Have you ever sat in a meeting and wondered, “did we really need a meeting for this?” You’re not alone. According to the Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. When used effectively, face-to-face meetings can be a valuable tool. Unfortunately, in the corporate world, effective meetings are not always the case.
The Dark Side of Meetings
On average, employees spend 62 hours each month in meetings – almost 40% of their working time! This takes away from the time that they have available to actually work on their assignments.
In addition to being a time waster, ineffective meetings also:
- Reduce productivity. When interrupted, it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus on a task. With several meetings scattered throughout your work day, you spend a lot of time and energy trying to recapture your focus.
- Lead to burnout. In order to concentrate and complete their work, many employees are cutting into their personal time to work early or stay late. Over time, this can cause them to become exhausted and stressed, resulting in lower employee engagement and higher turnover.
- Waste money. More than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings. Calculate the cost of everyone in attendance at your last meeting. Was the work or decisions made during the meeting worth that cost?
Consider Other Communication Channels
Meetings are just one channel for you to communicate with colleagues. There may be a more effective (and efficient) way to deliver your message. Think about what you want to accomplish and consider the following alternatives:
- I want to share information or update: Send an email.
- I want to teach a new feature/program: Send a video.
- I want real-time responses: Call or send an instant message.
Make Your Meetings More Productive
Sometimes, however, you need to conduct effective face-to-face meetings. Follow these tips to make your meetings more efficient and productive.
- Keep it short. The average person pays attention for about 10-18 minutes before they tune out. Only about 73% of people pay attention after the 30-minute mark. Keep your meetings effective by keeping them short. This maximizes employee engagement.
- Don’t schedule in 30-minute blocks. According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fill the time available for completion. Similarly, meetings tend to expand to fill the allotted time. So if you only need 20 minutes, schedule a 20-minute meeting.
- Consider your audience. Determine whose attendance is needed to conduct an effective meeting. For noncritical people, send them a recap email afterwards or make their attendance optional.
- Set a clear agenda and goals. Share an agenda with the topics you need to cover and the goals you want to achieve. This will help your meeting stay focused and purposeful.
- Send materials ahead of time. Ask participants to review materials before the meeting and come ready for discussion. This reduces the time spent going through materials together.
- Keep everyone focused. Ban the use of outside technology to keep participants more engaged and focused on the topic at hand.
Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, once wrote: “Just as you would not permit a fellow employee to steal a piece of office equipment, you shouldn’t let anyone walk away with the time of his fellow managers.” It is time for us to respect each other’s most valuable asset, our time, and think twice before we schedule an ineffective meeting.
When you think of business communications, what comes to mind? A series of webinars? A communications strategy? Several pieces of marketing collateral? That’s fair, but more often than not, it’s something we all do several times a day without even thinking much about it: Writing an email.
Does an effective business email need as much time and attention as these other, more comprehensive projects? Good question!
Recently, my best friend, who would be first to declare that she’s “not a communicator,” asked me if 20 minutes is too long to spend writing an email. I’ll tell you what I told her: It depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
If your email confirms you’ve received somebody else’s message, yep, 20 minutes is too long. If you want to convey an important message that requires the recipient to open it from a full inbox, and give it the appropriate attention and action? Then, no way! Twenty minutes feels about the right time to write an effective business email.
Most people get about 122 emails a day. On average, we spend only 11.1 seconds reading each before we move on or hit delete. Your goal is to figure out how to compete in those crowded in-boxes. No easy feat, but these tips can help reduce the time you need to write effective business emails.
- Start with a meaningful subject line. Don’t call your email “Need by Thursday.” Instead, try something more descriptive like “Transition Project Timeline – Review by Thursday.” This highlights key content, the action the recipient needs to take, and the deadline. All this the recipient even opens your now, more effective business email.
- Strike the right balance in tone, content, and simplicity. Write simply (and politely, of course) and include just enough information so your recipient understands what’s needed. Otherwise, you may find yourself answering follow-up questions in subsequent emails. It’s tempting to wax poetic and/or include everything there is to know about a project or subject. But, remember this is an email, not the next great American novel. The purpose of an effective business email is to deliver a specific, action-oriented message. (Use the telephone if a subject requires a lengthy conversation.)
- Use paragraphs or lists There is nothing duller than opening up an email and seeing one big wall of text. Remember, we live in the digital age, where people scan information on line. 55 percent of emails are now read on mobile devices. Reading emails on those small screens can be tricky. So make it easy for folks: Break your text up into short paragraphs or lists. Use numbers instead of bullet points if you think there will be a need to refer to a specific item later.
