The past couple of years have been difficult for many businesses, but as things start looking up, companies both small and large are ready to get back in the game. However, if there’s one thing the COVID pandemic made clear, the old way of doing things just isn’t going to cut it anymore. If businesses want to experience growth and stay relevant, they have to update the way things operate.
Guest post by Katie Brenneman
People have a lot less patience for poor business practices and workplace culture now more than ever. As such, we are seeing a shift in how companies do business, particularly in their internal operations and how they treat their employees. Still, there is always room for improvement, and one area of business culture that could use an upgrade is the office meeting.
Meetings have remained one of those necessary evils when it comes to running a business. We know we need them, and we know they have the possibility to be great, and yet most workers come out of meetings feeling worse than before they went in.
According to a survey on meetings by Harvard Business Review, 71% of managers said their meetings are unproductive and inefficient, 62% said they miss the opportunity to bring teams closer together, and 65% said meetings keep them from completing other important work.
And still, despite the obvious issue with meetings, companies continue to have them and push through them without doing anything to make them more productive and beneficial. But like so many other workplace operations, this too has to change.
Below, we’ll dive into some of the most effective strategies to help you turn your meetings around.
Develop a Solid Meeting Agenda
One of the biggest pitfalls of any meeting is a lack of agenda. Because workers, particularly upper management, often have so much other work to focus on, they tend to come to meetings unprepared with no clear plan. They might have a basic idea of how they want things to go and what they want to talk about, but this is often very minimal and lacking in detail and organization.
Taking time to prepare a more thorough agenda, however, can make a world of difference for your meetings. Of course, this takes time in and of itself, but once you start making meeting agendas a regular part of your work schedule, it will get easier and become habit.
The best meeting agendas have five main focuses:
- Meeting themes
- Primary talking points
- Supportive documents
- Key decision highlights
- Action items
Designate Meeting Leaders Ahead of Time
Another common issue with office meetings is poor leadership or unclear leadership. If you don’t clearly designate who is in charge of your meetings, it can negatively impact the outcome. For example, if you have two people running a meeting, both of whom keep interrupting one another or making contradictory points, it’s entirely unhelpful for everyone attending.
So instead, make sure meeting leaders are clearly designated from the start to avoid confusion and miscommunication. It’s also important to designate the right people as your meeting leads. Not everyone is a successful team leader, so you want to make sure you choose the right person who is capable, engaging, and a good communicator.
Encourage Thought Mapping Before the Meeting
Not only should team leads come more prepared with a solid agenda, but you should also encourage the rest of the team and staff who will be attending to come prepared as well. Before the meeting starts, everyone should be well aware of what the general goal or topic of conversation will be so they can come better prepared with helpful ideas and questions.
Often, a good way to do this is to encourage brainstorming or mind mapping prior to the meeting. This will ensure your staff gives more thought to the goal or topic ahead of time so the meeting can be more productive and successful when the time comes.
Prioritize Employee Wellbeing
Overall, employee well-being and good retention rates can also play a part in how your meetings turn out. If your staff are not happy with their job or the workplace culture, it can make meetings feel like a punishment rather than a benefit. This is because a lack of employee wellness and appreciation can lead to a lack of motivation. If your employees don’t feel appreciated, why would they want to work hard to help the company succeed?
So if you want your teams to come more prepared and motivated to have a successful meeting, then you need to ensure their needs are being met overall, not just where meetings are concerned. Generally, companies that have good employee benefit and wellness programs and an ethical workplace culture tend to have more productive workdays as a whole, which means more successful meetings.
Don’t Get Caught up in the Latest Meeting Tech
Though innovation has led to some great new tech that can elevate your meeting experiences, getting too caught up in innovation can sometimes do more harm than good. Technology is great, so long as it’s working and not a distraction.
There are so many new tools and systems available today that are meant to make meetings more effective, but if you are using technology simply for the sake of being innovative, this could be detracting from your meetings.
So make sure whatever tools you are using make sense for your company and are genuinely improving your meeting experiences. If the tools you use are constantly failing you or making things more confusing, just get rid of them until you better understand how to make them work.
Your meetings could also be lacking because you aren’t listening to your staff. Just because you or your team leads feel like they did a good job presenting and addressing a meeting doesn’t mean the rest of your staff feel the same. So one of the best things you can do to improve your meetings is to gather and listen to feedback.
After your meetings, talk to your staff or have them fill out a quick survey letting you know what they think is working and what they think can be improved. Regularly debriefing after meetings and listening to feedback shows your staff that you genuinely care about their opinion, which will encourage them to be more helpful and productive.
Of course, every company is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. But the strategies above can help guide you as you seek ways to improve your company meetings. The overall idea is to come to meetings more prepared and to make them beneficial for your employees, not a hindrance. A good meeting doesn’t just improve the meeting itself but can overall improve employee satisfaction, productivity, collaboration, and growth.