One tool for delivering a common message to the entire organization is an employee forum. The purpose of the employee forum is to provide all employees the opportunity to hear from the senior leader of the organization. Other leaders or employees may have a role in the forum, but the goal is for the senior leader to have visibility with all employees.
Involving staff in planning the logistics and activities associated with the forum is one way to make an employee forum a meaningful experience. An employee forum should be an event that the organization knows about and looks forward to attending. This is also a good time for special recognitions for teams and individuals.
PLANNED OPPORTUNITY FOR CONSISTENT COMMUNICATION
- Focus employees and leaders on the goals, results, and future direction of the organization
- Share the message of the organization by the senior leader
- Provide all employees with the same experience and the same message
- Bring closure to what has been accomplished in the current quarter
- Outline specifics of what will be happening in the next 90 days
- Recognize individual employees and teams for good work
A planned communication event is an effective way to connect employees to the passion and purpose for the work we do each day. It is critical for leaders to walk the talk; leaders will never go wrong leading by example. The employee forum becomes a way for everyone in our organization to hear from the senior leader and to socialize and learn together.
The employee forum requires planning and scheduling. It is recommended that these forums occur quarterly. A forum should be no longer than 60 minutes. This forces presenters to be concise. In large organizations, with varying shifts, scheduling multiple sessions is an important consideration. The executive leadership team is responsible for the organizational message. However, the event should be bigger than that, with refreshments and fun activities. Employee committees can plan and implement the plans for the event.
EMPLOYEE FORUMS IN 4 STEPS
Plan for the event, which includes developing a theme around the work of the organization.
- Example: Baseball might be used to symbolize teamwork. The format might be “A League of Our Own” for rolling out mission, vision, and values. Senior leaders who make presentations might wear a baseball uniform shirt.
- Connect to purpose by possibly sharing a message from a staff member or customer. Look for messages that name several people or departments, which will emphasize that we all achieve results together. Short meaningful videos made internally, or from the internet, are also useful.
- Reward and recognize individuals and teams. Highlight departments that have best practices to share. This creates collaboration and breaks down silos in organizations.
- Anticipate questions. Collecting questions in advance of the session can help. One way to collect questions is to include a 3×5 card for each employee as a question card.
- Include a question and answer session and set a defined time for this, with some ground rules
- No personal questions
- Cannot identify another employee in the question
Implement the plan by first hosting a forum of the leadership team.
- This allows leaders to know, in advance, what the employee forum will look like and provide feedback and input to ensure success.
- This leader session also provides all leaders with information needed to continue to deliver the message(s) of the organization throughout the next 90 days.
Implement the plan by hosting the employee forum.
- Create Fun: Be creative and plan the event around a theme, using fun ideas, costumes, role-plays, music, door prizes, and decorations. Don’t forget food!
- Logistics: Think through details of the plan. Have greeters at the door and helpers to distribute buttons, programs, food, etc.
- Track Attendance: The forum is important for all employees to attend. Track employees who attend and organize them by supervisor. This helps hold individuals and teams accountable for future attendance.
Evaluate the session to improve the next employee forum. This is important as the organization lives out continuous improvement in all efforts. It is important to approach the event with an improvement mindset.
- The survey should be anonymous.
- It should be analyzed and used internally.
- The results should be shared with all employees—this validates the process.
- Use the results in planning the next employee forum.