- State a clear call to action. Does the recipient need to give feedback or just their approval to move forward? Be specific. Ambiguous requests may result in unnecessary work and/or delays.
- Skip the humor and be professional. Along those same lines, use proper punctuation and language. Save the emoticons, acronyms, and excessive punctuation for casual communications. The elements that make jokes work, such as good timing, delivery, and tone, do not carry through in an email. While you may be funny in person, your joke may be misconstrued in an email. Humor and effective business emails do not mix.
- Check before you send. Before you hit send, reread your email and check for any typos, grammar errors, and misspelling. You might even want to print it out as editing on paper can often reveal things missed on screen. Double check the names and dates. See if anything needs more clarity to make your business email more effective. Depending on the stakes involved (e.g., going to a senior leader, a sensitive message, etc.), consider having someone else take a look at it before you hit send. A fresh pair of eyes often catches mistakes that someone too close to the work may overlook.
Use these tips and you’ll reduce the time needed to write effective business emails.
I hate saying no at the office. I’ve accepted assignments that no one wants, last minute requests and the coordination of a labor-intensive fundraiser during my busiest time of the year. In my mind, this makes me a team player and a valuable asset. However, a reluctance to say no may actually make me a martyr at the expense of my health and career.
Why You Should Learn to Say No at the Office
Saying no doesn’t come naturally to many people. Whatever the reason − guilt, the need to please, the fear of disappointing others – we struggle with saying no at the office. But it’s okay because there’s no harm in saying yes, right? Maybe not.
Here are five reasons why it’s beneficial for you to learn to say no at the office:
- Control your stress: You can’t do it all. Accepting more than a reasonable share of responsibilities at work leads to stress in trying to complete them and balance your commitments at home. With that stress comes associated health problems, including high blood pressure, anxiety, and even a higher risk for diabetes.
- Maintain your reputation: You have a reputation as a great performer who always delivers on your assignments. Saying yes to everything at work reduces the time, attention, and energy you can dedicate to each project. You may find yourself rushing through projects, making mistakes, or even missing deadlines.
- Be more productive: A particular assignment may require a special set of skills that you don’t have. Rather than struggling with a task you have no experience in, the assignment would be better handled by someone with those skills. Then you can spend your time more productively.
- Say no to say yes: There is a finite number of hours in a day. When you say yes to one thing, you may be inadvertently saying no to something else. For example, taking on a project for a friend may mean that you have less time available for your clients.
- Value yourself: Remember your personal time and mental health are important too. While there may be times you have to stay late or answer emails after work hours, remember you also need time to rest and reenergize.
When You Should Learn to Say No at the Office
It’s understandable you want to always say yes to your employer and/or clients; however, there are some times when you need to say no. Here are three situations where you should reconsider before saying yes at the office:
- When something can’t be done or is out of your control: Grow sales by 200%. Complete a five-week project in one week. Don’t say yes and try to achieve the impossible. It would be better for you to set realistic expectations with your manager and/or client and then work to achieve or surpass them.
- When you already have a full workload: You’re already working from 9 to 6 with barely any time for breaks and still log on at home to finish projects. The new assignment may be easy but it’s still going to require time that you just don’t have.
- When it goes against your values: In a study, more than half of the subjects complied with a request even though it went against their ethics. Going along with something that is against your values can lead to discomfort and self-resentment.
How to Say No at the Office
It’s just a two letter word, but it can be one of the hardest words to say. Here are five tips to help you learn to say no effectively:
- Say no: Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t leave it up for interpretation.
- Be polite: Try saying “I would like to help, but I can’t.”
- Be firm: If the person is persistent even after you say no, don’t be afraid to say no again.
- Recommend an alternative: If you can’t help, suggest another colleague who may be able to step in. Maybe you can recommend a better, simpler approach to handling the assignment
- Push back: If a manager asks you to take on a new assignment when you don’t have time, ask them for help prioritizing the request with your current work load.
The word “no” is powerful at the office. Just remember it’s okay to use it.
It has become rare to eat a meal with friends without having at least one person request modifications to their dish. More restaurants offer build-your-own options, from salads to stir-fry to the traditional Korean dish, bibimbap. This desire for customization goes further than food. People are looking for it in their jobs as well.
People want jobs they can customize to complement their lifestyle. For companies to stay competitive in the job market, they need to offer such flexibility.
Many employees have demanding responsibilities at home and at work. Trying to balance it all can become overwhelming, resulting in low quality work or missed assignments. Letting employees choose their own work schedule or work remotely helps them balance their responsibilities. This improves job satisfaction and productivity and reduces absenteeism.
Employees who have workplace flexibility achieve more, are happier at work and are less prone to burnout and psychological stress. Employees want work flexibility.
