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.
If you watch television you may have noticed commercials from financial institutions that encourage retirement savings. There’s one, in particular, that stands out for me. A financial expert gives people ribbon. Each person stretches the ribbon as far as it’ll go across a timeframe laid out in the grass.
The goal is to show how far the money they’ve saved for retirement will—or won’t—last. Sadly, most only have enough saved for five or six years!
The commercial’s concept may be goofy, but its underlying message is scary. It highlights an important message when it comes to our collective financial wellness. According to a recent survey by GoBankingRates, almost half of all Americans are on track to retire with less than $10,000.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says only 16.5 percent of people have more than $300,000 saved for retirement, and folks age 65 and over spend about $46,000 a year.
We could all be in trouble, unless we do something. As an employer, you can encourage retirement savings with communication. Educate your employees on what they need to know (e.g., Social Security probably won’t be enough). Help them set themselves up well for the future, when they’re no longer working.
Highlight the Power of the 401(k)
The 401(k) plan has been around for decades as a retirement savings tool. Many Americans still don’t know how it works or why they need to participate. Show them. Targeted campaigns illustrate to employees all these plans offer them and their families. To increase engagement and encourage retirement savings, promote tax advantages and the company match, if appropriate.
Highlight and expand on those “what’s in it for me” points when you describe your plan. If your offer a company match, make sure your employees know how much to contribute to get it. It’s one the most powerful savings growth tools available to your workforce. If employees ignore the company match, they ignore free money.
Promote Retirement Planning Tools
Saving for retirement can be intimidating. Many people don’t know how much they’ll need to save and where. Planning tools, like Financial Engines, which is available to us at Trion, can help if people know they exist. Put them front and center in your communications and remind employees how to access and use them to encourage retirement savings. There may be some cost involved to maintain these tools, but the payoffs in employee goodwill and financial security could be enormous.
Highlight Other Savings Opportunities
If your company offers deferred compensation, employee stock purchase plans, pension plans, profit sharing, money purchase plans, or other retirement savings vehicles, point them out in your benefits communication. Teach employees as where they go for more detailed information. Provide links to carrier documents where they can learn more.
Saving for retirement is about more than stocking away money in a 401(K) plan. Use your communications to make sure employees take advantage of all savings opportunities. That way, they can have more funds to put towards their retirement contributions. Show how they’ll pay a lower copay with a visit to an urgent care clinic versus the emergency department. Describe the money-saving benefits and efficacy of generic drugs. Remind them how a covered bi-annual dental visit can prevent costly problems.
Employees may not be aware of everything you offer to help them save money. Show employees you’re serious about helping them build a nest egg for their futures. Encourage retirement savings with your communications so sure they know what you’ve got, and how to get it.
Most of your younger employees don’t think that a life insurance policy applies to them. For the most part, they’re still healthy. For another, many haven’t yet married or had children, and see an investment in life insurance as a waste of money.
And yet, the truth is life insurance can be meaningful for everybody, no matter their age or stage of life. The challenge is to help them see how they can benefit from a life insurance policy when they’re not convinced they need it just yet.
That’s where effective communications come in. Use the right strategy and tactics to encourage younger employees to take a look at life insurance. Help them see its value and embrace that idea that it may not be as expensive or unnecessary as they think. To the contrary, buying a plan now may very well save them money down the road. Here are four tactics to get your younger employees to consider a life insurance policy.
1. Remind Them Insurance Protects Their Loved Ones In Case Of The Unexpected
While nobody ever wants an accident or injury to happen, the fact is it does at any age. That’s why your younger workers should consider a life insurance policy. It protects their family members from having to worry about paying for a costly funeral. If employees are aware of this huge expense it could sway them to buy a plan. Then they wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving those expenses up to someone else.
2. Convey That Plans Are Affordable
Let them know that you, as their employer, already offer them a basic life insurance policy. Show them the value of buying supplemental life insurance on top of it.
If your company doesn’t already offer it, think about adding supplemental life insurance to your voluntary benefits. Your employees will appreciate the convenience of one-stop shopping for benefits. Supplemental life insurance normally only costs healthy people in their twenties a couple pennies to the dollar per month. It is worth the investment to buy supplemental coverage, as it will not put a dent in their pockets.
3. Promote Now, Save Later
One of the easiest incentives for your younger employees to consider life insurance policies now is that they’re less expensive. Although they may not feel they need life insurance right now, they know they will need it later in their lives. This is a great selling point. Use side-by-side comparison charts and coverage examples in your communications to show them the value of buying when they’re young.
4. Show Them the Stakes
Most younger employees don’t consider the stakes involved in not having life insurance coverage. The risk of disease and death is lower for the young and healthy, but the unexpected can happen. And if it did, how would their loved ones fare? Employees need to understand life insurance offers them and their families’ important protection. Their families won’t go into debt paying for their care or funeral expenses.
Younger employees should consider other expenses too. If a parent co-signed on a private student loan, they would be responsible for the balance. That can be a hefty sum.
Employers should communicate to younger employees that life insurance is indeed for everyone. Help them see the wisdom of buying a life insurance policy at an earlier age. It is an important way for employers to help their people stay healthy—physically, mentally, and financially.
We hear stories every day about the perils of identity theft. It can not only impact a person’s credit, but in some cases, their entire lives.
ID theft is not an isolated incident. In fact, identity theft was the number one complaint consumers made to the Federal Trade Commission for 15 consecutive years.
Do you offer your employees a robust identity theft protection plan as part of their benefits package? About 36% of companies offer some form of ID theft protection services as an employee benefit. This voluntary benefit is a great way to distinguish you as an employer who cares. Employees have a sense of security when they know they have a plan to protect their finances and future.
