As we fast approach Q4 2020, the world is still experiencing much uncertainty and fast-paced change. Although we may be struggling with how to adjust to these changes, we must find a way to reconnect together with where we are now, our future, vision, and opportunities.
Many corporations normally gather for Leadership Summits at the end of their fiscal year to review what has been achieved and learnt, reflect on the coming year, and share key outcomes with their employees via global and/or local Town Halls. This routine is now in question as large in-person gatherings are not currently possible.
Should the Covid-19 crisis freeze Corporate annual gatherings?
I would argue definitely not, for two reasons summarized by the saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste”:
- In the coming months, you might still have to face and overcome the kind of organizational trauma Fran and I described in our first article in the series, Survivor Syndrome: Overcoming Organizational Trauma in Times of Crisis. This potential trauma needs to be ‘put on the table’ and addressed, as my colleague Richi stated “the only way out is through”
- This crisis is not only about trauma and disruption. It is also a fantastic opportunity for people and businesses to grow. Over the past 6 months we have seen many companies demonstrate extraordinary levels of resilience, agility, creativity, speed in decision making and action, collaboration, empathy and solidarity. We heard from CEOs that “we’ve shown that we can be quick, agile, innovative. Now we can’t ignore it and go back to our old way of thinking, working and interacting”.
End-of-year Leadership Summits and Town Halls are exactly the right moments to address these two issues.
Revamping your Leadership Summit and Employee Town Hall
As of today, for obvious reasons, there is no practical way to have global and regional gatherings in person. Having them digitally however not only makes them quicker and cheaper but potentially also more agile and impactful.
After a 6 month digital intensive “gym” practice, organizations now know that interactive and highly productive online events are possible. Alternating structured discussions in plenary sessions with breakout workshops, facilitating brainstorming sessions, leveraging voting tools, using online pulse surveys and practicing learning exercises.
Designing and facilitating digital large gatherings requires the use of professional instructional designers. Specialists who master both the technology, the content, and the online collaborative work dynamics.
How to do it digitally:
- A 2 or 3 day offsite and in-person Leadership Summit can become 3 half-day webinars. Purely focused on reflection and action rather than on the necessary, but long and often boring, information sharing.
- With pre-work designed to share this necessary information/insights/learning material. Including asking each individual to reflect and work on some critical questions, actions and decisions that will be addressed during the webinars.
- Well-structured post-gathering follow-up is also key for the real success of these digital gatherings.
- Will you miss the drink and dinner with your peers and managers? Nothing could replace this as such, but there are other creative ways to share a virtual moment and space of friendly informal connections.
There are similar opportunities with all-employee Town Halls, both global or regional.
- An in person event can be a 2 or 3 hour webinar (recorded for those not available at that time).
- With a pre-work platform for information sharing and individual reflection.
- The webinar could include active listening, along with a pulse survey for example, so you can focus the webinar on interactive connections, collective work and reflections.
- End with post-gathering follow-up.
You can position the Town Hall as a broadly shared conclusion of your Leadership Summit. Alternatively, the Town Hall can be in the middle of it, designed so employees’ input and questions form part of the last day of the Leadership Summit working program.
What should the content be this year?
In the current context of uncertainty, vulnerability and complexity we recommend that your agenda includes the following key topics:
- Managing our organizational trauma based on data (pre-work including employee pulse survey and focus groups).
- Leveraging our extraordinary learnings from the crisis to replicate them in a sustainable way (also prepared in pre-work).
- Planning with agility for our future in this crisis. How can we create a future together when there is still so much uncertainty? How can we help our team members feel less anxious and find a way forward that adds value for everyone?
- Boosting our culture transformation first where it has the fastest and biggest impact.
The more VUCA in our current world, the more we need to reconnect and take a reflective break with our people. 2020 is not the year to freeze or cancel, but rather to focus on revamping the Leadership Summit and Employee Town Hall. Do not avoid the crisis risks and opportunities issues.