All businesses, big or small, need collaboration to get the job done, and one way to inspire this is through meetings. Most employees or anyone who has ever worked in an office environment knows how mundane and time-consuming meetings can be. Employees may feel like meetings are just a platform for the extroverts and outspoken members of the team to voice their opinions. Or worse, topics are rehashed with information you are already familiar with, leaving employees feeling like their time is being wasted.
Not all meetings have to be like this, and there are ways to ensure your meetings are both practical and efficient, resulting in a more collaborative workforce. Adopting a different way of running your meetings will mean collective decision-making, better communication, and effective business planning. A small number of key practises within your business can keep your employees on the right track, and working towards the company’s goals and their own goals.
The truth is that well-run meetings are where accountability starts and ends.
Meetings are renowned for wasting time and for many leaders and managers meetings are a big part of what they do. To change the perspective, meetings need to increase communication, accountability, team productivity and overall results. Time spent in meetings will actually free up time as you learn to run them effectively. In the case of a systemised business, meetings are essential for Continuous Improvement.
In this article, you will learn how to:
- Optimise your time
- Design a meeting agenda
- Boost staff morale
- Increase efficiency in your meetings
- Monitor employee goals more effectively
- Make your meetings count
- Utilise technology
Optimise Your Time
No matter what business you are in, time is money so it wouldn’t be wise to waste the time of your employees. Most business owners know this, yet it is happening every day where employees are dragged into meetings that have no relevance to their work. To put it into perspective, the yearly cost of meetings can be in the thousands per employee. To really understand the cost, here are some stats to get you thinking about the cost of your meetings.
According to Alex Heber – “Australians Are Spending More Time In Meetings Than Ever But Most Are A Waste Of Time” – Business Insider Australia (2014), Employees are spending more time in meetings than ever before. Out of 3,900 full-time employees surveyed in ANZ, 66% of meetings they show up too have little value and no relevance to their work – affecting productivity. If you add late arrivals into the mix, it is reported that an executive can lose up to 5.5 days per year in lost time.
According to the surveyed employees, on average, senior meetings are delayed by 15 minutes, so if you take the salary of the executive employee – let’s say $150,000 per year, and they are involved in 17 meetings per week, this is a loss of $3544 per year. This is the loss from ONE employee!
Scary, isn’t it?! – So how do you fix this problem and save time and money?
- Start and end the meetings on time. The simplest solution is usually the best, and starting meetings on time means that everyone is ready to go at the same time. Meetings can often run overtime. To avoid meeting creep, keep an eye on the agenda and timetable so you can move the meeting forward at certain points.
- Ensure your employees are there 5 minutes before. Remind them that being timely is respectful and being late is a sign of disrespect.
- Only invite people who are relevant. As a habit, it’s easy to send invites to a mailing list of people without checking if they actually need to attend the meeting.
- Provide an agenda and timetable ahead of time. Include a timetable in the agenda and allow employees to arrive for their portion of the meeting. This solution means no one has to waste time when the meeting content isn’t relevant to them.
Design An Agenda
A meeting agenda is designed to enable discussions about important topics, issues and business goals. Topics could include the purpose of the meeting, important business matters, and updates on action items. By preparing the agenda in advance, it gives people a chance to prepare and make a meaningful contribution to the meeting.
A meeting agenda could include the following, but is not limited too:
- Date, time and location of the meeting
- Meeting purpose
- Presentations (if required)
- Discussion topics
- Business status update
- Action Items and progress
- Action items for this week (what, who, when)
Below are three agenda examples each one different depending on the size and scale of the business, project and meeting.
Hold Meetings To Boost Staff Morale
Not all meetings have to be about deadlines, stats and planning; instead, they can be fun, and provide a much-needed boost for your employees. It is important not to overlook the positive effects some meetings can have on staff morale. No matter the size and scale of your business, it is essential to celebrate the wins as part of your culture.
The goal is to give your team an energy boost and inspire them to work better. Here are some simple ideas you can implement.
The goal is to give your team an energy boost and inspire them to work better.
Team huddles – great for small business or smaller teams. May take no more than 5-10 minutes and can consist of positive business news, forecast data, toolbox information and daily schedules of the group (especially useful if you have employees who work off-site). You can take a moment to address any concerns and answer questions. This method promotes collaboration and togetherness.
Three-minute meeting – Sometimes it might make more sense to have single teams (e.g. workshop mechanics or off-site workers), or department meetings. As your business grows, it might become too difficult to try and cover off each area of business, therefore breaking your meetings down into groups, can be much more effective. This type of meeting is suitable for any size business with multiple areas of work.
Monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly team meetings – An effective way to boost staff morale through meetings, is to get together in a more informal setting. Share morning tea, lunch or coffee and chat about goals reached, jobs well-done and upbeat news about the business. This type of meeting may not work for all business types, but it can be a chance for your team to get inspired and keep moving forward.
Meeting Roles That Increase Efficiency
The size and scale of your business will determine how many roles you need in your meetings. Assigning roles gives you a chance to present a new task to your employees, in addition to having productive discussions. When a role is defined, it will result in a more organised and structured meeting, and your employees may also appreciate the new skills and abilities – different from their regular job.
