A timely, well-run meeting lets a team collaborate, communicate, set goals, and solve problems. An unnecessary or pointless one, however, is a frustrating waste of time. So is a meeting with passive [read: silent] participants, let alone one with the wrong people in attendance. As bad as this all sounds, it only hints at a much bigger problem: Too many meaningless meetings may put the very health of a business at risk.
How? Because when workers are constantly pulled into meetings, they have less time to focus on the job they’ve been hired to do. Productivity plunges. Instead of getting to the gym or seeing friends and family, now the team has to stay late or work over the weekend to make up for the hours they sacrificed to unnecessary meetings. Goodbye, work-life balance. Soon, burned-out, unmotivated workers start talking with their feet.
A recent BlueJeans poll of 700 workers in the United States confirms this grim scenario. As the "Painful Reality of Meetings" survey infographic highlights, employees say more than one-third of their weekly meetings are “not valuable” or even “worthless.” Almost 40% of individual contributors agree. All those low-value meetings are the equivalent of 26 wasted workdays per employee each year. In annual salaries, that translates to $413 billion.
Yet here’s another number worth remembering: A whopping 90% of workers say they would be more likely to stay at an organization if they could RSVP “no” to needless meetings. The connection between meeting culture and employee retention is clear—and for managers and organizations keen to keep their teams intact, it’s an important wake-up call.
Meetings take time. Time is money. Spend it wisely.
Now, imagine if every meeting was relevant and efficient. Think of the trust that could be built, with workers across an organization feeling confident their manager or colleagues only calls meetings when it’s necessary. Minimizing the number of mind-numbing meetings helps with retention since satisfied employees are more likely to stay put. That means business teams and leaders can focus on doing what they do best. No wonder companies are realizing that a great meeting culture can be a cost-effective strategy for securing a stable workforce across a thriving organization.
So, what’s a management team to do to improve a company’s meeting culture? Start with these strategies:
- Empower employees. Let workers determine how often they need to meet. Remember that employees say that they could skip 37% of their meetings and still be productive.
- Get feedback. Many workers say their employer never asks for post-meeting feedback. With a myriad of evaluation tools to choose from, meeting leaders can (and should) encourage participation by finding out what worked—and what didn’t.
- Technology matters. It’s easier to make every meeting count when teams and leaders have the tools to ensure the discussions are efficient and that every participant can be seen and heard whether they are joining from a huddle space, mobile device, laptop, or the board room.
- Embrace automation. Whether it’s an all-hands meeting or a one-on-one, make the most of automated tools that let participants annotate video highlights or crowdsource key moments for real-time feedback and easy reference later on. Use automated meeting features to cascade action items and meeting notes.
- Go back to basics. Never underestimate the importance of meeting-essentials like having an agenda with clear objectives, ensuring the right people are attending, sharing the minutes or key takeaways in a follow-up message, and starting and ending the meeting on time.
When a company creates a culture where every meeting is high quality—that is, purposeful, efficient, and technology-enabled—low-quality meetings become fewer and farther between. That’s good news for workers who can prioritize getting their work done during official work hours and still have time to enjoy life outside the office. And it’s great news for business leaders committed to retaining satisfied employees who stick around for the long haul.