Our human resource (HR) manager has recommended to our chief executive officer (CEO) monthly town hall meetings with employees. The CEO says he’s too busy to do it and told us, the line leaders, supervisors, and managers to engage in employee engagement dialogue instead. Which one is correct? — Torn Ligament.

Danish-American comedian, conductor and pianist Victor Borge (1909-2000) was once asked if he played other musical instruments, Borge answered: “Well, yes. I have another piano.” To answer your question, choosing between the CEO’s monthly town hall meeting and the line leaders’ engagement dialogue is easy and simple.

It’s not a case of choosing one over the other. They’re both needed under the right circumstances. The formats, style and substance differ, but they complement the objectives of each other. Let us count the ways.

The CEO’s town hall meeting is strategic and broader in scope. It discusses the current state of corporate affairs. It includes how the company’s plans are coming along, and discusses goals, competitors, the industry landscape, and many more. Such a meeting should not be the exclusive domain of the CEO. In certain situations, other key executives like the Chief Operating Officer, the General Manager, or anyone from the top management team can take over the handling of the town hall meetings.

Even in the presence of the CEO, these ranking officials must be in attendance to lend support and to answer specific questions raised by employees. While a face-to-face meeting is desirable, a virtual platform could be used instead, such as the ones we are using during the pandemic. Besides, town hall meetings should not take long.

The ideal length for such a meeting is not more than an hour and a half, with a strict schedule. It should be organized and hosted by the HR department, which will take care of all the administrative details, including issuing a memorandum or announcement summarizing the highlights for the benefit of other employees who had no opportunity to attend.


While the focus of town hall meetings is to align everyone with the company’s strategic goals, it is different in the case of an engagement dialogue performed by team leaders and other line executives. The purpose of such a dialogue, also known informally as a kumustahan, is to align the career goals of each and every worker with organizational objectives.

This can’t be done by the CEO or other top-ranking officials.

Engagement dialogues are the exclusive domain of workers and their immediate bosses. The managers concerned know the individual quirks and personalities of their workers, as well as the nature of their jobs. Team leaders and line supervisors are privy to the individual concerns of their people and they know how to respond without delay or fanfare.

An engagement dialogue must be casual. It could be initiated anytime, in a relaxed atmosphere, by the line executive. Some of the broad questions an executive may initiate include: how are you doing today? What kind of challenges are you facing at the moment? How can I help you improve your chances of success in this organization?


However, an engagement dialogue is not enough. Line executives must exercise empathy and provide answers when necessary. The organization may not be able to solve the specific concerns due to certain limitations. What’s important is the offer of assistance to help alleviate the concerns of most people.

That’s the essence of active listening, which requires the establishment of a pattern of line executives striving to understand the issues. This can be done by having an eye-level discussion; just make sure not to let your body language betray you. Paraphrase the employee’s issue to verify that you’ve understood it.

It’s also important that you don’t jump the gun by coming to a conclusion or hasty decision, whether it’s acceptable or not to the employee.

If you know how to listen, you can offer many options to settle the matter. You might be surprised how easy their concerns are to manage, with a few exceptions like a salary increase, for instance.

In general, their concerns are not as difficult as you imagine. Most of the time, it boils down to being fair and just to everyone. Be kind to all. Treat them with respect. You’ll soon discover that people management is not difficult.


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