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Meeting Efficiency 101

By Paul Hevesy, Organizational Effectiveness, Stanley Black and Decker

Paul Hevesy, Organizational Effectiveness, Stanley Black and Decker

Even the most advanced technology can’t fix a bad, ineffective meeting. But with simple guidelines HR leaders can begin to transform their work culture in meaningful ways.

Years ago there was a faded sign on a dirt road in rural Canada that read: “Choose your rut wisely, because you’ll be in it for the next 20 miles.”

So true. We can easily get into ruts or habits around our daily work especially around things like meetings. These habits can easily take us off the course over time without us realizing it. And often, we use technology to try to fix our efficiency problem, but technology, usually, only masks the problem.

You can get back an hour a week in your work schedule before investing or leveraging any new technology to do it. How? Work differently.

More specifically: MEET Differently.

No one goes to school to learn how to run a meeting. Most companies don’t take the time to detail out their meeting culture. There’s just an assumption that people know how to run effective meetings. We don’t. We need help. Why? Because meetings are the most expensive activities in any organization. Add to that Inc. Magazine’s Geoffrey James’ take on the cost in years of ineffective meetings and we have to be better. All of us do.

“Transforming the way we all work may ultimately lead to investments in new technology, but any transformation starts with a change in behavior. Changes that turn common sense into common practice”

So for HR leaders who want to engage in building a workplace to which talented people are attracted you can start here. By establishing simple meeting guidelines, designed to help turn meetings from being treated as work into meetings designed to get more work done, HR leaders can help transform their culture before spending a dollar on new technology.

Here’s some quick ideas:

• Set meeting length at 25 Minutes or 45 Minutes.

- This gives attendees time between meetings to get work done. Think about it. If you took all of your 60 minute meetings to 45 in a week you could save yourself and your teams significant time. Of course, there is always an outlier, but challenging your organization to follow this simple rule can have a big impact on employee morale and retention.

• Establish Clear Agendas (with Permission for employees to decline meetings without an agenda).

- You can create an agenda template and even use technology available in most email solutions to auto-populate meeting invitations with an agenda.

• Create Meeting Types like Information Sharing, Problem solving and Decision Making Meetings.

- Every meeting should fall into these three types. And then strongly encourage your leaders to minimize Information Sharing Meetings and leverage technology like internal messaging boards, Workplace, Email, Skype or Slack to share information easily and effectively. And remember, a quick video update will get consumed much more broadly than an email.

• Establish attendee limits based on the type of meeting to give your employees a guideline to follow.

- Employees who only say “Hi” when the meeting starts and “Bye” when the meeting ends don’t need to attend the meeting. They can be kept informed by the use of other technology readily available designed to keep employees informed.

Transforming the way we all work may ultimately lead to investments in new technology, but any transformation starts with a change in behavior. Changes that turn common sense into common practice. Everyone knows what a bad meeting looks like. As an HR leader you can put simple guidelines in place to ensure everyone can begin to easily run more effective meetings. And you can start this afternoon.

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