Do effective meetings hold the key to increasing employee productivity?

business meetingMeetings in the workplace often have a bad reputation. Dreaded by employees for being too long, irrelevant and interrupting their own important work flow, poorly managed meetings can really put a brake on productivity. Meetings are often called in the name of increasing output, but the reality is that most meetings do the opposite.

So how can we turn things around and use meetings as an effective business tool? The meetings in themselves are not the culprits. There is no flaw in the idea of staff getting together and communicating on a given subject, but the devil is in the detail. How is the meeting run? What’s the dynamic? Who is there? Does everybody feel included? What is the objective?

Effective meetings are key to any business. Communication throughout an organization needs to flow seamlessly between all the constituent parts. In business culture, meetings can get a bad name if they are poorly choreographed. A meeting that is conducted skillfully, intuitively and inclusively will invariably be a success.

The following are some useful but often overlooked insights into the meeting game.

Define your goals

Be crystal clear from the outset about the objective of the meeting. Nothing frustrates busy staff more than turning up to a meandering, unfocused gathering without a clear objective. Let them have no doubt why they are there and what is expected from them. The key to nailing this level of clarity is working extra hard on the agenda before the meeting is called.

Work on the guest list

Before sending out invitations to a meeting, focus hard on who really needs to be there. If a change is being announced, it makes sense to invite the people it affects. If there are problems to be solved, ask experts in those particular fields to attend. If staff members feel that the issues being discussed don’t apply to them, are irrelevant or if they don’t have the expertise to contribute, they will feel their time is being wasted.

Embrace technology

Within reason. In face to face meetings, a complete ban on personal technology is frequently the best approach as the temptation of mobile phones and email checking can be too distracting for many. Warn attendees in the invitation to leave their personal technology at their desks. Effective meetings require everyone to be fully focused on the task in hand. Being firm about such issues speeds up meetings considerably.

Some technology should be embraced in the name of increased productivity. Technology can offer solutions to internal communication problems. Innovative board meeting software such as diligent board portals is now widely used to manage and orchestrate the complex needs of board members and administrators as they go about their work. In sprawling organizations which span time zones and continents, a portal that enables boards to access key documentation in a secure way can help corporations to increase efficiency and productivity in administrative areas. Such software enables senior executives, board members and administrators to attend meetings, access board data, give signature approvals, make shared decisions and changes to policy and keep informed of all developments via their tablet or laptop. Such high powered and secure apps have become a vital tool in board communications because they are so well organized, responsive and constantly being updated and revised.

There’s no need to ever miss a meeting again with such software. This streamlining technology has obvious positive impact on productivity, communications, travel and administrative costs because everybody who needs to be kept in the loop can access the portal at any time. Modern, digital meetings may not be the same as traditional eye-to-eye meetings, but they cannot be faulted for their ease of use, speed and comprehensive communications firepower.

Cultivate a good reputation

People who need to call a lot of meetings should work on their reputation as somebody who cuts to the chase quickly, doesn’t allow single attendees to hijack proceedings, listens and questions effectively and finishes on time.  It is amazing how well attended meetings are when the agenda is habitually respected and proceedings are completed at the allotted hour. Outcomes and important decisions stemming from meetings should be written up afterward and distributed to those in attendance, just to confirm everybody has understood the implications of a particular get together. It’s surprising how many people at the same meeting will exit with different interpretations.

It’s a two-way street

Remember that calling a meeting is about promoting communication and that it is a two way street. Employees can feel dissatisfied if they feel their views are not being heard or appreciated. Staying quiet and listening while staff discuss and air their views can be a simple but effective strategy. Those employees who toil day in/day out, working with the systems, facing clients, writing up reports, and swimming in statistics are always the best informed. A wise manager who keeps their counsel usually picks up valuable information. Not only will staff members feel valued for expressing their views, they will be energized and empowered in the workplace and more invested in their roles. An approachable manager who is willing to listen in meetings and address staff issues directly results in a far more contented and ultimately productive workforce.

Meetings can be fun

Yes, really. A meeting doesn’t have to be a monotonous event that puts everybody to sleep. Try thinking outside the box and using strategies that make attendees feel more involved. Turn the tables and request staff to devise an agenda. Have a micro-meeting that only lasts ten minutes. Place a timer on the boardroom table to reinforce intent. Have meetings outside the office, in the park or at a museum. Make meetings more mouthwatering with delicious and unusual snacks – it’s guaranteed to make staff feel appreciated.

An effectively conducted meeting energizes, informs and educates the workforce, opening up clear lines of communication between all staff levels. Old school methods can still deliver results, but increasingly, businesses using specialist meeting software are beginning to get ahead in the productivity race. With competition so tough right now and margins so tight, businesses who fail to evolve their meeting strategy are destined to fall behind.