If you host regularly scheduled meetings or events (like a weekly review) in your business, you may not even realize how detrimental they are to the productivity of your team.
According to the National Statistics Council, about 37 percent of employee time is spent in meetings for the average employee. You may also be surprised to hear that nearly half of employees (47 percent) believe that too many meetings are the biggest waste of time on any day—more than social media or email distractions. That number may be higher in your business if you employ members of Gen Y and Gen X who have little interest in face-time exchanges that could be accomplished through technology.
So, if you find that your status meeting consists of everyone reading their part from spreadsheeted, it’s likely time you change it up. If this is news to you, don’t worry. There’s a lot that can be done about it
Step 1: Do Something different
Most meetings are held first thing in the morning. This is not ideal for several reasons:
Mornings are the time for decisions. People tend to decrease in energy and decision-making powers as the day progresses. Don’t tie up valuable power time in morning meetings. Employees often feel like this is a sneaky way for the boss to get everyone in on time. Plus, if you offer flexible work hours or have employees who don’t work first thing in the morning, this meeting time can feel like a punishment. Morning meetings start the day off in a productivity hole. Everyone in that meeting isn’t doing what they get paid to do.
But what if you absolutely must have a morning meeting? Then do something different. Instead of starting at 9, start at 9:05 or 8:50. Instead of the conference room, host it at a coffee shop or a local park near your business or even in the parking lot. Instead of sitting around a table, hold a walking or standing meeting. Routines can feel monotonous. Do something slightly different and it won’t feel so much like drudgery.
Step 2: Start on Time and With an Agenda
Respect everyone’s time and begin the minute your meeting is scheduled. If people aren’t there, that’s okay. Make it clear you’re not waiting for anyone. Provide an agenda ahead of time that lists topics, goals, person leading the conversation on each topic.
For example: “Company logo change: review designs and select final, Doug, 15 minutes”
Make sure you stick to the agenda and stay on task. Start your meeting by reiterating the goals so everyone is clear about what should be accomplished in your time together. If something starts to de-ride you from the agenda (or your goals) but it’s important, table the discussion for another time. Assign follow-ups if needed. If you can’t meet your goal in the time assigned, you’ll need to return to it at another time. But only do this in very important situations. In the above example, let’s say you had preliminary discussions and idea exchanges but didn’t vote in that 15-minute slot. Don’t call an entirely new meeting to do that. Instead, create a survey and use technology to assist you. That way your employees can vote when they’re on hold on a call or at some other time that works for their schedule instead of a disruptive meeting.
Step 3: Kill Presentations
With technology, there is no reason to make your entire team sit through a presentation or read materials in a meeting. That’s a waste of time. Give out homework before the meeting to watch or read the information. Meetings should be saved for exchange and brainstorming, not for things that people can do on their own.
If you’re worried that people won’t prepare for the meetings, then enforce ramifications for lack of prep.
Step 4: Encourage All Voices in and Out of the Meeting
During your meeting, especially if the point behind it is idea exchange, you should ensure all voices are heard. However, keep in mind that not everyone feels comfortable enough to participate in group situations and others are better at coming up with ideas on their own. For these reasons, make sure you provide an opportunity for people to contribute by brainstorming on their own. You can do this by placing the idea needs on your agenda and encouraging people to think about it and submit ideas before the meeting or allow for submissions afterward.
Whether you gather ideas before or after will be driven by your deadline needs. If you need a resolution by the end of the meeting, give the homework upfront. If you plan to revisit it in the future, encourage people to share ideas after the meeting is over.
With technology, meetings are less needed than they were in the past. They should be used for a time when clear exchange and buy-in are required. Using them as a status update is a waste when technology can help you do that just as easily.
Safeguard your employees’ time and they’ll be more productive and happier. Work/life balance is important to most employees and when you keep them in meetings, they need to find another time to do what you pay them to do.