What Is An All-hands Meeting And Why Should You Start Having One?

Martina Cicakova

To align the team members on their way toward goals, many companies host regular all-hands meetings. As your team expands, making sure that everyone moves in the same direction not only becomes more important but also more difficult.

Whether you are a small firm of five or an enterprise of thousands of employees, all-hands meetings can bring many benefits.

We started hosting our own all-company meetings when our team was about 40 in size and since then, they have become a permanent fixture in our calendars.

To learn more, we looked at some of the tech industry leaders to understand why and when they organize their all-company meetings.

We discovered a lot of insights, which we’d like to share.

1. What and why?

All-hands meetings, also known as town hall meetings, generally refer to regular company-wide gatherings where all the employees and stakeholders (or a region, or a department) meet with the leadership team to:

  1. Share updates and celebrate people and accomplishments
  2. Create alignment around strategy and goals
  3. Provide an open forum to address employees’ questions

Running regular all-hands meetings has many benefits. They can help you motivate, empower, educate and engage your employees. It’s also an effective way to connect remote teams with the headquarters and foster the feeling of togetherness.

A number of innovative global companies, such as Twitter, Trello, Zappos, and Etsy have embedded regular town-hall meetings into their company culture.

All-hands meetings are an effective way to connect teams and foster the feeling of togetherness. Click To Tweet

But town hall meetings are not the prerogative of large companies. As Gokul Rajaram from Square advises, you should start thinking about hosting them as soon as it gets difficult for the company to fit into one room and effectively communicate everyone’s updates, successes and challenges to the team.

At Slido, we started having all-hands meetings nearly two years ago. These gatherings are one of our key tools to foster company culture and drive employee engagement.

These monthly meetings are popular among our team members. As our colleague, Monika, articulated, “All-hands meetings are my favorite types of meetings. They reiterate a sense of togetherness and help us make sure we are all pulling at the same end of the rope.”

2. Who?

Once you decide to run all-hands meetings, it’s important to decide who will organize, lead, attend and facilitate them.

a) Decide on the meeting owner

These gatherings create an opportunity to reiterate the company’s vision and priorities. So when it comes to organizing, it’s essential to have a meeting owner who will sync with the leadership to ensure that all important information is shared with the rest of the team.

To help you create a collaborative environment, invite multiple speakers from different teams to share the stage. They can add value by presenting their unique insights into the projects they’re working on.

b) Invite everyone

By definition, all-hands meetings are about bringing together everyone in the company, including those working in remote teams. So it is essential to create the right conditions to help them to participate fully.

There are many tools such as Time Zone Ninja and Zoom Rooms, which can help you schedule, transmit and record the meetings.

However, it can be difficult for large global companies to bring together thousands of employees regularly for an hour or more at a time. In such cases, holding a regional or departmental all-hands meeting can be more effective.

c) Appoint a meeting moderator

As your team grows, the all-hands meetings start to look like mini-conferences. That’s when you should consider appointing a moderator who will keep track of the agenda, introduce speakers, run Q&A sessions and guide the team through the meeting.

At Slido, we also appoint a dedicated moderator for the online audience. The purpose of this role is to drive the conversation online and help remote employees feel included.

3. When?

Companies’ approaches to the regularity and timing of all-hands meetings differ according to the purpose, structure and complexity of these meetings.

a) Make them regular

For instance, Help Scout and Zappos hold them quarterly, Etsy does it monthly, Square and LinkedIn fortnightly. Other companies hold regional weekly town halls, such as Google’s TGIF or Twitter’s weekly “Tea Time.”

But the purpose, structure and tone of their town halls differ. To illustrate, Facebook’s weekly all-hands meetings largely comprise a weekly Q&A session with its CEO, while for Google these meetings include 30 minutes of updates and a 30-minute Q&A.

In contrast, other companies hold more complex town halls that include strategy and goals review, team updates, highlights and challenges, the introduction of new hires and a substantial Q&A session.

The level of formality also differs across companies. The Zillow Group starts its all-hands meetings by re-focusing on its mission and values. In contrast, Etsy kicks off its meetings with informal stage performances of team members to help people connect with each other.

Start hosting all-hands meetings as soon as it gets difficult for the company to fit into one room. Click To Tweet

b) Set a fixed date

When it comes to choosing the day for the meeting, there is no universal answer.

Quartz at Work reports that the best time for meetings is Tuesday afternoon, according to a study by YouCanBookMe. But there are companies that hold their all-hands on Tuesday mornings, Thursday midday, or Wednesday afternoons.

At Slido, we hold monthly structured all-hands meetings on the first Friday afternoon of the month. This helps us to review the previous month while it’s still fresh in people’s minds. It’s also a great way to get the team energized for the month to come.

What’s more, people are more likely to attend without being distracted by unfinished tasks or upcoming meetings.

Whichever day and time you choose, make sure it works well for most people. If your team is geographically distributed, remember to keep in mind the remote teams.

Extra Tip: Once you decide how often you will run town hall meetings, make them a tradition. Set a fixed day and time for your all-hands that everyone will know about. Getting the date in people’s diaries early via calendar invites will help you avoid cross booking.

Wrap up

All-hands meetings are all about the team. Leverage them to connect, motivate and celebrate people and align the team around goals and priorities. Creating a space for employees to express their concerns and ask questions will help you build trust and promote a transparent team culture. But remember: always start with the team.

 

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