Meetings, whether live or virtual, are a fact of life. They can be extremely helpful and productive or a huge, counterproductive waste of time. While employees love to complain about meetings, we all know how valuable they can be. Everyone wants to be on the same page, but if you are going to take employees away from their work, the meeting should be planned and executed properly.
According to a study by Accountemps, workers spend about 21% of their time in meetings and feel that 25% percent of that time is wasted. The biggest complaints are that meetings don’t start or end on time and that communication could have been handled over email.
Not surprisingly, a University of North Carolina study found a correlation between how a company runs its meetings and employee satisfaction, retention, and turnover. Meetings should not be overlooked when it comes to employee morale and job satisfaction. Poorly planned and ineffective meetings can exacerbate negative feelings and have a significant impact on overall job satisfaction and employee turnover.
Contact Resourcing Edge to speak with a team of HR experts who can advise you on measuring, managing, and improving meeting effectiveness.
How to Run More Effective Meetings
Given the large amount of time and money spent on meetings, it’s important to make them as productive and efficient as possible.
Here are some strategies for running fewer, more productive meetings:
How do you know what employees think about the meetings they attend? Are your employees experiencing meeting overload?
In order to assess how meetings are viewed internally, it’s a good idea to include meeting-related questions in your regular employee survey process. Regular meeting assessments help identify areas for improvement and lay the groundwork for an positive changes.
Managers and supervisors typically spend the most time preparing and executing meetings, but any employee who runs meetings should be trained on how to do it effectively. In some cases, the managers and employees who run meetings lack the skills and training for running successful meetings.
You can improve meeting effectiveness with some basic training: active listening, agenda building, conflict resolution, how to encourage participation, and managing cultural differences.
The sooner you build these skills in the leadership pipeline, the better. Use the feedback you get from employee surveys to target specific areas of improvement.
Is a Meeting Necessary?
The first thing you want to determine is whether or not a meeting is even necessary. Instead of leaving it up to the discretion of individuals, the organization should have some basic guidelines.
For example, you may want to get rid of regular meetings if you are meeting just because it’s a habit. Each meeting should have a clear agenda and a method for filling in employees who do not attend. No objective, no meeting.
You may also want to make it a company policy for employees to opt out of meetings if the topic is outside of their interest, expertise, or responsibility. Different teams within the organization, however, may want to create their own guidelines.
Who Needs to Be There?
After determining if a meeting is necessary, figure out who exactly needs to be there. Generally, it’s a good idea to limit attendees to eight people. According to research by Robert Sutton at Stanford University, the most productive meetings involve only two to eight people. Once you start to move into double digits, productivity and effectiveness take a dive.
You may also want to consider if attendees need to be there for the entire duration of the meeting. This is especially applicable to conference calls. With some preplanning, you can determine who needs to be around for which topics and when.
Meet with a Mission
Every meeting should have a purpose with a specific objective. Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the goal or objective?
- Are you communicating information or asking for information?
- Are you going to ask for ideas and suggestions?
- Are there final decisions that need to be made at the meeting?
- Is the meeting strategic (planning) or tactical (implementation)?
Create an Agenda
An agenda helps keep meetings on track and avoid wasted time. Start by writing the main purpose of the meeting at the top, followed by what you hope to accomplish by the end. If you don’t have an agenda, rethink having a meeting.
When creating an agenda, be as specific as you can:
Attendees – Who should attend the meeting to make it the most productive? Keep it to single digits.
Relevant Topics – Which topics need to be covered in order to meet the objective?
Logical Order – What’s the best way to order the topics? List them in order of importance so you don’t spend too much time on trivial matters.
Desired Outcome – What’s the main thing you want to accomplish? How will it be accomplished?
Timing – How long is the meeting? How long will you spend on each topic? Write down the number of minutes you plan on spending on each topic. Set a goal to reduce the length of meetings and finish early.
Time and Location – Have you verified the time and location of the meeting? Do all attendees know when and where the meeting will take place?
Planners may want to send a draft agenda to prospective attendees for feedback before finalizing it.
Best Practices for Conducting Meetings
Here are some final thoughts and best practices for conducting productive meetings:
When scheduling the meeting, consider the best time for the most important person and then schedule around that. If you’re holding a meeting with a client, their schedule comes first. If there is an important team member that needs to be at the meeting, confirm their availability first.
Planners are responsible for making sure the meeting runs smoothly. This includes verifying that the meeting space has the proper seating and technology, all materials are available, and other logistics. If you are relying on technology, make sure everything works and that you are comfortable using the equipment and features.
Use your agenda to help manage your time. If you start to run over on the time allotted to a topic, bring the discussion to a close and consider assigning a task force to report back on it in the next meeting. It’s important to strike the right balance between encouraging participation, listening, and keeping the discussion on topic.
Assign a note-taker to accurately capture the contents of the meeting. Clear and actionable note-taking is crucial for making the most out of meetings. It’s important to identify which tasks need to be completed, who is to do them, and when they are due. The note-taker can also help you keep the meeting on track by making sure all the agenda items are addressed and noting which topics need further discussion or action. You may want to assign the task of watching the clock to a different person.
Never end the meeting without clearly defining the next steps, including who’s responsible for what and when. After the meeting is over, finalize the notes and send them out to all meeting attendees and relevant parties.
Get Personalized Help to Make Every Meeting Count
Productive meetings are a great way to foster good work relationships, identify problems, strategize solutions, exchange information, and leave employees feeling empowered and accomplished. Meeting effectiveness shouldn’t be ignored or taken for granted by human resource management.
For help running fewer and more productive meetings in the workplace, partner with the HR experts at Resourcing Edge. Our certified HR professionals can help you set standards and establish guidelines for running effective meetings. We also offer in-person and webinar training and a library of online courses for staff and management.
Contact Resourcing Edge today for a free consultation!