At Happeo, we face many of the same challenges as our customers. Like centralizing information, structuring internal communications, and building culture. How do we handle those challenges? By using Happeo, of course.
We also like to experiment by trying new things, so that we can share our findings with our customers and help them to get the most out of Happeo. Most recently, that meant using Happeo Channels, combined with a shared Google Drive folder, to collaborate on an internal event before, during, and after the actual sessions.
By including the right people in the Channel, we could easily share announcements and content related to the event in one place, target it to the right audience, and make sure it was accessible after the event itself too.
Over the past three years, Happeo has grown from a company of 30 people located close together to a community of over 100 Happsters spread across two continents and six different time zones. That means that we constantly need to find new ways to communicate and collaborate. For example, it’s no longer feasible for our CEO to have walk-and-talks with all employees as he did in the early days.
At the same time, being so spread out means it’s harder for us to share information. That means that not everyone is up-to-speed on our strategy and how they can contribute to it — or even how the work they’re currently doing is tied to our overall mission.
At this point, we’ve all seen the research: situations like these can easily lead to disengagement if they’re not kept in check.
Our answer: the Happeo Leaders Forum
One solution to this problem is to use online collaboration tools like Happeo to host internal events that help global teams to connect with each other.
In December, we held our first-ever Happeo Leaders Forum. The forum brought together our team and domain leaders to get a first look at our annual strategy. The goal of the forum was to build cross-functional alignment and to get feedback from various different perspectives on our strategy for the year.
Here are the three steps we followed to make sure the Leaders Forum was a success.
Step 1: Finding a synchronous time that worked for most, but enabling those not able to attend live to take part too
Because our leaders are spread over several time zones, we knew it would be challenging to find a time when everyone would be available. Plus, we were nearing the holidays and many people were already off enjoying time with their families. We knew we needed to find a way to allow as many people as possible to attend the meeting, but make it easy for those who couldn’t attend live to participate too.
We created a Happeo Channel dedicated to the event and invited all participants to join. A few days before the live session, we shared information about the forum, including what to expect, what would be expected of participants, and some practical information. We only had an hour and a half for the event itself — and a lot of content to share — so it was important to save time by putting this information out beforehand.
Step 2: Preparing discussion templates ahead of time, keeping live presentations short, and breaking into small groups to facilitate discussion
Because the event involved over 20 leaders, we decided to split up into small discussion groups after the initial presentation. Since everyone was attending virtually, we created groups made up of a mixture of people from different locations and departments. One member of our leadership team joined each group to facilitate discussion and collect notes in a shared document.
During the presentation, we shared both the groups and the meeting links in the Happeo Channel. We had also already created note-taking templates for each group, which included some questions that our Leadership team especially wanted feedback on. We shared these in the Channel folder, along with the presentation slides and (once it was ready) the presentation recording.
This gave all participants easy access to the content they needed in one place, both before and after the event. It also made it easy for those who could not attend the event in real-time to watch the recording, read others’ comments and add their own feedback.
Step 3: Asking for feedback on the event, keeping the discussion going, and making the next steps clear
After the event, we embedded a Google form in a Channel post to ask for feedback on the forum from participants. We immediately got a few responses, mostly from participants who said that they would have liked more time to process the content before commenting on it.
Because of this feedback, we were able to quickly decide on the next steps. We arranged a second round of discussions for two weeks later. This time, instead of presenting the whole strategy in one go, we divided the session into time slots, each dedicated to one specific element of the strategy.
This allowed participants to digest smaller portions at a time and left more time for discussion. Since everyone had already seen the content (at least) once, the feedback we received was even more valuable and actionable. This second meeting also gave those leaders who weren’t able to attend the first event another chance to participate in real-time discussions.
To wrap up the Leaders Forum, we updated our strategy presentation based on our leaders’ feedback. Since they still had access to the presentation, team leaders were able to begin discussing the content with their teams and using our high-level goals to guide them in the plans they made for the year. We then shared our updated strategy with the whole company at our annual kickoff meeting in January.
How Happeo helped us to host this internal event
The approach we used allowed our leaders to contribute to our strategy and align with it before working with their teams to build and execute detailed plans. By using Happeo and Google Workspace as a platform for collaborating on the content around the Leaders Forum, we were able to neatly facilitate everything in one place. This also allowed for asynchronous collaboration with team members who couldn't participate live — a key challenge for distributed organizations that want to host internal events.
Our teams are used to getting information through Happeo. We typically hold a company all-hands meeting every week and then post a recap in our company-wide Happeo Channel. This recap acts as a kind of newsletter about the topics covered in the meeting. Team members who aren’t usually able to attend are grateful for the format, as it saves them time compared to watching a recording but means they still get access to the same information.
We also send an automated reminder on Slack two days before the weekly meeting to remind people to share their shout-outs and let the facilitator know if they have any topics they’d like to share. By using Happeo ahead of our Leaders Forum, we effectively used the same technique to make sure that everyone was prepared for the event.
Our key takeaways
This was our first time using Happeo to host an internal event for a specific group. Here are some of the key learnings we took away from the experience:
Share information in advance as much as possible: We made sure the information was shared early enough for everyone to see the message and used several channels (Happeo, Slack, calendar events) to make sure it got through.
Allow time to digest information before asking for feedback: Our strategy presentation had 60+ slides. And some of the most common feedback we got from participants was that it was challenging to absorb that much information and be expected to comment on it straight away. Recording and sharing presentation content a few days before the meeting could have been useful.
Break down information into smaller chunks: Again, digesting a whole presentation’s worth of information in one go can be challenging. By breaking down the content into smaller chunks during our second session, we were able to get more relevant and actionable feedback.
Set clear expectations and communicate the next steps: The planning team’s idea was that after contributing to the strategy during the Leaders Forum, leaders would be able to work on aligning their own team’s plans. But after the first sessions, some people weren’t sure what they needed to do next — something that we could have been clearer on.
Repeat, repeat, repeat: Throughout the process, we consistently repeated the overall purpose of the forum. When we realized that some people weren’t clear on the next actions they needed to take, we repeated this too. We also shared info about what was going on with the wider organization to keep everyone in the loop.
Facilitate asynchronous discussion: We needed to organize the event in a way that facilitated asynchronous discussion for those who couldn’t attend live. While this was successful thanks to the Happeo Channel, we could have done even more here. For example, we could have asked specific questions in the Channel or shared information on the updates we made to content based on the feedback we received.
Keep leaders informed: Making sure the whole leadership team was informed throughout the process was key, as it meant they could support the event by communicating its purpose and the next steps to their team leads.