Do your meetings get things done or waste time?

Recent research suggests some people spend a third of the work week in meetings. And while meetings can drive decisions, spur collaboration and strengthen relationships, everyone can agree poorly run meetings are a waste of time. That's why it's essential organizations have a strong culture surrounding meetings to include the right people, cover the right topics, make good use of time and take a constructive approach.


Research by Energage reveals a third or more of employees are not positive about meetings at organizations that struggle with their culture.  Done right, at Top Workplaces, attitudes toward meetings are better; typically 75% to 88% of employees responded positively to the survey statement “Meetings at this company make good use of my time.”

Efforts to ensure meetings are efficient and effective are most successful when practiced across all levels of the organization:

  • Leaders: Drive the company's meeting culture, including establishing the tone and expectations. Set an example by demonstrating those behaviors.
  • Managers: Engage with meeting attendees and ask open-ended questions to encourage employees to share. Check-in with employees for agreement, confusion, or concern.
  • Employees: Consider who are necessary meeting participants or optional attendees. Provide a meeting recap to those who will find the information relevant or did not attend.

Here are keys to creating an environment where meetings provide value:

Be thoughtful about meeting times: Scheduling a standing meeting for late on a Friday afternoon might not be the best idea for attendance or productivity. If a meeting requires employees from multiple time zones, find a mutually convenient time.

Prepare in advance: Share informational material ahead of meetings, with plenty of time for attendees to review. This allows folks to be on the same page when the meeting begins, so it's easier to make good use of the shared time.

State the agenda: Make this a habit and review the agenda at the start of the meeting. At the end of every session, doublecheck that you were successful and clarify any action items or next steps.

Include buffer time between meetings: Adjust meetings to 25 and 50 minutes rather than 30 or 60. Doing so gives people a chance to take a quick break or check messages before diving back in. It also allows the next meeting to start on time.

Use a "parking lot" for ideas and topics: To keep meetings efficient and on topic, place topics that aren't pertinent to the meeting's stated focus on a list for future discussion.

Offer a meeting recap: For larger meetings or ones where not everyone can attend, ensure meeting facilitators send follow-up messages detailing what the meeting addressed and any next steps.

Do periodic checks to evaluate the value of recurring meetings. Make sure the purpose continues to be relevant and needed. Discontinue those that are not.

Experiment with "no meetings zones." Try blocking time on calendars to ensure a stretch of quiet time.

Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s survey partner for Top Workplaces.



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