We meet too much. And it’s not good for employees, your HR team or the organization.
It doesn’t matter where we meet – in-person, on Zoom or over the phone – it’s more than enough.
To the point: Meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, a research analysis in the MIT Sloan Management Review found. In the 1960s – when people only met in-person and on-site – leaders held meetings about 10 hours a week. Now, the average is 23 hours a week!
Today, two-thirds of employees say spending excessive meeting time distracts them from making an impact at work, according to a Korn Ferry survey. And one-third say they waste as much as five hours a week in meetings that don’t accomplish anything.
So, let’s make a point to put a dent in meeting frequency and duration so we get more of what matters done. You might get some pushback – many employees consider meetings a “necessary evil” and don’t believe in changing it, Harvard Business School researchers found. But it’ll be worth it.
Here are the seven most tightly held meeting practices – and better ways to manage them. Once your HR pros adopt the better meeting strategy, train managers to do the same with their groups.
Stop the clock, start the progress
The clock has long governed meetings, which are usually scheduled to start on the hour and last in increments of 30 minutes. Even when the objective is accomplished, groups just fill the time.
Instead: Determine how long the meeting will last based on what you need to accomplish. When your people know the final objective, they’ll likely focus closer on achieving it. So leaders don’t want to be afraid to end a meeting after eight minutes if the goal is hit.
Skip neutrality, embrace practicality
Meetings are often planned at a neutral site – a conference room or over Zoom – so people are on equal ground and comfortable. Few things are accomplished when people are in their comfort zone.
Instead: Meet where the action is – near your products, the problem, where most work is accomplished every day. Be where the issues you need to address are. Understandably, this isn’t easy when employees work remotely. But if possible, put one person or camera at the site of the matter.
Don’t react, plan to act
Set agendas with a course for tangible action. You can share information – and even mull it – before the meeting.
Instead: When preparing agendas, avoid words such as “recap, review, update or discuss” – and don’t let them sneak into meeting presentations. These words deserve space on an efficient agenda: “determine, select, move, complete, act.”
Think less, do more
You want people to come to meetings with thought-out ideas and suggestions, especially if you give them information to review ahead of time.
Instead: Ban “thinking out loud.” That’s for brainstorming sessions, which are a different beast. Remind employees to show up with concrete ideas or to gather newly conjured up ideas before blurting them out.
Decide and plan
Great meetings result in decisions – on where to go next, how to execute the plan and the results to expect. But all of that is useless if meeting attendees aren’t made accountable for what happens next.
Instead: Get your people to take ownership of tasks, decisions and follow-through before leaving. Put assignments in writing or on record.
Don’t review; Recap
Forget the days of full meeting notes.
Instead: Recap action items:
- What was decided
- What will be done
- Who will do it, and
- When it will be done.
That’s it. You don’t want to include reviews of what was discussed … or people might start to think that discussion is a good use of meeting time!
Check group, not the people
If you’ve made people accountable for execution, the whole group doesn’t need to meet to check on progress.
Instead: Meet individually with your HR team members or ask employees to check in at specific times with a progress report.