Senior leadership at any organization is essentially a juggler’s role. At any given point in time, they are constantly prioritizing roles and looking to keep all stakeholders involved happy, engaged, and invested. However, no concern that a CEO’s face holds weight the way employee engagement and mindset do. As countless research and examples have proven, employee morale, engagement, and wellbeing are foundational to the success of any business. No wonder Sir Richard Branson has famously stated “Take care of your employees, and they will take care of the business. It’s that simple!”. There is significant research to back this. A Gallup study says managers who are directly supervised by engaged executive teams are 39% more likely to be engaged, as opposed to those with lower engaged executives. Fortunately for executives, AMAs, a gift of the modern internet, are a uniquely effective way to engage, attract and invest in employees, one that can have a significant long-term impact on the company culture and success.
Ask me anything at the workplace
What are ‘AMAs’?
AMAs, or Ask Me Anything is open sessions where the CEO or company senior leadership make themselves available to take questions. What started as an experimental model of mass communication by a platform called Reddit, today is one of the most important tools of employee engagement within the corporate communications space.
AMAs gained sudden popularity when former President Barack Obama did an AMA on Reddit during his 2012 campaign. Today, leaders across industries, from Elon Musk to Bill Gates, to Indian upstarts like Kunal Shah & Vijay Shekhar Sharma are known for doing periodic AMAs with their employees, vendors, & customers.
What’s the anatomy of an AMA?
Let’s now do a quick dive into the structure and format of an AMA.
The most important part of an AMA is deciding who should be doing the AMA. For organizations, the CEO or other senior leadership are excellent faces for AMA as they are bound to attract attention from employees, vendors, and other stakeholders.
The next part is deciding the date, place, and reason for the AMA. A lot of these decisions depend on the values and priorities of the company. IBM in 2019 announced they would do weekly AMAs with senior leadership across all divisions, in a bid to get employees to be more informed and engaged with company decisions.
To offer more structure, AMAs can sometimes be held around specific events, like the launch of a product, an announcement of a new policy, or the occurrence of a major global pandemic! Such AMAs can then be topical and may even be focused on the stakeholders who would be directly affected by the event.
Another way to add structure to an AMA is to source questions from employees and other stakeholders in advance. One of the popular forms of doing this is to upvote questions that employees like in a public forum, say a community learning platform, or through Google forms, as use that as a basis to structure the event.
4 Ways AMAs benefits your organisation :
1. Reinforce Company values and Culture
AMAs, town halls, or even simple all-hands meetings are a great way for leaders to reinforce transparency and accountability as a practice and not a lip-service.
Leaders and organizations today are keen to highlight their Open-Door policy, by rearranging desks, and opening up floor plans to take away cubicles. They may also use a host of in-house communication platforms, channels, emails, and newsletters. However, none of those offer an open forum for face-to-face discussions, feedback, and sharing of new ideas. AMAs, therefore, is a great way to get employees involved and build ownership towards work and the organization.
When a leader willingly takes up questions from their employees, it is a sign to them that she is willing to listen to their feedback, and that their experience or opinion matters are just as much as hers. It breaks the assumption of Us vs Them that may creep into the workforce, doubles down on the messaging that everyone present is working towards a shared goal, and that success of one is the success of all.
2. Bring a more human aspect to leadership
The nature of an open AMA also ensures leaders are pushed to be candid, as opposed to spouting practiced PR statements. Through the questions asked, leaders get an opportunity to share their thoughts, opinions, inhibitions and end up building vital bonds with the workforce.
Sometimes, leaders may also find themselves taken by surprise by the questions their employees ask. Fortunately, that’s a good thing. The CEO of Shopify, famously says “Sitting in that hot seat might make you sweat, but that just means you’re doing it right.”
3. Creates a culture of asking more questions.
One of the major workplace challenges, especially in a country like India, is that asking questions is considered a sign of weakness. AMAs are a fantastic opportunity to rebrand this notion, and welcome curiosity, innovation, and experimentation to the workplace.
4. Identify problems early
AMAs are a great way to spot problems that may be simmering in the workforce and have the potential to become major obstacles to business success. It is a way for leaders to check employee sentiment on topics that may be going around in the news and can have serious implications for people’s jobs.
As companies grow bigger and more hierarchical, leaders may lose touch with employee problems across various levels. An AMA can help bring those issues to the front, get addressed promptly.
One of the big learnings in leadership is that just because you aren’t hearing anything negative, doesn’t mean it’s not out there. AMAs are also a great opportunity for bosses to ask employees what they do not like or agree with. Through anonymous questions and inputs, employees can be encouraged to share details of practices, policies, and decisions that they disagree with.
Message to Leaders: Just do it!
To all the leaders reading into this piece, if you are thinking of a way to connect with your employees or other stakeholders effectively and honestly, Go for an AMA!
Tapping into employee pulse, into their needs, interests, worries, and questions can undoubtedly enhance employee perception of the company and their value in the workplace. But the larger opportunity is in defining a culture of sharing and learning.
BHyve uses another gift of modern technology, Artificial Intelligence, to locate peers your employees can learn from within the workplace. Through an effective Peer Learning network, organizations can unlock the incredible wealth of tacit knowledge employees bring to the workplace every day, and make it accessible and useful for the workforce at large.
With BHyve, organizations can keep their employees skilled, engaged, and invested. Talk to one of our experts to know how to roll out a peer learning network at your organization.