Companies all around the world try to keep their employees engaged and informed using all hands meetings. While this is a known term for many professionals like CEOs, management, business and IT people, the chances are that it might be unknown to you if you do not belong to the groups mentioned above. An all hands meeting is a meeting attended by all the company employees; This includes all departments, part-time employees, and even (in some cases) freelancers.
All hands meetings first started in the year 1999 by companies in Silicon Valley. Among the first ones to organize such a meeting was Google. The meeting was held once a week and was coined TGIF (aka Thank God It’s Friday). All employees would leave their desks or cubicles and meet in just one place. There they would meet all their colleagues from the other departments, the management, and the CEO. The meeting was meant to be short, informing the employees of new things or changes happening in the company.
Nowadays, many years later, we can see that this idea stood the test of time. Currently, the majority of companies, especially IT companies, have these meetings. The frequency, structure, and format of the meetings, however, have changed throughout time. It is also adapted according to the needs of the company.
First of all, the occurrence of the meeting differs. While it used to be a weekly meeting, now this depends on the company. Different companies decide what is best for them and how frequent the meetings should be. This also depends on how big the company is and how fast things change. The more announcements a company has, the more meetings will be held. For example, some companies have all hands meetings weekly, some of them every other week and others have monthly meetings.
Secondly, the structure of the meeting has changed as well. When companies first organized all hands meetings, they did so to give quick updates and kept the meeting as short as possible. Now, almost all companies follow a similar structure divided into sections. These sections often include an ice breaker, accomplishments, updates/changes, highlights/summary, and questions. Additionally, companies might also add other useful sections like breakout rooms and polls.
Finally, the most significant change of the all hands meeting is the format. The first meetings had a physical format. Later on, some kept the physical form while some switched to a virtual format. This also depended on the company size and location. If the company had offices only in one place, they had a physical meeting. In the cases where the company had multiple offices in different cities, states, or even continents, the meetings were held in virtual form. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the imposed restrictions, all companies had to switch to the virtual format. Countless digital tools can make these meetings easier to organize and more enjoyable for the employees. However, to ensure there are no problems during the meeting, one must choose the best tools that are also easy to use.
In this case, we recommend some of the following devices.
Before the meeting, we must go through the organization process and handle the details. First, an agenda must be prepared. For this, we can use any text editor. However, a recommended tool would be Dropbox Paper. Using this tool, you can organize the meeting down to the minute and have it looking neat at the same time. Moreover, it is formatted in a way that makes it clear and very easy to read.
After we prepare the agenda of the meeting, we have to send the invites to the employees. For this, we recommend MS Outlook. We have observed that the majority of companies use MS Outlook when generating email accounts for their employees. As such, all employees are grouped and added to specific mailing lists. Because of this, it is relatively easy to invite people and avoid accidentally forgetting someone. Instead of writing or copying and pasting all emails, one sends the invite with the date, hour, schedule, and platform of choice directly to the mailing lists. Moreover, the employees can then accept/reject the meeting, making it easier to track attendance.
Zoom or MS Teams
As for the meeting platforms, there are several of them which are popular. The choice between them depends primarily on preference but also on how many employees the company has. One of the most popular platforms is Zoom. Many industries are using this platform for their meetings. It is a user-friendly platform, which everyone can access and offers cool multimedia features, including background change, good audio/video, screen-sharing, and chat. Moreover, the platform is accessible on a browser without download, and you can even use it from your mobile phone.
The other alternative platform is Microsoft Teams. Meetings in teams are also easy to organize. The platform, similar to Zoom, offers the same features. One interesting feature to note is the integration with Outlook. Because they both belong to Microsoft, you can organize the meeting in Outlook and send the link directly to the recipients. In addition to that, you also immediately see the number of people who confirmed their attendance.
The only negative thing about both platforms is that they have some limits. If the company has more than 300 employees or the meetings last longer than 40 minutes, the platform is no longer free, and the company has to pay a fee to get a better upgrade package. The positive side is that the upgrade fee is not too expensive (in the price range of $30-50), which is affordable for most companies.
In conclusion, considering the rapid changes happening globally, it is evident that all hands meetings are paramount for keeping employees informed and motivated. Therefore, it is of great importance that these meetings are held at a minimum every month. Using the tools mentioned in this article, it is guaranteed that meetings will run smoothly and miscommunications will be avoided. These tools will, without question, be pivotal instruments in all hands meetings even after the pandemic era.