The other day I was leading a workshop on employee town halls, and to kick off the session, I asked, “What’s wrong with town halls?”
Participants had no trouble thinking about a dozen problems with town halls, but here’s the one I’d like to focus on: Old news. Most town halls share information that employees already know. Employees learn nothing useful. The content is not only static (because it’s presented in a boring way); it’s also as stale as last week’s bread.
Old news is not limited to town halls, of course. It’s a problem in every employee communication vehicle. Organizational announcements announce staff changes everyone has known about for weeks. Intranet home pages feature press releases that were available hours ago online. Newsletters rehash tired, uninteresting items.
No wonder employees don’t visit websites, delete emails and multitask during virtual town halls. After all, there’s no reason for employees to pay attention when they can’t learn anything new—or gain any value from what’s being shared.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can create content that’s fresh and unexpected; you just need to work at it. Here are three quick ideas about how to do so during town halls:
- Instead of rehashing the quarterly financial report, ask the CFO to share what analysts are most concerned about.
- Instead of reiterating all seven strategic initiatives, suggest focusing on one strategy. Invite an internal expert to explain what it means. Create a breakout session where employees share their perspectives on the issue.
- Instead of repeating any existing content, ask yourself how to make key topics fresh and unexpected. For example, don’t review safety statistics; develop stories about how employees have taken steps to improve workplace safety. Show photos, play audio, create a video.
While you can’t change everything, you have the power to do this: Create content that’s fresh and unexpected. Make it your new mantra. Om.