Just as Venice’s canals have started running clear and Beijing’s skies are blue again, the coronavirus has led to an unexpected return to a better time in the workplace. The global pandemic has slowed down decades of meeting madness.
Of course, the meetings haven’t halted completely – the Zoom stock price tells that story clearly – but they are generally getting shorter and our schedules have a few more gaps in them than before. It’s provided insight that companies are acting on, from organizations that are proactively encouraging employees to hold fewer meetings, to the companies that have even shifted their annual conferences online to reduce travel and increase efficiency.
Doodle’s report revealed that 71 percent of professionals believe that they lose time weekly to unnecessary or canceled meetings, so having fewer meetings can only be a good thing. But that’s not to say that all meetings are inadequate, unproductive or inefficient. Recurring meetings provide the cultural, strategic and communication backbone of most companies. They’re also crucial for talent management and personal development. But which meetings are essential and which would be best left unorganized completely?
If we simplify, we can place the majority of recurring meetings into one of two buckets:
- Regular team, department or project meetings
These are the meetings that occur weekly, monthly or quarterly, and tend to add up and clog up schedules pretty quickly. Think weekly team kick-offs, monthly department stand-ups, biweekly project updates… you get the idea.
The fact that these meetings are recurring tends to lead to them being poor quality meetings. The organizer spends little time preparing for them, while the list of invitees never changes, meaning there’s a good chance that very little of the meeting’s content is relevant to all attendees. In short, it’s these meetings that tend to give all meetings a bad reputation. A third of professionals find themselves unable to contribute to most of the meetings they attend. At the same time, almost half of employees think these meetings create confusion in the workplace and impact their ability to do work.
While these regular meetings may not overtly be about talent development, they can negatively impact everything from employee engagement and satisfaction to stress and turnover, all of which can affect an organization’s ability to develop talent successfully.
With that in mind, our Q2 2020 State of Meetings report offers a few tips to prevent unproductive meetings.
- Always set clear objectives.
- Always send out a clear agenda.
- Make sure there aren’t more people than strictly necessary in the meeting.
“Our data shows that the number of virtual group meetings rose 109 percent in Q2 2020,” says Renato Profico, CEO of Doodle. “Video-enabled online meetings require our full attention and can be draining. Often, they can make participants feel a myriad of emotions, such as anxiety, stress and exhaustion. So, attending fewer, unnecessary meetings will not only help keep business meetings more focused and effective, but will also help employees combat Zoom fatigue, which can take a serious toll on their productivity and mental wellbeing.”
The one-to-one meeting, usually between an employee and their manager, is the most important and impactful weapon that any organization has in its talent development armory. More than 90 percent of US employees cite the inability to communicate clearly or receive constructive feedback as the number one complaint they have about their manager.
Managers who do invest the time in their employees tend to see it paid back. Employees who get twice as much one-to-one time with their manager are 67 percent less likely to become disengaged.
In fairness, this isn’t news to most managers who already instinctively understand the relationship between time with their employees, performance and satisfaction. However, more than two-thirds of managers find that juggling individual responsibilities with their responsibility as a people leader is their biggest challenge.
We’ve collected a few tips and tricks that will not only help organizations to understand and acknowledge the impact that one-on-one meetings have on talent development but also aid managers in holding better and more productive one-on-ones with their employees.
- If you manage a team of five or fewer employees, then schedule weekly one-to-ones. If your team is any bigger, then the meetings should be biweekly at most.
- Make one-to-one meetings your top priority each week. Don’t cancel or postpone them regularly – rightly or wrongly, it sends a message to employees that they’re not important to you. Either make your one-to-one meetings the same day and time each week or allow employees to select a convenient time via a smart scheduling tool.
- One-to-one meetings should ideally be an hour (but 30 minutes and 45 minutes work well too). Don’t try to cram them into 15 minutes. Although doing a one-to-one over a lunchtime walk or even lunch is acceptable, so long as your attention isn’t elsewhere.
