By: Hannah Cooper, Senior Analyst
When someone mentions a “book club,” the image brought to mind usually consists of older folks discussing symbolism and drinking coffee at the kitchen table. At NEOS, “book club” has a bit of a different connotation; although there may be coffee and a round-table discussion, the NEOS book club dives into thought-provoking books that engage employees at all career levels to discuss relevant industry topics. If you are looking to start a book club within your organization to engage your workforce, take a look at how NEOS got its club started.
To get started with a book club, you need to receive buy-in from management. No matter how your organization traditionally presents new ideas to management, when pitching the book club, you should focus on providing your audience the benefits the club can provide, along with the club’s objectives. Here are some of the benefits and objectives NEOS used to receive management buy-in:
o Improve soft skills in a fun and collaborative way
o Practice storytelling and facilitating meetings in front of management and peers
o Learn from discussions, share own experiences, and receive feedback in real-time
o To provide a stimulating environment for employees
o To provide resources to support the learning and development of all employees
o To encourage personal growth
When you receive buy-in from management, you should generate a companywide email inviting employees to join. In your message, you should explain what book club is, what level of time commitment is involved, and when and where each meeting will take place. Be sure to provide an end date to when people can sign up and, as a best practice, send out a reminder email. One helpful tool for framing your email is the five W’s:
1. Why should you join the book club?
2. Who can participate?
3. What is book club and what book was chosen?
4. When will book club take place?
5. Where will book club take place?
Once you have a list of participants, you can send out a list of chapters to read for each meeting. Participants should email you back individually to pick which date/chapters they would like to facilitate. You can create a table which can help participants select the dates that work best for their schedules.
Setting up the Meeting:
After finalizing the participant list, you can begin to send out meeting invites. When preparing your email, be sure to include the following details:
o The date(s) and time range for the meeting. Depending how many weeks you need to read the chapters, it’s best to keep book club on the same day for those weeks during the same time
o A short description of what participants should expect when facilitating and participating in the discussion
o A list or chart of dates that correspond with the chapters to be read with the facilitator owning the meeting in the invite
o A note explaining that each facilitator is responsible for reaching out to other book club members in the event they can’t make the meeting
o A dial-in for employees who are working remotely
Now that you have a framework for starting your own book club, you can begin to work with employees and/or management to decide what books would be beneficial for your organization to read. You can start by asking management for suggestions about books or by considering areas of interest for the company.
Are there new emerging technologies or business practices your organization could benefit from? Or could employees become more efficient in certain soft skill areas? When NEOS met with management, we provided examples of areas where NEOS employees could improve. Based on those examples, management provided ideas for book club.
Take a look at some of the books the NEOS team read in 2019:
1. “It was the Best of Sentences, it was the Worst of Sentences” – an excellent guide for achieving clearer and more precise business writing standards.
2. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”- valuable literature for business professionals to understand that “between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.”
3. “Crucial Conversations” – discover how crucial it is to master “the pool of shared meaning” in every conversation.
Having a book club at your organization is an excellent opportunity to build strong business communication skills and learn more about material vital to differentiating your company. Have any books that you recommend?