4 surefire tips for effective pre-shift team huddles
There’s one thing that all teams have in common: the need for communication and alignment.
No matter if you’re playing a sport, working on a project, or sharing a shift, it’s important that your whole team is on the same page. In the long run, but also on the daily.
Enter: pre-shift team huddle.
There are countless benefits to a pre-shift team huddle — from gathering feedback and aligning on goals to team building and driving employee engagement. Coming together before each shift is a valuable touchpoint to get everyone on the same page about the day or night ahead.
But sometimes, they’re easier said than done. So we tapped our friends at meeting agenda software Hypercontext for tried-and-true ways to optimize your pre-shift team huddles (plus a few ideas of what to cover!):
1. Don’t wing it—have an agenda
While a team huddle is a great way to get everyone energized, that’s not its only purpose. These quick meetings are a great way to align on SOPs, drive consistent execution and reiterate core messages like brand purpose.
Having a meeting agenda prepared is a best practice across all industries—deskless or deskbound alike. Lay out what you’re going to cover and what you want to focus on each meeting. This will help ensure your team huddle stays on track and you communicate everything that needs to be shared.
Added bonus: when you show up prepared for these meetings, it also signals to your team that they value the time to connect pre-shift.
2. Keep it short and sweet
Calling team huddles for more than 15 minutes isn’t sustainable over time. That also means you need to be strict about staying on schedule and not veer off topic. When the meeting starts to bleed over, it can throw off the entire day. And that’s the exact opposite of what a huddle’s supposed to do!
Schedule your pre-shift huddle for 15 minutes—and stick to that time. They’re meant to be a quick way to touch base before the start of each shift and shouldn’t require too much extra commitment from your staff.
3. Make it mandatory
Drinks after a shift can be optional, but pre-shift huddles can’t be. To be an effective team, everyone needs to be in the loop. If some people are in the huddle and others aren’t, some workers will be missing important information. And that leads to inefficiencies, fractured communication and poor execution. Make your pre-shift meeting mandatory so you don’t end up with a disjointed team.
4. Ensure consistency
Leadership sets the tone for team huddles. If they keep bailing on huddles, your team won’t take them seriously. Encourage your managers to stick to the routine, every single day. It’s important for employees to know they have the time to ask questions and get a sense of what’s expected of them each day. If they keep getting canceled, you can’t expect to also get the benefits.
You’ll also want to keep the agenda of team huddle consistent. If you start with company updates, then employee recognition, then you go over daily tasks, keep that same order every day. It builds in routine.
Bonus! 4 agenda item ideas for pre-shift team huddles
Speaking of meeting agendas, your pre-shift team huddle can go beyond the standard menu updates, safety announcements and general housekeeping. Here are a few other agenda items to consider including in your team huddles to boost engagement and build community:
Encouraging staff to take a few minutes at the top of your team huddle to get to know one another helps to energize them and build a sense of community. Over time, with these short ice breakers, your team will find commonalities that help build empathy. Here are some examples of icebreaker questions you can ask to get started:
- What are you most looking forward to this week (personally or professionally)?
- What’s a win you had last week? (personally or professionally)?
- What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
- What’s your favorite book?
2. Company mandate, purpose and goals
Your team huddle is a good time to remind your team what they’re working toward—today and also in the long term. And if you’re starting to feel like a broken record, you’re doing it right. According to the forgetting curve, we start forgetting things just hours after we learn them. In as quick as a day after you’ve learned something, you already forget 40% of the new information. The next day? 60%. And so it continues.
Meaning: it’s important to consistently talk about goals and purpose if you want your team to remember them. After all, it’s pretty hard to hit goals you can’t remember.
3. Recognition & feedback
Did anyone do an outstanding job last shift? Give them a shout out to recognize their hard work. Recognition helps strengthen your company values, increases connectivity and engagement and provides positive reinforcement. In addition to recognition, it’s a good time to encourage two-way feedback. What are some insights the team is learning from customers? What processes could be improved? Is there anything the organization should stop or start doing?
You can also use this time to give feedback. But keep in mind, this is absolutely not the time to share constructive feedback that only pertains to certain people. Here’s an example of the difference between the feedback you should vs. shouldn’t share in a team huddle:
Feedback that should be shared in your pre-shift huddle: “Recently, a lot of people have been bumping into each other in the kitchen, causing food to spill and glass to break. Remember to say ‘behind you’ every time we’re walking behind someone so we can all be more aware of the space around us.”
Feedback that shouldn’t be shared in your pre-shift huddle: “Sally, I noticed you were late to shift yesterday. As a result John had to pick up your slack. Moving forward, please make sure you arrive on time.”
The first piece of feedback is applicable to the entire team, while the second isolates one teammate, which impacts morale and engagement.
Consider saving a few minutes at the end of the huddle for any questions from your team. Likely if one person has a question, there are more people who are wondering about the same thing. Instead of repeatedly fielding the same questions throughout the day, answer questions at a time when everyone’s present.
Whether it’s about something that was said during the huddle or a more general question about the day ahead, this is a great time to address questions or concerns from your team.
Showing up prepared and staying consistent will help you get the most out of your pre-shift team huddles, so your team feels equipped each shift to tackle their day. Take the time to connect with your team before work starts to gradually build rapport, get on the same page, address any blockers, shout-out good work and answer any questions.