An informal public meeting that gives community members a chance to get together and discuss issues or voice concerns is typically referred to as a town hall meeting. The concept of the town hall meeting is borrowed from the traditional meeting style of government used in New England years ago and by some small towns and many businesses still today.
During these meetings, everyone in town is invited and encouraged to share their opinions, discuss subjects of interest, ask questions and hear responses from public figures face-to-face. People from all ages and backgrounds are present, bringing their own perspectives and issues to the discussion.
At HighGrove Partners, we have town hall meetings with our employees every other month – about six times a year. During these meetings, we share company financial updates and discuss important and timely issues.
We typically hold these meetings toward the end of the day around 3 p.m., and they usually don’t last more than an hour. The meetings are held either in our main conference room at our headquarters or off-site, and we provide snacks and refreshments.
Meetings are scheduled well enough in advance to ensure attendance. We use Skype to be able to share updates with attendees from as far as 35 miles away.
But the most important part of these meetings is the town hall forum concept, where employees from every position and at all experience levels can ask questions and share ideas.
We even arrange the seating so it’s in a circular format to make employees feel more comfortable about being included and involved. We have numerous instances where the best ideas for a particular challenge have come from an employee in an unrelated area of the business at a town hall meeting.
While fielding employee questions is important and welcome and we try and create a comfortable atmosphere that encourages dialogue, sometimes I find it challenging to keep questions coming in. To ease any employee nervousness, I will ask for questions before meetings or share a list of some recent and frequent questions being asked around the company to kick off the conversation.
This year, I’m even going to record short videos highlighting various company updates that I can email to employees; town hall meeting previews will be a part of those videos. I’m hoping this will continue to facilitate better and more frequent communication among employees.
In our employee survey, our town hall meetings ranked highly. Employees said one of the key reasons for this was because they enjoyed hearing directly from me, the CEO. Many employees don’t get a chance to interact with me on a day-to-day basis, so this was interesting and valued feedback. As a result, I make sure I cover important issues personally and address any and all topics that might be on employees’ minds.
These town hall meetings are always a great learning exercise for us — any time we can encourage employees to share valued insight or new ideas it makes HighGrove stronger.