If enrollment in this benefit is not as robust as it could be, maybe it’s time to beef up your communications.
Promote the Need for Identity Theft Protection
Your employees may have questions about identity theft protection services. What exactly is ID theft? How is it different from credit card fraud? Why do I need ID theft protection? Communications should seek to solve these concerns.
Lay out the stakes. Credit card fraud is a quick and deliberate attack that’s solved with a phone call to the credit card company. Identify theft is more complicated since it’s designed to duplicate a person’s identity. The thief’s goal is to take as much as they can until they are caught. If employees are not protected by a solid ID theft plan, they could potentially lose everything
In today’s world, most hackers launch network attacks where they attempt to crack weak passwords. Add to the benefit and point employees in the direction of training to learn about safe data management practices. These include the use of strong passwords and the avoidance of suspicious email links and websites.
Communicate About ID Theft Protection During Open Enrollment
During open enrollment, your employees feel overwhelmed as they try to navigate through all the options. After learning about their other benefits, they might not have the bandwidth to process more information. Identity theft protection is usually an employee-paid benefit. So, use your communications to emphasize its worth.
Make it easy with targeted pieces of information about ID theft protection services. Lay out what the benefit entails and why it makes sense. Recovering from identity theft is a stressful process that takes time and money. A protection plan assists with some of the associated costs. These can include phone bills and postage, notary fees, costs of obtaining credit reports, and maybe legal fees. Of course, each carrier’s benefits will differ.
Carriers will have resources you can mine for data, so why make more work for yourself? Use those materials for source information and to answer common questions. Attach downloadable fact sheets to videos, place flyers in gathering spaces like lunchrooms and copy rooms and ask managers to distribute materials in meetings.
Engage with Real-Life Stories About the Value of ID Theft Protection
Engage employees with real-life scenarios that show the benefit in action. Stories add credibility behind the value of the ID theft protection benefit and create connections. Employees love to read about their co-workers and how the company’s benefits make a difference in their lives. Use stories throughout your various communications— newsletters, videos, even posters with pictures.
Helping employees stay safe and secure and protect their personal information is a great service. Thorough communications help employees appreciate the value of this benefit.
One of my clients recently asked me to make sure that all of her written communications used either “email” or “e-mail.” All consistency of style had been lost in a flurry of internal stakeholders reviewing and editing multiple drafts, leaving a mishmash of “emails” and “e-mails” in their wake. My client really didn’t care if the hyphen was used or not; “…just pick one,” was her only direction. Easy enough, but now the challenge becomes to hyphenate or not to hyphenate.
My own preference, and I could argue it’s the correct one, is for the less conservative “email.” After all, the Associated Press Stylebook, the de facto style and usage guide for much of the news media, dropped the hyphen way back in 2011. Even the staid New York Times finally succumbed. Unlike my client though, I’ve found that many people stubbornly cling to those hyphens, as evidenced by the continued use of the archaic “co-pay” and “co-insurance”.
But why does it matter? After all, it’s not really wrong to use “e-mail”, or for that matter “co-pay”, it’s just out dated, right? True enough, but the thing is, somewhere, someone reading your communications will know the difference and to that person, you’ve lost some credibility. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the details when it comes to punctuation and style.
Language, like the benefits marketplace, is constantly evolving. With that said, consistently following current writing style guidelines is a hallmark of well-executed, professional communications that are sure to make the impression you want.
Of course, if you’re a busy HR manager like my client, you probably can’t spare the time to worry about hyphens and the like. Luckily, there are communicators like me for that!
Happy New Year! As my colleagues and I return back to work after the holidays, getting back into the swing of things can be quite challenging. To help ease the transition and set the stage for a successful year, we take these first couple of weeks to reflect on 2016, and plan for the year ahead.
Communication and collaboration is an essential part of this process. We think about what our goals are collectively for the business as a whole, for our team, and for our own individual personal and professional development.
In the spirit of setting us all up for success in the new year, I’d like to share some tips that I feel have contributed to the success of our team here at Trion.
I have never worked in an environment where colleagues hold so many meetings. At first, this was overwhelming – meeting constantly and discussing many topics which I did not fully understand.
But now I realize the significance of gathering in a conference room for an hour or two to discuss the week ahead. We can openly discuss upcoming projects or assignments, our progress and feedback, and suggest ways to be more efficient. It is extremely important that everyone is on the same page. This way everyone has a full understanding of what the team is working on.
There are a variety of projects we work on daily. Some may take anywhere from a day to a month, even a whole year, to complete. There are also ongoing assignments — those that are built into our routine and our marketing plans.
Additionally, we frequently receive requests that are outside of our plan of action. When they come in, we draw up a plan as to what is being requested, how it can be achieved and who will work on the project. This way, the work can be distributed evenly amongst the team. We can also take the initiative to own certain projects if we realize our team members are busy with other assignments.
Put it on the Calendar:
Our team is great about communication! We have a shared calendar, which every team member has access to, where we house all of our projects. These can be anything from email blasts to trade shows to meetings.
We place anything with a deadline in our calendar ‒ this way the entire team can see what we have coming up in the weeks/months ahead and who the project owner is. This is tremendously helpful to have on hand should any questions arise or someone needs assistance with a project.
Keep a Log:
This may be more of a personal task and coincides with our project plans and team calendar. Keeping track of all the assignments and projects I work on throughout the year is valuable. I create a spreadsheet with the name of the project, a brief description, the date I started and completed it, and what worked best or needs improvement.
This gives me a physical document to show to my boss and/or colleagues if needed, and comes in very handy during the annual performance review process. I can also use it as a tool to reflect upon everything I completed and achieved during the year, and look for ways to become more effective for the following year.
Best wishes for success in 2017!