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How Can We Keep Employee Forums Valuable and Energizing for Staff?

Question

Our COO has been conducting employee forums for about one year. At the forums she reviews organizational information and results based upon the Five Pillars. We report the work that work teams are accomplishing and the results of the organizational measures for the Five Pillars.

The time is balanced between reporting and other creative ways of providing information (such as skits, videos that tell “our story,” etc.). Since we are interested in taking our organization to the next level, how can we keep our forums valuable and energizing for the staff? What have you seen other organizations do in employee forums to demonstrate an increased focus on ownership, People, Service, Quality, Finance, and Growth?

Answer

Employee forums—quarterly meetings led by senior leaders for all employees—are an excellent way to increase communication at all levels. Here are some ideas I have collected from our national learning lab of hospitals to create maximum impact:

  • Collect questions before sessions, both through leaders and in the cafeteria. This way staff will attend to hear their questions answered. If there is not enough time to answer all questions (or some questions are of narrow interest), distribute a printed Q & A on all questions to staff as they join the meeting.
  • Ensure that when quality topics are offered, appropriate staff can receive continued education units (CEUs).
  • Conduct a mini employee survey at each employee forum, so attendees know they are having impact.
  • If the COO is not an engaging, quality speaker, be sure he or she receives presentation training. We find this is important.
  • Door prizes are a must.
  • Conduct a session for leaders first and get their feedback on what works well and what could be improved. This creates additional ownership.
  • Always report on what happened between sessions so that staff understand the impact of their opinions and see the value of completing the survey.
  • Make it mandatory that leaders schedule staff to attend. • Depending on the size of the group, break a large group up into smaller working groups and give them a few minutes to tackle a challenge at the hospital. This helps attendees do real work and give input. • And last, is the CEO onsite? If so, be sure to have him or her as a presenter.