All-Hands Meetings: What Are They and Why Are They Important?
June 16, 2020
Remember when you were in school and you would have regular Friday assemblies? Everyone from every cohort would gather in the gymnasium or auditorium hall and listen to the principal make announcements or give out awards.
Sometimes, you’d be asked to vote on the theme for the next school dance, or there would be a slide show of your extra-curricular activities and students would be invited on stage to share their experiences.
That’s essentially what an all-hands meeting is, except in a company setting.
What is an all-hands meeting?
An all-hands meeting is an organisation-wide gathering where employees, executives, and C-suite leaders come together to share updates, discuss company matters, and celebrate wins. Sometimes, even external stakeholders will be invited to attend.
All-hands meetings are typically initiated and hosted by a member of upper management, like the CEO or country manager. Because all-hands meetings involve all hands, they’re usually used at the macro level for:
Introducing new company-wide ideas, initiatives, and strategies
Providing updates on performance metrics
Aligning teams on common goals
Addressing key concerns amongst employees
Celebrating milestone achievements
Why are all-hands meetings important?
Done properly, all-hands meetings create alignment, build trust and transparency, lift morale, boost engagement (how often do people get to interact with the CEO?), and foster a sense of belonging amongst employees.
Here are 5 ways all-hands meetings create value for your company – and the best practices you can implement to achieve them.
1. All-hands meetings align everyone on company goals and strategies
Following the seafaring analogy from which all-hands meetings got their name (“All hands on deck!”), companies rely on the co-operation and co-ordination of their “crew” to steer them in the right direction. Aligning everyone on the same goals, missions, and targets is important to ensuring teams stay effective and productive in the long-run.
But as you scale, keeping everyone on the same page can be like playing a game of broken telephone – you never know how information may get miscommunicated down the line. That’s why all-hands meetings are so important for clear and consistent communication of company goals and strategies.
How to achieve this: Make sure the information shared during an all-hands meeting sticks. Conduct a quiz at the end as a way to recap what was shared. Prepare a deck with key announcements and takeaways, use it during the meeting, and send it to everyone after.
2. All-hands meetings champion inclusiveness
In its optimised form, all-hands meetings offer employees a chance to engage directly with founders and company leaders, have their opinions heard, and influence the company’s direction. This makes all-hands meetings an important opportunity for companies to practise inclusive leadership, characterised by giving everyone a voice and being objective and data-driven in decision-making.
But that’s only possible if all-hands meetings are two-way conversations. This means less talking at employees and more talking with employees.
How to achieve this: Make sure to actively engage employees during all-hands meetings. Conduct polls for people to vote and participate in decision-making. Survey everyone about their opinions on the company’s direction. Involve a diverse group of people in the planning process to ensure that multiple opinions get heard.
3. All-hands meetings unify teams across all sectors and locations
Referring back to our example of school assemblies, all-hands meetings, too, are a way to bring everyone together in the same space and reinforce the feeling of “we’re all in this together”. And for companies with remote or international teams, all-hands meetings are even more important to overcoming fragmentation and alienation.
A well-executed all-hands meeting strengthens that sense of community by sharing the spotlight and reinforcing that every employee is a valued member of the team.
How to achieve this: Involve your attendees in the planning process – appoint a diverse planning committee, rotate your moderator each time round, and keep things interactive. For efficient virtual all-hands meetings, make sure you take into account different time zones and invest in the right tech resources.
4. All-hands meetings build trust and transparency
Because there is direct communication between employees and company leadership, all-hands meetings present valuable opportunities to establish a culture of transparency and trust in the company.
But this only happens if leaders are open to sharing (whether it’s sales figures, employee satisfaction survey results, or financial data) and display candour when handling difficult conversations.
How to achieve this: Address the hard questions. Too often, employees feel distanced from their leaders because their concerns go unheard or ignored. Build a safe space for open and honest conversation. Be sincere when asking for feedback and make efforts to improve. Provide an anonymous Q&A platform that encourages more people to speak up. Authentic and intimate all-hands meetings will be the most effective in bringing everyone together as a company.
5. All-hands meetings boost morale
All-hands meetings shouldn’t be all work and no play. Use them as a way to conduct some company-level fun, celebrate milestones, and show appreciation!
All-hands meetings are also the perfect platform for bonding activities like putting on an inter-department talent show, celebrating the holidays (collective Christmas carolling, anyone?), or recognising work anniversaries.
How to achieve this: Conduct an ice-breaker or poll to open the meeting. Phrase your poll question in a way that encourages positive thinking, such as “What was your proudest achievement this quarter?” Setting the right tone and energy at the beginning will keep everyone motivated, inspired, and actively listening.
All-hands meetings are a unique opportunity for fostering relationships and bridging the gap between employees and the organisation. By building a sense of community, practicing transparency, and prioritising inclusiveness in their all-hands meetings, companies will enjoy a more loyal, productive, and motivated workforce.