By Marine Wallace, Director of Brand & Talent practice at MSLGROUP in the Netherlands. This article was first published in the People’s Insights magazine The Future of Employee (Re)Engagement, and is re-published below.
For decades, corporate meetings have consisted of a speaker on stage, scrolling through slides, addressing an assembly of passive listeners. But the rise of digital and social technologies brings with them new possibilities to make employee events truly interactive, inspiring and cost effective.
Some employers choose to integrate participatory social elements to make their physical meetings engaging, while others prefer to move the whole event into on online forum, where attendees join from different locations and connect in a virtual meeting room.
Here are two examples of how big companies have used our online meeting platform Multilogue to involve large numbers of employees in a live discussion.
Using online to extend the reach of top executive meetings
Online meetings are a great way to extend the reach of face-to-face meetings, allowing more people to participate in an inspiring way.
When a European service company went through a re-organization, they invited the top 70 leaders to meet in Berlin. On their meeting agenda, two hours were blocked to move their discussion to an online platform, inviting the top 1,000 managers from Europe to join remotely.
This extension of the face-to-face event was an instant success. 670 managers joined the top 70 in the online meeting room. 1,500 comments were posted (by those joining remotely and those in the Berlin room) in only 90 minutes.
Because the discussion was being monitored live, the moderation team immediately returned the first results to the plenary session in Berlin after the online discussion finished. A week later, after all comments were thoroughly analyzed, the management was able to produce a roadmap based not only on the input of those present in Berlin but incorporating the views of all those who had joined the online brainstorm.
Replacing the face-to-face with the online
In some cases, an online meeting is the only possible way to bring large numbers of people together – other than renting a football stadium.
When a global bank decided to re-shape the company’s brand positioning they needed to bring on board all of their staff. The challenge was to introduce their new values globally in a way that the desired behaviours would be well understood and adopted by the staff at all levels throughout the organisation.
To do this, they opted for an online event inviting all 120,000 employees to address questions such as ‘What does it mean to be attentive? How will I adapt my behaviour to deliver the brand promise?’
Discussions were organized in 9 different languages and the online meeting was live for 24 hours, giving employees from different time zones the opportunity to join in. Of the 120,000 employees invited, 41% or 54,000 employees participated, representing 59 countries, and posting over 19,000 comments.
The quantity and quality of the ideas brought to the discussion was recognized by the leadership team. All comments were analysed and the key findings were integrated in local business plans.
Social experiences appeal to Gen Y workers
Two-way communication is the new norm in the conversation age.
The value of integrating an online part in the corporate meeting lies in the social experience. It fuels employee engagement by blurring boundaries between silos, hierarchy and cultures. It enthuses all employees with a sense of shared purpose.
In a live online interactive meeting, large groups of people, from around the world, can chat with each other, in real time, using a web connection and a keyboard. This means everyone speaks openly to each other. One talks the same way to a colleague as to a CEO. When someone asks a question, the answer can come from anywhere. Everyone has a voice, no matter the job title or native language.
Research on employer attractiveness shows that Gen Y workers expect a culture of transparency and openness. They don’t recognise themselves a hierarchical way of cascading messages from top to bottom. In their personal lives – as students, consumers and citizens – Gen Y has been trained to collaborate, co-create, participate, curate, rate and share without boundaries. In their professional life, they expect to play an active role in company strategy.
More than saving cost and time
It’s about breaking the walls between silos and generations to fuel engagement with the company’s mission.
An online meeting is more than a cost effective solution to host companywide discussions. The live human moderation ensures that the conversation is influenced in real time and that the key findings are extracted and analysed. The fact that it is an actual event on a given date fuels participation.
Employees feel empowered to have a say and share a common energy during the live social experience. The set-up promotes transparency, openness and co-creation. It is a culture that is especially valued by Gen Y workers and is ideal for companies who want to involve and engage their employees.
Learn more about the MSLGROUP online meeting tool Multilogue.
To start a conversation on how your company can organize an online meeting, contact your local Brand & Talent practice leader or email firstname.lastname@example.org