With the modern workforce’s heavy reliance on social media and instant messaging technology, has the meeting become an archaic practice?
There’s a world of debate about whether meetings are an effective means of communication in business.
Some still feel that the face-to-face interaction is a tried-and-true tradition, but there are those that hold that it’s a waste, both in time and labour.
Companies like Intel and Lenovo have put a halt to meetings without clear purpose or direction, and some businesses have gone so far as to do away with meetings altogether.
An infographic published by Inc.com depicts a business culture in which the average employee spends over 30 hours a month in meetings. More than half of attendees view these meetings as a total waste of time.
“There are more than 3 billion meetings every year, with executives spending 40 to 50 percent of their total working hours in meetings,” reports Entrepreneur magazine, quoting recent statistics from TED speakers David Grady and Jason Fried.
Doing the math, that’s about 360 hours of productivity lost each year by simply holding a meeting. Especially one which could have otherwise been a short email or phone call.
The True Cost of Meetings
This drain on company time has a price tag, too.
“That loss in productivity is estimated to waste nearly $37 billion every year in the U.S. alone,” Entrepreneur wrote.
And where there is a drain on time and financial resources, there may also come a cost in the form of jobs.
Successful companies that have denounced meetings altogether have seen obvious increases in productivity and a reclamation of once squandered resources, however some have opted for a system geared towards fewer and less intrusive meetings.
The latter have hard and fast rules that mandate how meetings should be run, for how long, and for whom in order to save time and money and maximize productivity.
Ask yourself the hard questions
Another article from Entrepreneur urges us to consider the importance of deciding clear and concise purpose for the meeting, and that often includes proving the gathering is truly warranted in the first place.
Does the benefit of the gathering in person outweigh the cost in man-hours? Does the matter require input from others, or is it a communication that is largely one-sided?
More often than not, a meeting was not the best way to pass along the information at hand.
Small Groups Are More Effective
One of the most common complaints about attending meetings is the lack of information relevant to the attendees’ individual jobs.
By limiting the number of people involved about a specific issue, people will be more motivated to engage in productive dialogue, and only the most interested parties are involved, without wasting the time of those it may not immediately concern.
With lots of people crowded into a conference room, there is more incentive to loaf off and not pay attention.
Whittling the guest-list down to only the people who have the most vested interest in the issue presented ensures the information will go directly to its intended audience without intruding on another’s time.
Stand up for what you believe in.
If a meeting becomes the optimal way to communicate a particular message, make sure the meeting has a clear objective, and lead it standing tall.
It shows those gathered that the meeting will be focused and brief. This improvised group chat keep the waste of long-winded conferences to an absolute minimum and streamlines problem solving.
“In one study, groups that were standing took roughly one-third less time to make decisions than those who were seated...with no loss in the quality of decisions,” Forbes contributor Victor Lipman wrote in a 2013 article.
Just as the Ice Age was the ultimate undoing of the mighty Mammoths, should we also force out the dreaded Monday morning meetings?
Since some business goals may require different forms of communication to be most effective, the jury is still out on whether or not the evolution of the meeting will continue, or follow their mammalian counterparts into extinction.
For now, at least, it seems most agree that meetings should be kept to a minimum – short, focused and infrequent.
Just as scientists are attempting to splice mammoth DNA into the cells of modern elephants, breathing life back into the prehistoric creatures, perhaps there is an ideal hybrid method of taking control of communication back in the workplace, one that combines the benefit of the targeted, intimate setting of a conference room with the speed and efficiency of today’s professional technology.