The roles described below may not suit your business; however, understanding the importance of having these roles will help you run a more effective and efficient meeting.
Chair – The chairperson leads by opening and closing the meeting, manages the meeting agenda, and keeps the conversation focused yet balanced. He/she ensures everyone sticks to the agenda and doesn’t go off-topic.
Time-keeper – The Timekeeper is responsible for making sure the meeting is running to schedule. This role is crucial if saving time is your goal!
Minute Taker – The Minute Taker records the minutes of the meeting, including actions, due dates and owner – as well as highlighting discussion topics. Once documented, the Minute Taker will send the meeting minutes to all meeting participants following the meeting. This role may be informal or professional, depending on the size of your business.
These roles may be shared amongst your team members so that a variety of people get to try new things, learn new skills and get out of their comfort zone. If you have a small business with a small team, you can combine the roles; however, remember why these roles are there, and to ensure they play a part in your meeting to ensure efficiency.
Assign roles at every meeting to boost engagement and accountability.
Use Meetings To Monitor Growth
What would you say the purpose of a meeting is? Some will tell you it’s for ‘taking a nap’ or ‘paid time off’, but jokes aside, the primary purpose of a meeting is for communication!
By bringing together employees, meetings are a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page in regards to their goals and moving in the right direction. Reaching goals requires cooperation and collaboration no matter what the size, scale and type of business you have. From working in a restaurant to fixing vehicles, every business has multiple roles that work in collaboration with each other in some unique way. Regular communication can help you monitor individual goals as well as overall business goals in the form of a Weekly Action Review or WAR.
Weekly action review meetings can help keep your employee’s goals on track. Each week you can meet with your employees to discuss how far along they are in regards to reaching their targets. These meetings are a necessary way to foster a transparent workforce and accountability. This meeting type doesn’t just apply to the corporate world, or large businesses – the WAR can be useful for any business. As long as your employees have goals, then the WAR can work for you.
Reaching goals requires regular cooperation, collaboration and follow up.
Make Meetings Count
If meetings are a necessary part of your business, then you need to make every second count. One way to do this is to end your meetings with an action plan! In other words, make sure your employees know what tasks to do when they return to their work stations. Without clear actions, does your meeting even matter?
As mentioned earlier, every meeting should have a Minute Taker who is responsible for capturing meeting notes, actions, owners and due dates. At the end of every meeting, make a collective decision about what actions are required, ensure each employee knows what actions are assigned to them, and when they are due. Send a copy of the actions to each member following the meeting.
Action Items should be:
- Clear and easily understood by everyone
- Specific, measurable and attainable
- Time driven – e.g. assign an achievable due date
Manage Your Actions
Unfortunately, efforts can fall flat if actions are not managed correctly, so this step is essential if you want to make your meetings count. There are many ways to do this, from adding them to your calendar to using an application or online tool.
Here is a variety of ways you can manage actions to make better use of your time:
- Create shared meeting documents – a tool such as Google Docs is a simple solution for tracking actions and collectively updating the agenda prior to the meeting. For example, in your document, if you type the words “Todo: Mary to call clients to discuss the new discount” or AI: Fred to complete the project plan” – Google Docs will detect this and suggest an action item. Click ‘Assign’ and add the name or email address of the owner of the action—a simple, yet effective way to assign, monitor and follow-up on tasks prior to the next meeting.
- Use an online template to capture meeting minutes – make your minutes count by capturing key details and actions by using a simple template. Your template and minutes can be shared with your team using a platform such as Evernote, Asana or Notion. You can monitor the document throughout the week, and follow up on the progress of tasks.
- Use a dedicated meeting app or link your calendar to your team chat app – there are different apps you can use for this. Slack can be linked to your Google Calendar, or MeetNotes allows you to pin messages, update the agenda, send meeting reminders, manage meeting actions and check in with progress on tasks.
- Utilise a project management tool – if you are currently using a project management tool, you most likely can track your meetings and actions using the tool you already use for your business. The basic features you need are to be able to create a template, track a project or task, assign actions, collaborate and upload documents. Platforms such as Asana and or Monday.com are both good options. Below are two examples of project management tools for assigning actions.
Review Your Actions
What good is having actions if no one follows up to make sure they were completed? Every meeting agenda should have a portion dedicated to ‘Reviewing Actions’. An important goal of a meeting should be to follow through on business decisions, and part of this is to assign tasks in the form of actions.
Reviewing actions during the meeting makes the employee accountable for their work. If the actions have not been managed correctly then there shouldn’t be any issues; however, if the due date has not been met, then this is the time to discuss why, provide necessary feedback, and assistance (if required).
All actions should point back to your annual and quarterly goals. Meetings are an opportunity to make sure everything is on track.
Make The Most Of Technology
Technology plays a massive part in our day-to-day life, so it’s only natural that we should use it to make our meetings easier. We have access to tools that can help us not only schedule meetings but also run them virtually as if your employees were in the room with you. We have already covered the importance of using tools to assign actions/tasks and monitor them, so now we need to look at what else technology can do to help make your meetings easier!
