The business world loves a good old meeting. There is nothing like a meeting to network, share ideas, collaborate and get stuff done. Right? Or, does this obsession with meetings disengage your employees and drain valuable resources and money from your business? Is it time to ditch the meetings?
The first thing business owners should do is count the cost of having a group of employees attend each meeting. Then they should quantify the actual business benefits that arise from the meeting. Has the meeting justified itself?
The Cost of Meetings
Atlassian have published a great infographic on how so much time is wasted at work. Meetings is culprit #2. They find that on average employees attend 62 meetings per month of which 31 hours is unproductive. That is almost a full week lost per employee every month due to meetings. What would you do if you caught an employee napping for 31 hours per month?
On that point, 39 percent of employees surveyed have admitted to sleeping during meetings. 91 percent admit to daydreaming.
Now, we know that these are headline, attention grabbing figures. Many people will retort with disdain and say ‘not in my meetings they don’t!’ Really?
How Do Meetings Make Us Feel?
Atlassian report that 45 percent of employees feel overwhelmed by the number of meetings they are asked to attend. If any of us honestly reflect on how we feel when meetings are called, we will quickly identify the time wasters. Not all meetings are time wasters, but a significant number need to be confined to the waste bin.
Reflect on those meetings you were invited to but you really wanted to turn down. You knew your attendance was pointless. Recall how you felt when there was no way out. How often did you bring other work with you to do during the meeting?
What motivates your top talent? Sitting in a meeting about other people’s work/interests or getting on with their work? We all know it is the latter.
Talented employees accept a job offer on the promise of being able to achieve things doing what they are qualified and trained to do. They did not join your company on the promise to sit in irrelevant meetings. Having to sit through these meetings will drain the engagement and motivation from all your employees. Those employees whose job roles mean they can avoid such meeting overload suffer from the unnecessary absence of their line managers. While their manager is off at meetings, they are trying to get the job done and will resent this continual absence.
The Alternative: the company
Obviously, meetings are necessary in business. The trick is to weed out the unnecessary meetings from everyone’s diary. This can only be achieved by the person who owns each dairy: the individual employee. So, the company needs to encourage employees only to accept invitations to meetings that are relevant to their own job role or where they have something important to offer to the purpose of the meeting.
To achieve this, meeting organisers in your company should:
- Clearly communicate the purpose of the meeting
- Restrict the purpose to a single topic/goal to avoid a talking shop
- This will also help invited attendees to self-select whether they should attend
- Restrict the meeting to 30 minutes max
- Clearly communicate the invited/accepted attendees
The company, i.e. senior management, need to clearly communicate that it is a good thing for an employee to decline a meeting invitation if they do not see a benefit to their participation. There should be no reprimand. If the meeting organiser is disappointed at this, s/he has not communicated clearly enough.
The Alternative: employees
Every employee needs to feel safe in declining meetings knowing that to do so appropriately is contributing to company success. Each employee should:
- Review the subject bar of every meeting invitation. Does the stated purpose communicate a reason for you to attend? If not, decline.
- Review how long the meeting is scheduled to last and consider how long you will contribute for. If you only need to make a short contribution, can you share it with another attendee to bring to the meeting or put it in written form?
- Restrict the amount of time you will attend meetings for. Communicate clearly that if the meeting exceeds this time, you will politely excuse yourself and leave.
The Proof: case study
The etimes2 engagement platform was used by a large organisation who were trying to understand why some teams & team leaders were significantly more successful than others. Our client reported that they were continually reassigning good team leaders to ‘problem’ teams.
We tracked the impact of these team leaders as they moved between teams. We observed how particular team leaders brought a marked increase in both engagement levels and productivity to each team they led. Engagement levels were measured using the etimes2 turnkey employee engagement survey. Productivity was measured using the client’s reports and measures.
We then used the etimes2 pulse survey and collaboration tools to investigate why these team leaders delivered such a positive impact. Team member responses highlighted a consistent factor. These successful team leaders did not run long meetings. Communications were short and energetic. They moved around the team spending short periods of time with each team member. They divided their attention and time fairly between each team member.
The team and organisation benefitted immensely from this approach. Our findings also gave the client a blueprint for team leader development.