- 51% of employees would switch to a job that allows them flextime.
- 37% of employees would switch to a job that allows them to work off-site at least part of the time.
- 42% of employees would take a lower-paying job if it offers more work flexibility.
- Some employees are even willing to leave their current jobs for a series of temporary jobs, just to have flexible hours.
Sixty-nine percent of full-time employees are not completely satisfied with their current benefits. With five generations in the workplace, it’s easy to see how one benefit plan can miss the needs of employees who are in different stages of their lives. Tuition reimbursement may be popular with Millennials, but how relevant is it to Baby Boomers who are looking ahead at retirement? How about offering some flexibility with your benefits?
- Flexible Benefit Plans: Employers can offer core benefits (salary, health insurance, and retirement). They can add optional choices like life insurance or dental insurance. Costs for optional benefits can either fully paid by employers or shared with the employees.
- Flexible Spending Accounts: Employers can offer flexible spending accounts where employees deposit pre-tax dollars to spend on child care or transportation. Employers can also contribute to these funds.
- Paid Time Off (PTO): Instead of a division between vacation days and sick days, employers can offer a bank of total paid time off. This prevents healthy workers from getting “penalized” because they are not using sick days and discourages employees from calling-in sick for a day off.
Not every company can offer flexible schedules or flexible benefits to their employees. All companies can create flexible environments to complement their employees’ lifestyle and values. Here are some perks your company can offer to employees:
- Casual dress code
- Pet-friendly office
- Summer hours
- Wellness programs with discounted gym memberships or on-site yoga classes
- Transportation or parking reimbursement
- Volunteer day
Flexibility is important to attract and keep talent in this competitive job market. Remember to keep your company’s culture, values, and operations in mind to balance your with your employees’ wants.
I love listicles and devour them for news. 5 Things You Need to Know This Week. 10 Things to Make with Leftover Chicken. My boyfriend hates them. He prefers getting his information from discussion forums. People have grown accustomed to getting news in their desired format: lists, long-form articles, discussion forums, infographics, videos, etc. So why do companies expect their one-size-fits-all employee communications will be effective?
There are currently five generations in the workforce. Each generation brings insights from their different lifestyles and experiences. Each also has different preferences and expectations for communications. While traditionalists generally expect audiences to be passive and respectful to authority, millennials want to be engaged.
This generational gap is one of many in a workforce where one-size-fits-all communications fails. Others may include gender, culture, location, and roles. After all, what would an employee at a manufacturing plant think about receiving an email of corporate speak?
In a study by GuideSpark, over 70% of respondents said that they want their companies to improve how they communicate information.
It’s Just Talking to Our Employees. Why Does It Matter?
Research from Gallup shows disengagement remains a critical problem for the American workforce It costs businesses up to $605 billion each year in lost productivity. In the American workplace with more than 100 million full-time employees:
- 16% are actively disengaged – completely miserable at work.
- 51% are disengaged – just there, doing the bare minimum to squeak by.
- 33% are engaged – truly love their jobs and make their organization better every day.
Employees who are actively disengaged are “more likely to steal from their company, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays and drive customers away.” One cause of low engagement is leaders who don’t define and communicate the company vision and rally employees around it.
- Only 22% of employees strongly agree their organization’s leadership has a clear direction for the organization.
- Only 13% of employees strongly agree their organization’s leadership communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.
What Can Employers Do?
Communication is “the cornerstone of an engaged workforce” and is key in improving employee engagement. To communicate effectively with employees, employers must:
- Understand your organization. Talk to your employees and find out what they want. What is working? What is not working? What do they need? How do they want it?
- Personalize your approach. Once you understand the differences in your organization, decide how you want to engage the various groups.
For each message, consider the following:
- Audience: Who needs to get this message? What is the best way to group to capture their different interests or viewpoints in this message? You could group message recipients by demographics, geography, or employment area.
- Content: What does each group need in order for the message to resonate with them? Do they need proof points or background information?
- Channel: What’s the most effective way to reach each group? This may include face-to-face meetings, mail, email, text messages, social media, or company intranets.
- Medium: What’s the most effective way to communicate different messages? This may include in-person, video, email, article, blog post or infographic.
- Speaker: Who should deliver each message? Would it be more impactful if a message came from a higher-up, like the CEO or someone who knows the group personally, like their line manager?
- Obstacles: Consider different factors that may impact your message reaching your audience. Is it the group’s busy time of the year when they are already behind on emails? If so, will another email be just lost in the shuffle?
Think of your organization’s different audiences and consider their needs when planning communications. You will be able to reach them more effectively and improve your employee engagement.