26 September 2023

A case for fewer meetings: Boosting employee productivity

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Want to improve bottom-line results and employee satisfaction and engagement? Jeff Haden* says to stop holding so many (gosh darned) meetings.

Admittedly, I’m biased against meetings. I’m convinced the only person in the room who feels a particular meeting is valuable is the person who actually called the meeting.

But plenty of research agrees.

According to a 2012 study, participants who were placed in small groups and asked to solve problems experienced an individual IQ drop of approximately 15 percent.

A 2018 study found meetings that don’t start on time (bet you can’t remember the last time two meetings in a row started on time) were a third less effective — in terms of outcomes, both actual and perceived — than meetings that started on time.

And now there’s this.

A recent meta-analysis of over a decade of research shows 90 per cent of employees feel meetings are “costly” and “unproductive.”

And that they’re right: Employee productivity increased by over 70 per cent when meetings were reduced by 40 percent.

Makes sense.

Fewer meetings means more time to get things done.

But with a twist: The researchers also found that employee autonomy increased.

People didn’t need meetings to keep them on-track and accountable; fewer meetings allowed them to “own their own to-do lists.”

Which resulted in greater productivity and job satisfaction.

And, oddly enough, improved communication, cooperation, and engagement among employees.

Since they couldn’t “rely” on meetings, they talked to one another directly.

Or checked project documents.

Or reviewed old Slack messages.

The resulting communication was 57 per cent more effective, even though they didn’t all hear the same message at the same time so they were all reading from the same sheet of music.

But wait, there’s more: When meetings were reduced by 80 percent, really cool things happened.

Stress dropped by over 60 percent.

Feeling micromanaged dropped by almost 75 percent.

Productivity? Up 74 percent.

Granted, eliminating nearly every meeting won’t overcome every employee productivity, engagement, job satisfaction, and cooperation problem.

That’s especially true if you just hired your first employees; the researchers found that new managers (and if you just launched a startup, that makes you a new manager) tend to hold nearly one-third more meetings than experienced managers.

That’s understandable. But still.

Holding fewer meetings, or resisting the temptation to hold more meetings to keep your finger on the pulse of your fledgling operations, will make an immediate impact.

Because giving people the time — and the responsibility, freedom, and implied trust — to get things done will allow them to actually get things done.

Which makes everyone feel better about themselves.

And the place they work.

*Jeff Haden is a keynote speaker, ghostwriter, LinkedIn Influencer, contributing editor to Inc., and the author of The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win.

This article first appeared at inc.com.

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