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Curb Low Employee Engagement with Better Meetings

Lexie McCulloch

October 22, 2021

4

min read

  1. Shorter meetings are likely to be more productive and maintain everyone’s attention 
  2. Lead time for meetings correlates directly with meeting efficiency. The average lead time for meetings is 5.1 days 
  3. The cost of poor meeting culture is high across the board. The upfront cost of peoples’ time can be enormous (e.g. multiple execs + directors); inefficient meetings leading to more meetings waste time; unengaged people are more likely to leave

An overwhelming majority of people value meetings as an opportunity to contribute, yet roughly the same amount of people admit to daydreaming during meetings. What accounts for the disparity between our meeting reality versus expectations?

New data shows a larger workforce trend that may correlate with the pains of “meetingitis.” The 2021 State of the Global Workforce Report by Gallup found that only 20% of employees are engaged at work, which they estimate costs the global economy $8.1 trillion.  

According to our data, the average person attends around 29 meetings, for an average of 23 hours a month. For a company with 5,000 employees, this equates to 115,000 hours of meetings in one month. That’s 13 years, spent solely in meetings. Let’s think about this in another context.

Meetings Are Costly. Why Don’t We Act Like They Are?

For instance, Imagine a leadership meeting with 10 attendees. The participants likely include 2-3 executives, 4-5 directors, ops, folks, etc., which means that you have some of the highest paid employees gathering for a single meeting. That can equate to thousands of dollars for just one meeting.

That’s an enormous hidden cost that organizations don’t necessarily think about in monetary terms. In any other part or business activity in a normal company, this type of spend would get a fair amount of scrutiny. Add to that the passive costs associated with unengaged employees, and it’s not hard to see how things start to pile up.

It’s not only possible to improve your organization’s meeting culture, it’s crucial. That starts with tracking and analyzing data around meetings, and then making data-driven optimizations that save people time, improve meetings, and keep employees focused and engaged.  

The Benefits of Short Meetings

According to our data, shorter meetings are likely to be more productive and maintain everyone’s attention (see the chart below).

Between June and December 2020, 46-60 minute meetings declined significantly (by 15%), and the number of shorter meetings increased (by 11%). This trend illustrates the productive potential of frequent, short, and focused meetings, as opposed to long, infrequent ones.

Over the same period,<15 minute meetings increased by 4%. Small changes like this can save the average person several hours every week, and hundreds of hours over the course of a year, freeing up more time for focused work.

Advanced Notice for Meetings = Improved Efficiency

Lead time for meetings also correlates with meeting efficiency. The average lead time for meetings is 5.1 days. When given sufficient notice of an upcoming meeting, participants can come prepared. In the graphs below, the departments with the longest meeting lengths tend to have fewer days to plan for meetings — less than three days’ notice. Depending on the team, or company situation, shorter lead times can imply flexibility, but over the longer term, this trend implies a lack of planning that likely results in less efficient meetings.

Multitasking can also point towards inefficiency in a company’s meeting culture. When participants are fully-focused during meetings, it’s likely to be more productive. When participants are switching between tasks, they’re less likely to be focused on the content of the meeting. The following graph shows a sharp uptick in emails sent during meetings — a 12% increase. A strong trend such as this can point toward a more distracted meeting culture within an organization.


Improve Your Meeting Culture, Improve Your Business

There are dozens of other factors that influence a company’s meeting culture, and the best way to improve yours is to first understand how your employees’ time is being spent. Here at Time is Ltd., we worked with a US-based biotech company to successfully reevaluate and restructure its meeting culture after noticing a sharp rise in meetings. Long, irrelevant, and unproductive meetings were creating frustration and stress for their employees. Using insights from our platform, they saved 244 years worth of meeting time and increased employee satisfaction by 23%.

Everyone benefits when meeting culture improves. As Gallup concludes in its report, the mark of a successful organization is not just high employee engagement, but also high employee wellbeing. According to their analysis, employees who are engaged but not thriving feel high levels of stress, worry, anger and sadness — all of which lead to burnout. Only 32% of people reported a high quality of life, which the researchers deemed “thriving.” This aligns with the larger data on burnout. Surveys of US professionals found that 77% reported experiencing burnout and that 42% have so far as to leave their jobs as a result.

Alternatively, when employees are engaged and thriving, the risk of burnout declines sharply. Additionally, businesses with higher employee wellbeing are more productive, and report lower turnover and higher profitability.

The monetary cost of unproductive meetings is one thing, but cost compounds exponentially when put in terms of talent acquisition and retention. The solution? Understand how effective your meetings are and then, make your meetings count. If you’d like to learn more about how to drive meeting productivity, then don’t hesitate to reach out to solutions@timeisltd.com.

wRITTEN BY

Lexie McCulloch