Running Effective Employee Forums and Town Hall Meetings

By Quint Studer

Posted October 24, 2012

In this sixth and final insight in the Outcomes Driven Communication Series, we will focus on running effective employee forums and town hall meetings. Throughout this series, we’ve highlighted several different topics that have a common theme - creating alignment and consistency through communication. The goal was to provide best practices that we at Studer Group have seen in practice in organizations across the nation. Each topic addresses new or improved ways that leaders can achieve outcomes through streamlined communications and can ultimately lead to a more profitable organization.

Running effective employee forums is one of the key ways to create alignment across the organization. We feel so strongly about their effectiveness that we developed an Employee Forum Toolkit to help leaders successfully implement them. There are four reasons that running effective employee forums and town hall meetings are important.

First, we can provide updates on the external environment. The challenges we are facing in the healthcare industry are greater than ever and the external environment is one of them. As leaders, we likely have a better understanding of the daily pressures and ever-changing industry. Our staff, on the other hand, may not fully understand the impact that these challenges have on our organization. By holding forums or town hall meetings, we have the perfect opportunity to share industry updates, deliver a consistent message across the organization, and answer any burning questions.

Second, employee forums are a good time to celebrate wins, whether organization-wide or within individual departments. We can highlight departments that are achieving their goals in patient satisfaction, remind staff about appreciation luncheons we are hosting for celebrations such as Nurses Week, and even share a thank you note that we received from a patient who received excellent care at our hospital. Sharing wins is a great way to energize staff and remind us why we come to work every day – we impact lives.

Third, we can address any gaps in the organization. Maybe our inpatient service line is trending towards their goal and achieving results but the Emergency Department is not. Forums provide a platform to show how the two service lines impact each other and we can discuss strategies to improve. Through our research, we’ve found a direct correlation between what we do in the ED and how it impacts the entire organization. A bad experience in the ED, such as long wait times causing patient’s to leave without being seen, can influence their perception on how the entire organization is run.

Lastly, forums are a place where staff should be encouraged to share feedback on how well we are providing a great place for them to work. Leaders can put a feedback system in place that allows staff to ask questions ahead of time and lets leaders share the answers across the organization. We find that many individuals will have the same question so this ensures a consistent answer is provided. Staff can rate the organization, as well as their individual leader and department. This is an excellent way for directors and managers to gain feedback and learn opportunities for improvement.

Forums are also a great time to explain new processes or developments that affect the organization and clarify why we are making the change. For instance, we can share why we are adding the state-of-the-art addition onto our hospital and explain that it will allow us to care for more patients and provide better care. By providing the “why”, we can ease anxiety and explain how leadership came to that decision. Explaining the “why” is so important and beneficial that I dedicated an entire chapter to it in my latest book, The Great Employee Handbook.

We’ve highlighted just a few ways to run more effective employee forums but we are always looking for additional best practices on what you are doing that works well at your own organization. If you have suggestions for running effective employee forums, please email me directly at quint@studergroup.com.

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