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Hi Christine. (Thanks John)
We've held a monthly session with one of our top executives for a couple years now. It's a highly engaging vehicle for our leadership to demonstrate their commitment to directly engaging employees and to give all of our employees a voice to connect with leadership. (Actually doing it tomorrow morning.)
In our experience, we've found that it's helpful to have a focused topic and to invite specific subject matter experts to have a loosely structured online chat. (Think of a talk show where the audience can jump in at any time.) Then, be open to the organic flow that can happen when everyone jumps into the conversation. Sometimes it takes some coaxing to get people to participate. This means asking ope-ended questions or posting a viewpoint on an issue and asking for ideas is a good prompt for the community.
It's also important to make the conversation safe for people to express themselves while being on topic. Any harsh response will have a chilling effect on the community and prevent others from feeling safe participating in future events.
Just saying "I'm open for questions" (ask me anything format) creates a challenge for people to come up with the questions they think are meaningful. We prefer to structure the strategic discussions around the business leader's interests or objectives.
Having a predetermined time and topic helps us to promote it as an event. It also gives our leadership time to engage and be available while also giving them permission to end the discussion and go offline. Not every topic will be interesting to all employees, but over time, it builds a solid base of reference content for the organization.
As for process, we only use the standard Jive discussion. We believe there is an opportunity for multimedia/live streaming to be more engaging, but we don't think it will increase participation or accessibility. We want the chat to be a discussion, not a broadcast. (Broadcasts are great but can be reserved for other communications.)
Would love to hear how others may have addressed this issue.
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At Citi we did a series of AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions with senior leadership that were highly successful. We had a place (a group) called "Ask Me Anything" and set it up specifically for that month's session. Once that session concluded, we created a project where we archived all of the content from that AMA session, so that it was still available after the fact, but cleared the way for the next session in the main group.
- Although we called them "Ask Me Anything" sessions, most of the time we provided guidelines for the types of topics to ask questions about, such as when a new initiative was being launched and this was one of the channels for employees to get information about it. However, we didn't restrict people to only asking about that topic.
- The set up of the group featured the "Ask a Question" widget and during the session, the page was continually refreshed to see the questions being asked.
- We posted notices on our community's homepage to advertise as well as sent targeted email communications to encourage people to participate. They were also often promoted on the company Intranet (which was separate from our Jive instance).
- Executives and/or their staff were often concerned that no one would participate or ask questions, so we always seeded the audience with a few "friendlies" who would ask questions to get the ball rolling.
- During the live session, this was our process:
- in the room with the executive was someone from their communications team on their own laptop, reviewing questions, someone from legal and/or hr (whoever needed to be there to handle any "sticky" questions) and a member of our team, who was often the person actually typing the responses that were dictated to them by the executive. If we couldn't get a legal and or hr person in the room, they were dialed in by phone. We also usually had a tech support person available (by phone or instant message) in case something went wrong technically. Your organization might not require all of these people in the room, but it is definitely valuable to have a comms person there to help select the questions to be answered.
- We kept the sessions to about 45 minutes, a finite chunk of time that was manageable for the executive, and gave them a way to easily end the session.
- If it was a highly attended or popular session, there might not be enough time to answer all of the questions, so some executives would go back later and provide responses to questions that were missed.
- One of the fun things we did if the exec was amenable to it was to post a photo of them in the room getting ready to start the session.
Good luck, I think these are a great way to increase engagement, break down silos and help employees feel more connected to senior leadership!
Can you tell me more about why you created a project to archive the questions when the session ended? Was it too confusing when you did the next session to have the questions and answers still in the Group?
I don't quite understand how to do that with the project or what the benefits are of doing it. Thanks!
In our case, I think because we considered each one a self-contained conversation with a different executive, we wanted to keep each one self-contained by moving everything to a separate project. We didn't archive the projects or hide them, we just moved everything from each AMA into a separate project so that we'd have a record of that conversation at that time.
We created a project within our AMA group and we moved each discussion from the main group into a project that we'd created for that purpose.
We did this in a really similar way to Julie Blutstein however:
- We created an individual group for each AMA session (and executive). That way the execs can decide whether or not to keep the group alive, or simply leave the questions there for posterity.
- We always did it live for 60 minutes, but opened the group to the public 2 hours earlier.
- All sessions have been huge successes with all stakeholders happy with the outcomes.
Very important is having a small support team in the room. The answers from the exec should be concise and authentic. And an occasional photo of the live session is also nice.
The groups we created are tailor-made for the exec and topic, with an emphasis on user-friendliness, i.e. huge buttons with 'Ask ____ a question' and 'Follow the conversation'.
We used Activity + Pages and generally preferred the Activity page for following the conversation because, unlike the tile, it shows all asked and answered questions as well as replies.
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Definitely echo what Steve Shultz and Julie Blutstein have already posted. We ran something very similar at another international financial institution using a system almost identical to standard discussions in Jive. Some observations from that programme:
- We ran our sessions off the back of all-hands calls; so instead of the awkward silence at the end of a massive dial-in, we said Q&A would happen on the platform; cue a huge increase in questions posed
- Our session ran for 24 hours, allowing folks to dip in and out as their schedules allowed; particularly useful for audiences in other parts of the globe; but we also told everyone the board would be locked (though viewable) at the end
- We trained execs to post their own responses - possibly the one situation where typos are a plus! - although we also ensured someone (an XA, PA) confident with the platform was close by
- We provided coaching and a crib sheet about how to post, generate further discussion etc. (often leveraging skills they already had, albeit in the context of a town hall podium) ...
- .. and lined-up a panel of subject matter experts covering many different areas of the organisation; executives were encouraged to 'play in' an SME by @ mentioning them in a response if the conversation became 'technical'
- If questions didn't get answered, we covered them in follow-up communications
It was the first time that institution had really used this format. After a lukewarm first run during which folks were looking to see if they could 'trust' it as being a safe and not career-limiting way to engage the seniors, it really caught on and was used at events of very different sizes.
Hope that helps
We are in the process of planning / executing something very similar to this, so I'll be watching this thread with interest.
And sharing back, as well, once we have something to share.