Meeting Management: Less is More – Three “Must Adopt” Solutions
Remember Eliza Doolittle’s song in My Fair Lady? “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words . . .” In today’s workplace, that could be swapped for “meetings, meetings, meetings, I’m so sick of meetings . . .” And, frankly, who isn’t?
To add to general meeting malaise, the hybrid workplace has exacerbated the problem with way too many virtual meetings. Employees often sign in, immediately switch to mute, and go off camera. Is anyone even there? Are they listening? Are they contributing?
Harvard research found that 70% of meetings keep employees from doing productive work. The same study also shows that cutting back meetings by 40% increases productivity by 70%, with a corresponding increase in employee satisfaction by 52%. WOW.
With all of those statistics, why so many meetings? There are numerous reasons for the increase in meetings, and the corresponding drop in productivity and employee satisfaction. Also, there are at least five, easy-to-implement solutions to remedy the problem.
Employers fear losing contact with employees, thinking it would lead to disengagement when data show the opposite to be true. Also contributing to the “too many meetings,” is the way the various generations in the workplace like to communicate. The five generations working are:
- Traditionalists (the silent generation or veterans): born 1926 – 1945
- Baby Boomers: born 1946 – 1964
- Generation X: born 1965 – 1976
- Millennials: born 1977 – 1994
- Generation Z (GenZ): born 1995 – 2010
Although a dwindling number, traditionalists comprise about 2% of the workplace. They prefer offline communications – memos in writing and one-on-one interactions for verbal communication.
Baby Boomers, many of whom enjoy senior leadership and executive level positions, number 25% of the workforce and prefer minimal online communications – emails and memos for written communications, and – you guessed it – meetings for verbal communication.
Gen Xers now 33% of the workforce, like both off-line and online options: emails – short, sweet, and to the point – for written communications, and quick, instantaneous phone calls for verbal communications.
Millennials, 35% of the workforce, opt for online options only – Text or PowerPoint for written communications, and video conferencing for verbal communication.
Finally, Gen Zers now 5% of the workforce, favor both online and offline options. For written communication they like text or social media – Instagram and TikTok. Interestingly, and like Traditionalists Gen Zers favor in-person, face-to-face contact that is frank and to the point.
Solution #1: “Meetless Days:” Several organizations have opted for “meetless days.” Some favor one day a week with no meetings; while some favor naming only two or three days a week to hold meetings. (Asana, Aria Healthcare, Moveline, and Walker & Company to identify a few.)
Solution #2: Adopt the “Platinum Rule” of Communications: Avoid practicing the “Golden Rule” of communication, meaning avoid communicating with others the way the communicator wants to be communicated with. Rather, try the “Platinum Rule” of communication, requiring the communicator to communicate with others the way they want to be communicated with.
If Baby Boomer bosses were to adopt the Platinum rule, they would communicate differently with a full 68% of their workforce – Gen Xers and Millennials. For both groups, adopting “Meetless Days,” would do the trick. For Gen Xers, email or phone calls would work; while for Millennials, text or video conferencing would meet the need.
Solution #3: Effective Meeting Management: There are five common complaints about too many meetings distilled in the Harvard Business Review 5 Common Complaints About Meetings and What to Do About Them: One or two people dominate; my boss doesn’t lead meetings effectively; most meetings are passing along information that could easily be communicated via email; no one is paying attention since they are on their laptops or phones; and, we keep having the same conversations and nothing gets done!
Five easy-to-implement tips to counteract the complaints:
Tip #1: Meeting leaders should adopt and enforce ground rules, such as everyone participate; one at a time; limit comments to new information; wait to be recognized to speak; and, be present – no multitasking.
Tip #2: Meeting leaders should be trained in effective meeting management. Among other how-tos, this would include planning the meeting in advance by determining the goal or outcome of the meeting, inviting those who are expert or knowledgeable, developing and sending out a timed agenda in advance of the meeting, and, along with the ground rules, keeping to the agenda.
Tip #3: Meeting leaders should determine whether a meeting is merely to pass along information. If so, eliminate the meeting, and send an email.
Tip #4: Adopt a ground rule that all in attendance must be present: picture up, mute off if a virtual meeting, and no multitasking.
Tip #5: All meetings should have a stated up-front outcome. Whether it’s brainstorming, with a decision to be made later, or a meeting at the conclusion of which a decision will be made, this should be stated at the top of the agenda.
To Recap: To increase workforce productivity and employee satisfaction, limit the number of meetings by: adopting “Meetless Days,” the Platinum rule of communication, and requiring effective meeting management for all meetings.
Find more important communication tips in the Amazon #1 bestseller Consequential Communication in Turbulent Times: a Practical Guide to Leadership, and learn more about meeting management and other leadership trainings here.