How to Improve Meeting Efficiency and Productivity

Don’t Have A Seat: Stand-up Meetings Save Time & Money

Meetings are necessary for groups that work together. However, the activity is often marred by unproductive behavior, mediocre results, and large costs. Simple steps can be taken to increase efficiency and boost employee satisfaction as shown below. To learn more, checkout this infographic created by Brandeis University’s Online Masters in Project Management program.

BRU MSPR Stand Up Meeting

How Inefficient are Meetings?

Nearly half of employees are unhappy with meetings. They view them as an unnecessary work distraction that wastes their time. This is a big problem because more than a third of their working life is spent inside a meeting. In fact, they spend an average of 33 minutes a day just attempting to schedule one. There are approximately 11 million business meetings held every single day. For a large company, this amounts to 300,000 hours in a year just because of one weekly executive meeting. The time could certainly have been spent in other important tasks.

How Unproductive are Meetings?

The aversion runs deep. People find themselves unable to concentrate and simply drifting off. In a survey, almost everyone admitted to having missed some entirely or in part. About 91% of those who attended confess to daydreaming during the period. As much as 39% said that they have experienced sleeping in one.

Feeling like they would accomplish nothing while they listened, 73% brought other work to these gatherings. Most find it distracting when others used their mobile devices, especially those who did so for non-work related purposes. When asked why it was so unproductive, people blamed the lack of team communication and the ineffective way in which things were conducted.

The Financial Cost

This prevailing system is not only causing employee dissatisfaction. It is also costing US businesses billions in wasted salary hours. Estimates peg corporate losses due to unnecessary meeting at $37 billion. Studies in the UK show similar figures with losses to the economy amounting to £26 billion because of wasted meeting time. It doesn’t even have to be such a large portion of the work schedule. Even just 49 minutes a week of worthless meetings will result in this figure.

It is estimated that the annual loss in just one location of a major company due to poorly planned meetings can reach $54 million. Aside from the crippling employee productivity, such activities do cost a significant amount of money to hold. The expenses can be anywhere between 7% and 15% of the personnel budget. This was used for food, equipment, and other requirements.

Improving Efficiency and Productivity

All these do not mean that meetings are completely useless. They only point to the fact that changes are required to fix the broken system. There is clearly much room for improvement in the way that these gatherings are handled. There are a few suggestions given by experts on how to enhance efficiency and productivity. These include standing up, being selective in scheduling, using an agenda, and having discussions in different ways. Let us look at each of these in greater detail.

Stand Up During Meetings

There are plenty of benefits when using this strategy. According to a software CEO, it reduces meeting times by about 25%. People tend to arrive at decisions much faster than normally would. There is a greater sense of urgency among attendees. It is important to note that there is no discernible difference in the quality of the decisions made if you compare the results of stand up and sit down meetings.

Stand-up sessions are intentionally short. People want to get things over and done with because of the physical constraints. It was found that this strategy made team members interact better with each other. Attendees appear more excited about their work. They are encouraged to participate more actively in the discussions. The setup discourages boredom, daydreaming and distraction. Focus is undoubtedly sharper. It was also observed that people act less territorial about ideas.

This has proven to be so effective that 85% of agile practitioners in software development use daily stand-up meetings to boost office productivity. Among the well-known companies that employ this technique in their workplace are Adobe, Facebook, Microsoft and Zendesk.

Meet for Status Reports

Another proven strategy is to limit meetings that deal only with status reports and basic information. These routine exchanges can be accomplished without dragging everyone down into the boardroom. In fact, other forms of communication may be much more effective. Some companies have shifted to knowledge bases and online tools to keep employees informed about vital figures. They can check these out during their free time.

It was also found that implementing a cloud-based communication system recovered 75% of the time wasted attempting to schedule meetings. This is equivalent to 25.5 minutes saved on average. This may not seem a lot but things do add up over the weeks, months and years.

Use an Agenda

Too many meetings squander the participant’s time by getting lost in trivial details. Using an agenda will keep the meeting focused on the task at hand. Time will be more efficiently utilized to address the questions that actually matter. This is plain to see for most people. As many as 73% of employees believe that having an agenda is very important. They rank it as the most essential factor for having a productive meeting.

The time spent preparing meetings materials is 55 minutes on average. Meanwhile, the time spent preparing an agenda is only 30 minutes or less. Do both with care and expedience to ensure high meeting productivity.

Discussion Outside of Meetings

Another thing that facilitators should be mindful of is that the meeting should address the concerns of all those present, or at least the vast majority. The discussion should revolve around topics that people care about. This will hold their attention. It will make them feel like the meeting is worth their time.

If an isolated issue arises, then consider discussing the problem after the meeting. Talk to the handful of persons affected about their concerns. Just don’t do it while conducting the meeting where other people are conscious of their time. This will keep all the participants happy.

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