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More and more large and small companies are holding townhall style meetings.  These town hall meets, also known as all-hands meetings, are meant to provide transparency and openness between the company’s executives and their employees.  Townhalls are a great way to streamline communication, create an open, inclusive environment, and allow for a question and answer session.  If your company has a townhall, you should gather questions to ask at the company townhall.

Typically, townhall meetings hold a similar format.  Senior leadership and executives will speak to the state of the company, any major company wins or successes, points of difficulty that need to be addressed, and future or forward outlook.  The townhall meeting will last for roughly 90 minutes to 2-hours and will include a Q&A session.

Townhall sessions are a great opportunity to ask questions of your senior leadership and executive team’s.  We’ve compiled a list of great questions to ask below.  However, before you rush to ask your question, you should follow some pieces of advice to ensure your question comes off as professional as possible.

Firstly, ensure your question is tailored to your audience.  If you are addressing the CEO directly, then look him/her in the eyes while you ask your question.  Be respectful and professional and have some basic research completed.  Not only should you review their personal biography, but you should read up on the company financials and forward outlook that the company has put out.  You don’t want to ask a question that you’re already expected to know!

When you begin asking your question, start by introducing yourself and which department you work for.  Keep it brief but be sure to give a quick introduction.  Utilize the microphone if there is one, keep you question concise and speak clearly and loudly.  Be professional, look into the eyes of the audience taking the question, and thank them for taking the time to answer your question.

Things to Remember!

Before speaking ot asking a question to the CEO or the executive and senior leadership team, you should ensure that you are 100% presentable and appear your best.  While the CEO may not know who you are beforehand, they will likely remember you, especially if you ask a pointed, specific, or direct question.  This can be helpful to your career and career growth.

You should make sure that your hair is combed, that you prepare the questions you want to ask beforehand and have them written down, and that your wardrobe is wrinkle free.  These simple steps will help you to be more memorable and to leave a long lasting impression.

What challenges, if any, is the company facing?

This question shows that you are thinking about the future of the company and are looking to prepare for any upcoming challenges.  The CEO may not fully divulge what challenges they believe are upcoming, but you should note their answer and see if you can work with your manager to reduce any upcoming challenges together.

What are customers saying about our business? How can we increase customer satisfaction?

All companies rely on customers.  Without a happy, satisfied customer base, the company would cease to exist and go out of business.  CEO’s and senior executives are keenly aware of this.  Asking directly about how the customer feels and what you can do to increase customer satisfaction shows that you understand this as well.

What major upcoming projects is the company engaged in?

Understanding where the company is going is just as important as where the company is.  It is good to get an understanding of major plans and projects and see how you can be a resource in its development.

How are you feeling as CEO?

Getting a little more personal, this question is trying to see how comfortable the CEO is in their role.  Most CEO’s will indicate a “good feeling”, but this question helps to open up the conversation and allow the CEO to show some vulnerability and divulge their thoughts on their own challenges.

Considering the current tough market conditions what plans, if any, are being made to pivot the company for future success?

This question is a little more nuanced than the first question.  But it is starkly different in that you are forcing the CEO to admit to the current market conditions.  This question provides the CEO with an opportunity to address the challenges and allow them to discuss their how they plan to pivot the company’s focus for future success and growth.

What is the company’s voluntary turnover this year? What is being done to reduce employee turnover and increase overall retention?

Employee turnover affects nearly every department in a company.  Multiple employee turnover in a short span of time can have negative, long-lasting effects on morale and can cause a domino effect, with even more employees opting to “jump ship.”  If you notice these trends, it is good to ask the CEO and the executive leadership team on their thoughts and their plan to buck this trend.

Employee morale has remained stagnant, what plans do you have to increase morale and employee satisfaction?

We’re well into the tougher questions to ask now.  Employee morale and satisfaction can make-or-break a company.  If you notice satisfaction and morale amongst your colleagues beginning to drip, feel free to ask the CEO what their plan is to increase it.

How are problems solved? Do you prefer to have every problem go through you or is the team empowered to fix the problem on their own?

This is a pointed and direct question about the CEO’s management style.  You are asking if the CEO prefers to have all problems go through them or if team’s and departments are truly empowered to solve their own problems.

What organizational structure do you see in place at the company today? Do you see a shift in the structure in the next 6 to 12 months?

Organizational structure is important to maintain stability and growth.  If an organizational update is imminent, it is important for employees to know and to understand why it is happening.

Is there an employee that you see developing into a future leader at this company?

This is a very direct question and you may find the CEO and executive leadership team caught off-guard with it.  However, it is good to know which employee or employees are being groomed for future leadership positions and opportunities.  You can learn from those employees and get a sense of what the company values in their employees.

How are you training new and seasoned managers? What do you expect from your management team?

Management training is as important as employee training.  Managers should be fully trained on developing their employees and their teams.  Their goals should be aligned with the company’s overall vision.  Asking this question ensures that management training is a forefront and a priority of the company.

How important is it for you and senior leadership to hire and promote from within?

No one wants to work for a company that doesn’t hire and promote from within.  Asking the CEO if this is a priority of theirs allows you to make a more informed decision on your own future and growth at the company.

What problems keep you up at night?

Understanding what keeps the CEO and the executive leadership team up at night and worried will better position you in two ways.  Firstly, it will help you and your team/department to try to avoid that issue and work towards solving it, if possible.  Secondly, it helps you to decide if the problem is too great for the company to handle.  If the threat is so large and imminent, then it may be better for you personally to begin looking for new opportunities outside the company.

Are there any plans for an acquisition? What are you looking for in a potential company?

Acquisitions are, at-times, a great way to revamp a company and inject a breath of freshness into an older company.  It is important to see what the CEO and senior executive team’s look for in any potential acquisition and how an acquisition would help the company expand and continue to grow.

What can we do to help with long-term growth and profitability?

This question allows you to open the floor to all employees.  It brings about a feeling of mutual collaboration and working together for a common good and the growth and success of the company.  It is one of the best questions you can ask.

What not to ask!

While the 15 questions above are great starting points, you should steer clear of asking any personal, intimate, or human resource specific questions.  Don’t ask questions about pay, bonuses, time off dates, or work from home options.  Those questions should only be asked to your manager or to human resources separately.

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