Tools For Scheduling
There are many ways of scheduling your meetings, but not every type of software will fit your needs. It is essential to do some research and choose what works for you. Below are some common tools that can help you with scheduling and make your meetings more manageable.
- Schedule meetings with groups using ‘Find a time’ or ‘Suggested Times’. Once you add a person to the meeting invite, you can allow Google to suggest a time that works best for all of the members.
- Set your meetings to private to ensure that anyone who can view your weekly calendar can not see anything that is private or confidential.
- Add a Google Hangout to your event by allowing you to set up a face-to-face video meeting.
- Add attachments to your events. This feature enables you to add documents before the meeting, including the agenda.
- Enable your world clock. Suppose you have a business that has employees or clients in multiple time zones around the world. In that case, Google Calendar will automatically set to the timezone of each person attending the meeting.
- Enable working hours by sending an alert to the organiser informing them that you or your meeting attendees are not available outside the working hours.
- Email meeting attendees from the scheduled meeting by simply clicking ’email guests’.
- Add specific meeting locations with access to a Google Map. A useful feature if you’re having a team event away from the workplace.
- Share your calendar with others, or make it public. This feature is especially handy if you have an assistant, or want to inform your employees of your schedule.
- Sync your calendar with your group chat applications, or project management software. If you use Slack, Asana, Monday.com then you can sync these applications with your Google Calendar – making it easy to save meeting tasks to your calendar.
To understand how these features work, and to help you decide if Google Calendar is right for your business, then I recommend visiting the official Google Calendar Support page for more tips and information.
Soapbox is a handy little app that integrates with familiar tools to help manage your day. People invited to the meeting can contribute to the agenda, stay on task by tracking action items, and view meeting minutes. Soapbox also allows you to connect to apps you may already use such as Google Calendar, Slack and MS Teams. By making your meetings easier to organise, and track, then you are well on your way to saving time, and therefore money.
With Soapbox you can:
- Allow team members to contribute to the agenda easily
- Receive notifications for up and coming meetings
- Take notes, summarise minutes and check off talking points
- Add comments to agenda items before the meeting
- Set-up recurring meetings
- Track action items
Video or Virtual Meetings
Due to the increase in remote working and working from home, virtual or online meetings are becoming very popular as a way for coworkers to stay connected. Even though the benefits are high, a virtual meeting can present challenges that you wouldn’t otherwise have in a traditional setting. Here are some simple points to take note of if you plan to run your meetings virtually.
- Speak differently – for a virtual meeting to be effective, you may need to speak differently, especially if your meeting is audio-only.
- Pause between sentences now and then to allow people to respond
- Provide vocal gestures such as “mm-hm” to let the speaker know that you are engaged and their message is getting across
- Try not to speak over others
- Utilise the option to share documents and presentations – gone are the days when you have to email notes and presentations. Technology now allows you to share your screen, update documents and present as if you were in the room.
- If you are sharing your screen, ensure your desktop is tidy
- Close any applications that you are not using
- Test the technology before the meeting to ensure you know how to share your screen
- Be aware – this point mostly relates to your work environment and your dress code. If you are part of a video chat, it is advisable to note these key things:
- Ensure you have good lighting and your background is tidy
- Use headphones to increase sound quality
- Eliminate background noise as much as you can
- Mute yourself unless it is your turn to talk
- Dress appropriately for the type of call you are having
- Determine the type of meetings that you need I.E Weekly Leadership Meeting, Quarterly Marketing Meeting, Daily Huddles etc
- Create an agenda template for each meeting type
- Identify the attendees for each meeting type
- Schedule the dates of the meetings into everyone’s calendar (remember to occasionally have a meeting offsite to change up the mix)
- Send out the meeting agendas in advance
- Keep a shared record of the meeting agendas and notes including who has been assigned action steps
- Assign roles for the meeting either before the meeting or at the start of the meeting
- Remember to always start on time and finish on time
- Commit to the process
Your first meeting using your new process may not be perfect, but as you stay committed, it will be the “company way” and be a part of your systems culture.
It is true what they say “in business, time is money” therefore, it makes sense to optimise the time spent in meetings with preparation, communication and relevant discussions. When your employees know what to expect, and meetings are applicable, your employees will get more from meetings. Engaged employees are happier employees, so provide an environment where people can voice their concerns, and ask open questions. If your employees don’t want to attend a meeting, then respect their decision. You should foster a culture where employees use their initiative, read the agenda and decide if this time will benefit them in their job. Be aware of the importance of having ‘roles’ in your meetings, and incorporate these where possible. A little bit of organisation goes a long way! If you are a goal-orientated business, use your meetings to discuss goals, targets and accountability. When employees can see progress within their work, they are more likely to stay motivated and on task. Based on what you now know, meetings can have a vital purpose in your business. If your goal is to save time and money, then I suggest you look at how you are conducting your meetings and determine if you need a different approach. A small change to the way you do things can lead to a more productive and effective team!
Need help with your meeting strategy along with putting systems and processes in place? If you are looking to grow your business through efficient systems then it’s time to have a chat and see if we can help you reach your goals faster. Schedule a call today so you can start on the right track to transforming your business.