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5 Ways to Establish Productive Meetings

5 Ways to Establish Productive Meetings

Effective meetings are crucial to a productive team. Meetings take time, so if team members are pulled away from work to engage in them, they must add value to the workday. 

Here we discuss what elements make meetings more effective, as well as five ways to establish more productive meetings within your organization.

 

Should Organizations Hold Fewer Meetings?

The number of employee meetings in one day can vary greatly depending on the role, the day of the week, and the industry. But is it safe to say that most organizations hold too many meetings? 

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer for this. There may be days when employees' three meetings were absolutely vital, and there may be others when they were not. 

This said, there are certainly adjustments every organization can make to assess whether they are scheduling too many meetings and how they can reduce that number. 

First, meetings should primarily cover matters that are both urgent and important. Focus on these topics and minimize meetings that neglect one or both of these. 

Urgent but unimportant matters can be handled using a communication system such as Slack or Google Chat. These systems allow rapid communication between team members to relay information easily and accomplish daily goals more quickly. 

Suppose a matter is important but not urgent. In this case, utilize email or other communication platforms to engage with team members. It may be tempting to meet about a project several months down the road, but unless the meeting is essential for preparation, it is best to put it on your team's radar via email and meet once the project approaches. 

Second, be sure all team members will benefit from the meeting. There is no use meeting with the entire team when only a select few are involved. This takes away from team members' time and energy that could be better used working on other projects. 

One way to keep all team members up to date without needing to pull together last minute meetings, is by implementing weekly 1:1 meetings with all team members. 

 

How to Implement 1:1 Meetings

Teams that prioritize 1:1 meetings between managers and their employees establish a consistent and reliable channel for critical information to get to the right places.

Here's how you can implement effective 1:1 meetings:

  1. Determine the length and frequency of the meeting. The frequency and length of 1:1 sessions will depend on your organization. Most range from 30-90 minutes and occur weekly, but larger team managers might consider monthly meetings or meetings every two weeks.

  2. Schedule recurring meetings. Scheduling the meetings ahead of time on the same day every week will help maintain consistency and routine. It’s easier for employees to prepare for the 1:1 meetings when they know when to expect them each week.

  3. Document the meetings. Documenting all communication is essential. Proper documentation can help managers feel confident that their employees receive the appropriate coaching

  4. Set documentation expectations. Be sure employees include agendas and summaries both before and after 1:1 meetings. Agendas and summaries help document what an employee and manager want to discuss. They also provide documentation of what was already discussed. Require employees to send 1:1 agendas at least 24 hours before the 1:1 to allow managers time to respond with additional notes or agenda items to add. Within 24 hours following a 1:1 meeting, the employee should send a detailed summary of the discussion. 

 

What Are 5 Distinct Ways to Improve Meeting Productivity? 

1. Put First Things First

The third habit in Stephen Covey’s book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is "put first things first." Each week teams have goals and priorities. Meetings should seek to discuss these and create plans to achieve them head-on. Urgencies pop up daily, but you must maintain focus on your priorities. 

Center your meetings around these important goals rather than calling last-minute meetings to discuss urgent tasks of lower importance. Remember that urgency and importance do not always coincide. 

2. Set an Agenda

Set start times and stick to them. Make sure employees know that is when they are expected to be present. When employees are late, they either miss information or delay the meeting. 

Perhaps even more critical than setting start times is setting clearly defined ending times. Employees may have other meetings, phone calls with clients, or projects that need their attention. Running over time can cause undue stress and frustration among the team. 

A productive meeting should always have an agenda. Setting a plan should be the first priority when hosting any meeting. 

Agendas ensure two things. The first is that the meeting has a purpose and a clear direction. You have a plan for what you will discuss, and you understand the progression of the meeting. The second is that the meeting will be timely and structured. 

Send the agenda to team members ahead of time. This meeting plan tells team members exactly what they should expect, allowing them to prepare any questions, comments, or concerns ahead of time.

3. Focus on Data

Meetings that begin and end with data will remain more focused than meetings based on subjective discussion. If there are ideas to be shared and questions raised, be sure to use data and factual information to support the conversation. 

Providing objective data can guide the meeting toward answers. Clear paths forward are what meetings are designed for. Everyone should feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, but without direction, thoughts and opinions will cease to become actionable.

4. Mediate Meetings

Whoever manages the meeting should set standards by mediating the discussion to encourage listening over speaking. 

Banter and interruptions can quickly get out of hand. To cull this, offer employees individual chances to speak about a particular point and turn the team’s attention toward them. Offer a moment for questions at specified intervals. If you repeat this regularly, you can reduce wasted time by ingraining the meeting structure into your employees, so they become more receptive over time. 

5. Prioritize Your Team

If a team member is involved in a meeting, they either have information to share or information they need to know. If neither of these is true, team members should likely not be involved in the meeting. 

When meetings are spread out throughout the day, gaining traction on projects can be especially challenging. Consider setting designated hours during the day for meetings, such as from 8-10 a.m. or 2-4 p.m. Give people a window to plan their working time around potential meetings. 

Be sure that meetings take all team members into account. This means ensuring they must be there and hearing what each team member thinks about a given topic. Encourage questions and involvement by creating an open and accepting atmosphere.

 

Effective meetings are crucial to a successful team. Use these key elements to boost the productivity of your team and create more valuable meetings from start to finish.

 

Additional Resources

You can also stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with productivity and other important topics by using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news

  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance

  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit

  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics 

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