Conduct Employee Forums
Not sure what your employees think about their jobs and the organization? Want to know how overall morale is impacting the company’s productivity and results? Curious about where breakdowns are occurring with your customers?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it might be time to conduct an employee forum, or a “communication meeting.” A helpful tool for gauging any number of aspects related to your business, a forum that’s done right can improve employee engagement, solve current issues, and generate creative, fresh ideas. That said, a good forum doesn’t just happen on its own. Among other things, it must be framed with a plan and then fortified by the list of questions that will be asked, the time that’s needed to pose those questions, and the active discussion that will follow.
Here are a few additional tips for ensuring an effective employee forum.
Communicate the goal. Be upfront about what you want to cover in the meeting so that everyone is clear from the start. Creating this transparency gives people time to prepare (if that’s necessary), dispels potential anxiety or fear, and is only fair. You don’t have to go into extreme detail when you announce the goal of the meeting, but providing the objectives along with the agenda will improve your odds of getting everyone on board and, later, more engaged. Also, remember to communicate this information in numerous ways, e.g., via email, a post in the lunchroom, verbally, etc.
Establish meeting “best practices.” This is about controlling the tone and tempo of the employee forum primarily by setting solid ground rules, so people feel supported as they contribute to the discussion. For example, a few rules might be: attack the problem and not the person, be respectful, and don’t interrupt when someone is speaking. Because certain people have a tendency to talk too much about themselves or a particular issue, have a plan for dealing with such situations quickly and professionally so that you’re able to maintain balance and foster input from all. Also, to ensure you can both moderate the meeting and listen to what’s truly being said, you’ll need to establish time limits for each topic you want discussed, assigning both a timekeeper and a scribe.
Meet expectations for follow-up. Just as you would with a one-on-one meeting, follow through with any commitments you make relative to the forum’s goals or conclusions. For example, if your employees have offered suggestions for improving customer service, take them seriously by testing or implementing those solutions — and let people know you are doing so. This won’t just build your credibility as a leader, but it will also send the message to your employees that their input is valued and being incorporated to improve the company’s productivity and profitability. As well, following-up will make such periodic employee forums even more productive in the future — people will trust you with their time and their ideas.
What are some additional “best practices” for meetings that could easily apply to an employee forum?