- Never go into a one-to-one with an employee without a plan as to what you’re going to discuss. Setting the agenda can either be the manager’s responsibility or it can be a responsibility that’s shared between the employee and the manager, but it must happen. “The secret to a successful and time-efficient meeting is preparation. The agenda shouldn’t be too long. Otherwise, there’s a risk of spending too much time on the first items and later items are rushed,” advises Dr. Sankalp Chaturvedi, Associate Professor of Organisational Behavior and Leadership at Imperial College London.
- Let the employee talk. Yes, this is a prime opportunity for passing on vital information, but it’s the employee’s meeting, not the manager’s, and the employee should lead the conversation.
- Listen, make notes and ask questions. There’s a temptation to get sucked into the details of the role and specific projects, but it’s critical that managers also ask the more important questions from time to time. How are you doing? Are you happy here? Is there anything I can help with?
- One-to-ones will be more successful if they concentrate on the future rather than the past – on growth, development and opportunities instead of past performance. By the same token, it’s essential to focus on where an employee’s strength lies and how best to use that strength or improve a specific skill set, rather than to dwell on shortcomings. Managers should also highlight how an employee’s strength, growth and development align with the company culture and objectives.
- Address how employees like to work, as well as what they do. Is there a time of day that they’re more energetic or productive? Could they benefit from working from home more or having more flexible hours?
- It’s sometimes a tough conversation to have, but don’t shy away from asking about team dynamics, relationships with other team members and the most fruitful collaborations they have. Just avoid the temptation to indulge in watercooler gossip.
- Some of the most critical questions a manager can ask are: What are your biggest roadblocks? Is there a consistent bottleneck that you find frustrating? Can I help you get unstuck anywhere?
- Inevitably, there will be times when unwavering positivity isn’t possible. For example, a complaint has been raised or they had a run-in with another employee. During these meetings, managers must have a framework for tough conversations and the employee must still feel like an active participant, rather than like a scolded school child. Pendleton’s Feedback Process is a good illustration of how this can occur:
- Ensure that the employee is open to feedback.
- Ask the employee to explain the context of the situation.
- Ask the employee to identify what they did well.
- The manager then explains what, in their opinion, went well.
- Ask the employee what could be improved.
- The manager then suggests some improvements.
- The employee and manager together come up with an improvement plan.
After the one-to-one
If setting a clear agenda and holding a successful meeting is essential for employee engagement, it’s the follow-up to the employee-manager one-to-one that makes this meeting the cornerstone of any organization’s talent development process.
The first step is to align an employee’s short- and long-term goals and development opportunities with the company’s options. Both manager and employee should agree upon how to proceed and what constitutes progress. This topic should be revisited in all following one-to-one meetings.
This is often the point when managers need to check their egos. The best managers identify what their employees need – be that education, mentorship or coaching – rather than providing it all themselves.
Finally, all one-to-ones should be followed up with a written summary and next steps. It helps reinforce the conversation and ensures that both employee and manager remain accountable.
A time-consuming process?
If this sounds complicated and involved, that’s because it should be. Payroll accounts for between 30 percent and 70 percent of most organizations, making employees your highest cost. Therefore, it’s also worth investing time in your workforce.
However, if you need the benefits to be more tangible, bear the following in mind. On average, managers spend four weeks per year on performance appraisals that sees all other work grind to a halt for one month each year.
However, companies like Adobe and GE have successfully managed to do away with those annual performance reviews by embracing more frequent and more highly-prioritized one-to-one meetings throughout the year. This avoided the huge annual workload and Adobe saw turnover decrease by 30 percent as a result, while the strategy was part of a 500 percent increase in productivity at GE.
Now, does it seem worth making time for one-to-one meetings with your team?
To learn how Doodle can help simplify and streamline the one-to-one meetings in your organization, get in touch for a product demonstration.