Annual Meetings: Not Just for Shareholders

Annual MeetingMost of you may be familiar with the “annual meetings” required by law for corporations. For small businesses these meetings are often virtual and imaginary, a function that’s simply required for corporate compliance.  

For others, it’s a real and genuine chance to meet their shareholders in order to look over financials for the last year and cast a vision for the following year.

But some of the best companies also ensure that there’s an annual meeting with employees as well, in which their input is solicited and their efforts are specifically recognized.

The Meeting Itself

You could take a half day or a whole day, but make sure it’s not entirely devoted to business. Make sure you’ve got some good food set aside – whether you choose to do it onsite or offsite. Also, make sure that you’ve given them at least some sense of the agenda so they can prepare ahead of time.

Things to cover

  • Financials
    Now you don’t have to give your employees a full set of financials. What you can do is put together a custom report with some key numbers which may lead to some questions that can promote conversation. You can ask where you think growth is coming from, where savings could be gained, what the overall reaction is to growth/decline, etc. The major intangible for the employees is the feelings of trust and inclusion you will foster by sharing these numbers. They’re unlikely to have experienced this in previous jobs and you have a chance to make them feel special and valued. 
  • Brand audit
    As businesses grow and develop (and sometimes pivot) the original sense of the brand can drift. This isn’t a bad thing – it’s a natural part of the journey. However, it’s important to use opportunities like this to recalibrate. If you ask your employees what the brand means to them (and these are people ostensibly working in and around the brand on a daily basis) and you don’t like what you’re hearing, it’s a chance to make a course correction. On the other hand, you may hear something you hadn’t even considered, and can double down in that direction.
  • Employment audit
    Think of this as a group version of an annual review. Ask people what it feels like to work there. Would they recommend it to their friends? Why or why not, etc. By making it a group activity, people will feel safer sharing things that they might not in an individual format.
  • One good/bad thing
    Ask them both:

    • What is one thing we do exceptionally well?
    • What is one thing we can really improve?

This will allow you to revel in something positive while also being honest and focused on ongoing improvements.

The secret weapon in all of this is safety. Your staff must know there will be no recriminations for whatever they say. That means you may need to, as a leader, go first.  

You may have to be vulnerable and share some dreams/hopes/fears that you normally hold back. This gives them permission to be honest with you too. It’s obviously a delicate line to tread, but the best leaders and owners aren’t afraid of that.

Here’s to a great new year for you and your team!