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So, we meet again? (Can we not.)

How many meetings do you attend a day?  If you are like me and the rest of us working in the U.S., it is probably quite a few.  It is estimated that the annual cost of meetings in the United States is $1.4 trillion... that’s trillion with a T!  I know when I wake up in the morning and check my schedule for the day, my mood is instantly better if I don’t have any meetings scheduled.  And why is that? 


Well, for me, it is because it means I will actually get work done.  When my day is filled with meetings, I find those are my least productive days.  I’m not going to say EVERY meeting I attend is a waste of time, as certainly there is value in collaboration and discussion in some instances.  But more often than not, meetings are unproductive and lead to little progress as they are too long, have the wrong attendees, do not have thoughtful agendas, and are dominated by a few loud voices in the room.

In human resources, we spend a lot of time analyzing the productivity and engagement of our employees.  How much are they getting done?  Are they wasting time?  Are they motivated by the work? Are they engaged?  How does their work link to strategic business goals?  These are important questions in our discipline; so much so, that we create surveys to gather data and write rules and polices to create a more focused, productive work environment. 

If we really care about our employees' productivity, engagement, and morale, then it is time we stop ignoring the unproductive, demotivating meeting culture that exists in most organizations and teach our employees how to lead effective meetings.

--Bethany J. Adams, MA, SHRM-SCP

In a survey on time wasters at work, 30% of the respondents said that their organizations block sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter while at work.  Now, I get it; I’ve certainly spent company time scrolling Twitter or checking posts on LinkedIn.  But how does that 10 minutes of wasted time compare to the HOURS of wasted time in unproductive meetings.  Let's be real.  If your company is concerned enough about the few minutes employees spend on social media each day wasting time but has never taken the time to examine the amount of time (not to mention morale) that is killed in meetings, you really can't tout that you care about productivity and the work environment.


That same survey found that “the biggest waste of time (at work), according to 47% of the respondents, is having to attend too many meetings.”  In the survey, too many meetings ranked ahead of other time wasters like fixing other people’s mistakes, office politics, annoying coworkers, busy work, and email.  If this is such a problem that we are all aware of, why are we not more concerned and searching for ways to improve this bad meeting culture that exists in organizations today?


An organizational science professor from UNC Charlotte, Dr. Steven Rogelberg, has spent years researching this exact question.  Rogelberg argues that poor meetings are not just a “cost of doing business” and that managers, leaders or anyone calling meetings (ahem, YOU) should understand the science behind leading effective meetings.  Rogelberg has surveyed more than 5,000 employees across a range of industries and in his new book, The Surprising Science of Meetings, he shares evidence-based practices and techniques to enhance the quality of meetings and stop wasting all our time!  Small changes like the how long meetings are scheduled for, who attends, and providing snacks can have big impacts on the overall productivity and morale that comes out of meetings.  (I definitely vote for more meetings with good snacks!)


If we really care about our employees' productivity, engagement, and morale, then it is time we stop ignoring the unproductive, demotivating meeting culture that exists in most organizations and teach our employees how to lead effective meetings.  You can start by reading Rogelberg's book.


Bethany J. Adams, MA, SHRM-SCP is an Associate Director in the Graduate HRD Program at Villanova University.  Learn more about her here!



Photo credit from Flickr Creative Commons: Or Hiltch and Russell Davies

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