If you really want a culture of transparency and want to make sure your entire organization stays engaged with your organization’s most important goals, the quarterly all-hands meeting is the tool for you.
An all-hands meeting is where you get the entire organization together. Some companies call this a town-hall meeting.
The all-hands meeting is not an easy tool to use. At Perdoo, I’ve been responsible for this important meeting. It took me quite some time to get it right.
In this article, I’ll share our mistakes and our current approach, so you can make the most out of your quarterly all hands.
You won’t get it right first time
Before I dive into our approach, note that it took us several iterations to finally get to an approach that worked well for our organization. Since it may take you several iterations as well, it’s important to be open about this with your team. Share with them why this meeting is important and allow them the opportunity to give feedback after each meeting. Seriously listen to their feedback and iterate until you find an approach that works for all involved.
I sent a simple Google Form to the entire team after each meeting, asking for their qualitative feedback and to rate the meeting. The rating provided me with a benchmark and enabled me to see if the meeting was improving or worsening.
When to have your all-hands
The beginning of the quarter is the best time. The previous quarter is over and the final results are in. So this is the right time to pause and reflect. You certainly don’t want to trouble everyone with a meeting when they’re still fighting hard to push the results for the current quarter.
Here are the agenda items that I think are relevant for almost every business:
- Staffing update
Open the meeting by welcoming new-joiners. Your people are also a valuable channel for acquiring high-quality candidates, so share with them which positions you’re still looking to fill.
- Strategy update
Strategic changes are made when they need to be made. You certainly don’t have to wait until the all-hands — but the all-hands is a great place to remind people of any strategic changes made throughout the previous quarter and to reinforce the overall strategy.
- Goals update
How did the goals of the previous quarter progress, and what will everyone focus on next? This is the most important part of your quarterly all-hands. More on this below.
- Product update
Whatever your product is, make sure everyone stays in the loop on how it evolves. This is also a great moment to share customer feedback, positive and negative.
- HR update
This is the opportunity for our HR team to inform (or remind) everyone about policy changes, upcoming events (eg, birthdays, company retreats), etc.
Our HR Manager collects questions for our leadership team prior to the meeting. My co-founder and I receive the list of questions one day prior to the meeting so that we have a bit of time to prepare the answers. It’s an amazing way to boost engagement and to address any concerns people may have (eg, how does the leadership team think Covid-19 will impact the business?).
The goals update
For the goals update to work well, it’s important that everyone comes prepared. All the leads will have to make sure their goals are up-to-date. It’s also crucial that you have a fixed format for these updates, so that it’s easy to run through them.
Keep in mind that the bigger your team, the more detail you need to remove. Both to save time but also because the details of a specific team aren’t that relevant for people outside of that team.
Help your team prepare
Our Ambassador is Nicole, a member of our awesome Customer Success team. Two weeks prior to the meeting, she sends out the following email to the entire team.
Here’s what she sent for Q4 2020:
On October 7 we’ll have our next quarterly all-hands.
Please ensure that prior to this meeting:
- All your goals are up-to-date.
- Your Q3 2020 OKRs are closed.
- Your Q4 2020 OKRs have been approved.
Each group has 5 minutes to present their update, followed by a brief Q&A:
- When presenting closed Q3 2020 OKRs, only focus on the closing notes.
- When presenting Q4 2020 OKRs, only focus on the pitch (Why is your OKR important? Why is it urgent?)
- We won’t click into any KPIs or OKRs as this is distracting — so prepare your update well.
Perdoo helps in two ways:
- Our Check-in functionality and KPI integrations make sure goals are always up-to-date.
- The Company page in Perdoo is specifically designed to be used in all-hands meetings. During our all-hands we pull up the Company page. I, the CEO, give an update on the performance of our Company KPIs and the progress on our Company OKRs. We then switch to the Groups tab which contains all our top-level groups. The leads of each group have 5 minutes to give an update on: (i) KPI performance, (ii) progress on previous quarter’s OKRs, (iii) next quarter’s OKRs.
Do I really need an all-hands?
Yes. A quarterly all-hands means you’ll have the entire organization together (physically or virtually) four times a year. This presents you with the opportunity to:
- Boost transparency
A window is transparent but that doesn’t mean people are actually looking through it. While the information presented at an all-hands may be accessible to all attendees, an all-hands is a great way to ensure important updates aren’t missed.
- Improve alignment
Transparency unlocks alignment. The destination is clear, but it’s important to ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction. Don’t take this for granted. When everyone understands the state of affairs, it’s easier to identify opportunities for cross-functional collaboration and how you can contribute to company-wide efforts. That way, you can all arrive at the same destination together and as quickly as possible.
It’s a two-way street. As the CEO, I hold myself accountable for the company’s performance. In order to achieve the longer-term strategic goals, teams need to own the execution. Providing the forum to present progress on both strategic and execution goals ensures that everyone is invested and continuously driving to succeed. The opportunity to ask open questions also invites participation and cultivates an environment of trust. When there is trust, people feel more connected and are more likely to want to help achieve the goals.