Recently Insidedge set out to benchmark town hall meeting practices to find out what companies are currently doing and to see what, if any, advancements have been made to this tried and true form of internal communication. In this digital age where so many people are constantly connected to media- personally, professionally or both -- we had to ask, "Is the town hall meeting old-fashioned and out of date?" Or are our tried-and-true methods still relevant?
We found that nearly two thirds of the companies we spoke with are still conducting global town hall meetings for their employees, measuring them for continuous improvement opportunities, and using technology to reach more than only headquarters-based employees.
Based on size and structure, a few companies rely on quarterly town hall meetings at either a regional or functional level. These meetings include pertinent corporate information, including a video message from the CEO, but focus on regional or functional information that the audience needs and wants.
I must say that I was not surprised by the findings. Before joining Insidedge, I spent seven years working in a corporate environment at two different companies. I looked forward to our quarterly town hall meetings as an opportunity to re-connect with the business at large, hear about interesting work happening in other areas and to be reminded of why I joined the company in the first place.
There is something very inspirational about a well-done town hall meeting that cannot be achieved through other communication vehicles. Rekindling an employee's passion for product brands, company heritage, corporate identity and the "go forward" strategy is even more powerful at a live event fueled by the collective energy of hundreds or thousands of colleagues.
Nor was I surprised to hear there are more questions than ever about the cost-versus-benefit of town hall meetings. Organizations are operating on ever-leaner budgets and are continually looking for "cost takeout" opportunities. Given this, measuring meeting effectiveness and maintaining quantitative data is more important than ever. There are even soft metrics that reveal how people view the meetings. For example, what percentage of the onsite population attends the meeting in person? Do people ask questions, either through chat, index cards or in advance? And for remote locations, how many offices try to re-create the town hall experience for their staff by logging into a webcast together? What do your field communications coordinators tell you about attendance and general reactions to the meeting?
Personal experience and data aside, human nature tells me employee town hall meetings are here to stay. Most employees need and crave a connection to something bigger than their own individual role and the town hall environment confirms our place within a whole.