Parts aren’t the same as an engine: Until you put everything together and get it running, the potential of all those bits and pieces is untapped. The same is true of teams; each individual, across every department, is working toward a shared mission by using their unique talents. Making the most of those talents for the greatest benefit to the company depends on everyone coming together. Regularly scheduled all-hands meetings give your full team the chance to gather, align, celebrate, and learn.
Within one gathering, a whole lot of benefits
Getting everyone together builds cohesion across departments, shows team members they’re valued, and provides a forum for questions or concerns. It’s an important opportunity for leaders to motivate and inspire teams so that employees pursue their best work in contribution to your mission.
Devoting your time to transparent, authentic communication with employees is your chance to instill trust; being forthcoming with your own lessons learned and opportunities to improve sets a tone of openness that fosters real growth.
An all-hands meeting further provides a forum for keeping everyone aware of changes and goals to build buy-in, and it’s a perfect opportunity to celebrate successes. All of which is to say that it’s definitely worth making time for — and regularly. Consider the all-hands meeting an investment in collaborative, highly-engaged teams.
5 steps to running an all-hands meeting
For us, a quarterly all-hands meeting makes the most sense. Things happen fast around here and our team spends a lot of time focused on building our business and engaging with customers. Meeting quarterly enables us to keep up with changes without burdening employees (or customers, for that matter). These meetings also provide the time to disconnect from work for several hours to focus on the big picture. Remote employees take part in the gathering through live stream, as well. We work hard to make sure everyone gets to benefit from the meeting agenda.
We’ve also landed on a formula that packs in a lot of activity so we’re accomplishing everything we want the meeting to do, from sparking motivation to getting out the facts. Of course we’re always working on ways to make things better; finding the right elements takes a little trial and error. Maybe our system will work well for your team, too, but be ready to adapt and tweak.
Here’s how we do it:
1. Start strong.
At the beginning and end of each meeting, we split into groups to spend a few minutes discussing a positive topic (e.g., something to be particularly proud of this quarter or an incident that inspired gratitude) then summarize these conversations with the full group. Positivity provides a huge range of benefits, and it’s especially useful here for getting everyone in a receptive headspace before we dive into the meeting. This activity also gets everyone talking. Because collaboration is a big goal for these meetings, I’m a huge fan of setting the stage so that every team member feels their contribution is valued.
2. Give each department the floor.
So the full team gets details about what’s happening throughout the company, we provide time for a representative from each department to share quarterly results, recap accomplishments, and celebrate progress — as well as discuss disappointments and the takeaways from those experiences that will help them improve.
Acknowledging the challenges and setbacks that befall every person, team, and company at some point is just more honest. That kind of transparency and humility provides space for team members to make changes and keep striving for more. I still don’t feel great when I have to stand in front of the team and share a setback, but it’s infinitely preferable to burying the truth — and talking about those frustrations actually brings positive change. When others see you trying, failing, and growing, they trust you and begin to trust themselves to take chances as well. A tremendous result for a few uncomfortable moments.
3. Be upfront about the numbers.
We want employees to act like owners. Peeling back the curtain on the financial side of the company shows our trust in them and, even better, lets them see exactly how their work impacts those numbers. Each quarter, we run through the high-level financials then go deeper into one metric — like the cost of acquisition or net retention, for example. Not only is it reassuring to the team to see where the dollars are going, but their fresh perspective may well end up offering the answers we need. If employees don’t know which areas need improvement, they certainly aren’t noodling on those issues and looking for ways to solve problems.
4. Look ahead.
We show what’s coming up in the next quarter, by narrowing the facts down to three objectives for the quarter that the rest of our strategy rolls up to, drawing from learnings made in the previous quarter. Providing a framework for upcoming goals makes them more memorable and keeps everyone focused on how the pieces fit together. We break into small groups and give everyone an opportunity to share their impressions and a few specific details about how they see their work fitting into those themes. This also allows the team to process what they just learned. Your goal here is to offer clarity about big-picture targets but also to zoom into details on a team and individual level, to show everyone’s individual contribution to the overarching company goals.
Send everyone back out into the day on a festive note. We close by inviting new employees to introduce themselves and share a fun fact (we’ve had some amazing fun facts over the years). Then we recognize two employees in the “Emplifier Spotlight.” This recognition relies on peer nominations to highlight people who’ve made an exceptional impact on the company and culture. Celebrating achievement isn’t just great inspiration, it reinforces our purpose and mission.
A social final act
Why not continue the celebration? We’ve started holding our all-hands meetings in the afternoons so we can keep the spirit alive with a company-wide social event, like a happy hour or team dinner. Sure, some conversations around the snack bar might focus on the latest retention metrics, but they’re just as fruitful if they’re about families and movies. This is a team, after all. Personal investment in each other doesn’t just make a workplace feel better; it keeps it functioning at its best.