is a non-negotiable part of all-hands meetings.
Leaders get the opportunity to celebrate the company’s achievements, wins, and high performers together. This encourages high performers to keep up the good work and inspires other employees to do their best.
All-hands meetings provide a platform for open and honest communication, allowing employees to see both the good and the bad and build trust in leadership. While this is a frightening prospect for many leaders, transparency has been proven to improve employee engagement and drive.
All these benefits are only present when all-hands meetings are held correctly. When done ineffectively, they could cause unintended damage by exposing the lapses in leadership, their shortcomings in running the organization, and uncertainty in the future of the company.
That’s why having an agenda that covers crucial talking points and preparing adequately before the meeting are important. We will look at these two in the subsequent sections.
An all-hands meeting might go south without the proper structure for conversation and time management. This is especially important because of the range and complexity of the issues to be discussed in the meeting.
Having a good agenda is, therefore, non-negotiable and the only way to balance the important talking points with the limited time for the conversation. An agenda also sets the expectation and guides the preparation of meeting participants so that they can come ready to contribute where necessary.
The topics to discuss in an all-hands meeting may differ. However, the agenda by the Airgram team above highlights vital talking points, especially consistent with the nature and purpose of all-hands meetings.
Some employees’ interaction with leadership and other departments might be limited to the all-hands meetings and might, as such, not feel comfortable meeting and discussing with them. Starting the meeting with some icebreakers could help them loosen up and feel more comfortable.
The icebreaker could be simple anecdotes, games, or an interactive session that gets everyone laughing and relaxed would not only put the meeting participants at ease but also capture their attention and make them interested in what you have to say.
Good icebreakers can also humanize a company’s leadership and make them approachable. This builds affinity and trust and makes the conversation and future work relationship less strained and more productive.
The next thing to do is to reiterate the company’s vision and goals to keep everyone aligned. Employees work better when they are clear on what they are working towards, why it is important, and why they need to achieve it.
It is helpful to underscore how crucial everyone’s contribution is to achieving the company’s vision. This makes employees feel like they have a stake in the company’s goals and future and could help improve loyalty.
Communicating the company’s trajectory is as necessary as sharing its vision. The company’s leadership needs to keep employees aware of the recent changes that have been happening in the business by giving a detailed and comprehensive account of important big-picture metrics such as customer numbers and revenue.
Celebrating the company’s successes and wins at this point lends some weight to the report given. It is also good for employee morale to know that the company is making progress.
But of course, not only the good should be shared. Employees should be let in on any negative developments. This should, however, be managed with a message of hope and a clear path to turning things around.
Announcements should include news on retirements, promotions, new hires, fundraising, work anniversaries, events, and any other information that employees should be kept abreast of.
Even though many companies use emails and board notices for announcements, doing them during all-hands meetings helps to keep everyone aware and provides the opportunity to ask questions and seek clarifications where necessary.
It is, however, expected that questions at this stage might be somewhat disruptive and affect the entire schedule. So, it is wise to encourage employees to make a note of their questions and ask them during the Q&A segment.
This part of the meeting involves spotlighting the activities and achievements of outstanding teams as a way to encourage them and inspire other teams to action. It is also a way to give everyone an in-depth view of the activities of individual teams and learn important lessons from them.
Usually, the company’s leadership would invite a leader from the department that has recorded the most significant progress in the period under review, to share their updates and experience.
This is the ASK ME ANYTHING session, where the CEO and/or leadership team will take questions from employees and provide answers. This session allows employees to seek clarification, express their thoughts, and provide feedback.
It also fosters two-way communication that makes all-hands meetings truly inclusive and productive. So, when mapping out an all-hands meeting agenda, you must ensure that you create ample time for this segment.
Some leaders might find Q&A’s intimidating because they are not sure what to expect or because the volume of questions might be overwhelming. This can be avoided by requiring employees to submit their questions ahead of the meeting.
If you are unsure what the answer to a question is or how to answer it, it is okay to ask to revisit it before the end of the meeting or to ask for more time to share the accurate response after the meeting. This is better than dancing around the answer or sharing untruths.
The starting point for all meetings is setting the objectives. The key consideration here is what you want to achieve. Even though the primary purpose of all-hands meetings is company-wide alignment, it is common to have other goals. Identify and note them.
After you are clear about what you want to achieve, you can proceed with other parts of the all-hands meeting plan.
After defining the objectives, decide on what format you want the meeting to take - virtual or physical. The reason for making this decision early is that it would determine what tools you need and logistical issues to address ahead of the meeting.
For example, if the meeting is virtual, you need a video conferencing platform, a meeting transcription software to make your planning seamless, and other technical tools to run the meeting.
There are two ways to approach this. You could save time and adapt Airgram’s all-hands meeting template and customize it to your needs or create yours from scratch.
If you choose to create yours, it is useful to note the talking points should align with your objectives and that you should be mindful when distributing time among the items. The template above already provides a guide on the important topics to include and how to go about the conversation.
After creating a draft of the agenda, it is good practice to share it with other executives for their thoughts, input, and alignment. It is crucial for management to maintain a united front, and the agenda is one of the ways that should be reflected.
Pro tip: The Airgram tool enables you to create a collaborative meeting agenda with teammates and allocate time for each talking point; much time is saved.
The meeting invite and agenda should be sent on time to allow teams and employees to plan their time and prepare adequately for the meeting.
If you have already settled on a cadence, the invite for recurring meetings should be shared at the beginning of the year, half-year, or quarter to give employees ample notice. Since the agenda might vary from meeting to meeting, it could be shared after. The key is to ensure that employees have adequate notice.
Invest time into creating your presentation for the meeting. The presentation should not be too wordy to make it well-structured and clear. Instead, use visual aids like videos, charts, and pictures to drive your point home.
Also, take time to rehearse and internalize the presentation's main points so that your oral presentation during the meeting will have a seamless flow.
Once you are done preparing your presentation and all the materials you need for the presentation, the last step is to share it with other executives for their thoughts and alignment.
Aligning and having a single voice would help prevent confusion and, even worse, conflict during the meeting when addressing employees or answering their questions as a panel.