Meeting Culture

Beyond salary costs: Why better meetings matter

Importantly and often overlooked, better meetings can increase employee job satisfaction, retention and lead to faster decision-making.

Most organizations consider the cost of meetings to be wasted time. The conversation typically begins and ends around productivity, lost time and sunken costs. 

However, authors of the often-referenced Harvard Business Review article, Stop the Meeting Madness, note there is a stiff price (beyond the dollar) that companies pay for poorly run meetingsHappiness at work. 

From the articlestudy by Steven Rogelberg and colleagues showed that how workers feel about the effectiveness of meetings correlates with their general satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their jobs, even after controlling for personality traits and environmental factors such as work design, supervision, and pay. Instead of improving communication and collaboration, as intended, bad meetings undermine those things 

“Organizations should look beyond just the financial cost of bad meetings,” says Liana Kreamer, Ph.D. student in the Organizational Science Department at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. “Yes, bad meetings result in wasted time – meaning, wasted money (e.g., salary costs). But, importantly and often overlooked, better meetings can increase employee job satisfaction, retention and lead to faster decision-making. 

McKinsey survey found that 61% of executives viewed decision-making, which commonly occurs in meetings, ineffective – with only 37% believing their organizations’ decisions were both high quality and timely. If meetings are where decisions are made, then McKinsey is right: If you want better and faster decisions, plan a better meeting. 

Microsoft conducted an internal research project to determine what made one employee thrive and another so “miserable” she would quit. They made one particularly surprising discovery that was leading to employee unhappiness: bloated meetings.  

According to a New York Times article about the Microsoft findings, one team had 27 hours a week in meetings. This was not much more than a typical team at Microsoft. What distinguished them from others was that their meetings tended to include a lot of people — 10 or 20 around a conference table coordinating plans, as opposed to two or three people brainstorming ideas. The issue was that their managers were clogging their schedules with overcrowded meetings. 

“Meetings do not have to be a ‘necessary evil,’” continues Liana. “They can be a catalyst for achieving an organization’s objectives. A healthy meeting culture creates space for creativity and problem-solving, and can help foster relationships and innovation. However, it requires a systematic change to how meetings are managed. One or two good meetings a week will not override the frustration of 10 bad ones. Make the change. Commit to better meetings.” 

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