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.
As summer wraps up, thoughts turn to open enrollment. Now, more than ever, you need effective benefits communications. But, what makes audiences step up and take notice? Communications that answer their pressing questions. Incorporate the 5 W’s into your messaging for a successful open enrollment.
Who is the target audience for your open enrollment communications? That’s easy, you might say. It’s my employees. And, you would be correct.
Yet, you may need to drill down even further. Effective communications sometimes requires you to target specific audience members. You can deliver information to people who are uniquely affected (targeting folks enrolled in a particular plan to let them know it’s going away). You can develop audience personas that allow you to segment people with shared characteristics into groups. These approaches further define your messaging and approach.
For example, do baby boomers know they can make additional contributions to their 401(K) plans? Do employees who take public transit to the office know they can set aside pre-tax money through a commuter reimbursement account? Do parents of pre-teens know the dental plan offers orthodontic coverage?
You get the point. Find the message that speaks to each demographic.
What is the most important thing you need to convey? This could be a universal message across employee groups (e.g., Open Enrollment is coming!) or it could vary based on population. Either way, identify the core messages you need employees to know so they can select the right plans and enroll successfully. Then, communicate, communicate, communicate.
For example, are you introducing a High Deductible Health Plan? If so, explain new concepts, like a health savings account and how employees can use it to their advantage.
Are premiums going up? Don’t be afraid to be transparent and show employees the true cost of their benefits. 41 percent of respondents to a recent poll did not know their contributions, employer contributions, and the cost of services make up the total cost of healthcare. Give employees tips for saving money. Show how they can use covered preventive screenings or tobacco-user discounts to their advantage.
Where do your employees go for information? Online? Their home mailboxes? The shared breakroom? All of the above? You need to provide communications that meet them at each of these places. That’s a 21st century best practice for a successful open enrollment.
Even in today’s digital world, there are people who favor a printed Guide (52 percent, according to a Jellyvision poll). Yet, many others will look elsewhere for the tips and tools they need to choose and use their benefits. Make information available both inside and outside firewalls, so spouses and other dependents can access it.
And don’t forget in-person meetings. Face-to-face communications will always be the most powerful way to share information. Create the time and space for employees to ask questions about their benefits. If you can, bring in representatives from your carriers so employees can learn from them, too.
When will you deliver your message? If you’re not being strategic about timing, you risk missing the boat. Too many people wait until the week before enrollment starts. That cuts it too close.
Instead, do a drip campaign two to three weeks in advance that tells employees enrollment is coming. Teach them how to prepare for it. Then, when the season is in full swing, send frequent reminders to employees to take action.
Create a marketing plan three months before open enrollment and draft communications two months before. Thoughtful collateral takes time to write and design. Outsourcing to a benefits communications firm, like Trion, can give your pieces that professional touch. And you’ll focus your energy on other necessities.
Why should your employees pay attention? Your communications need to give them a reason.
Resist the temptation to lead with what’s in it for the company. Instead, stay focused on what’s in it for the employees —or the “WIFFM.” Include a call to action in your communications. Make the next steps obvious.
Share employee success stories and testimonials that show how folks have made smart benefits choices. This not only makes benefits tangible, but promotes the idea that employees trust each other. They will use the stories as guideposts for making their own decisions.
Employees want help picking their benefits. Lay out the pros and cons of the choices available and how each works. That will help employees understand the benefits offered and make good choices. Ditch the jargon. Instead, use simple language. Write like you talk and be conversational. Benefits terms may be second nature to you, but, when it doubt, spell it out.
And the bonus question: How?
How do you know what employees want from the open enrollment process? Ask them! Poll your workforce on their preferred methods of communication. Ask if the frequency and timing of messages work for them? Do they feel rushed to make decisions because the timing is off? You will gain actionable insights by simply talking to your workforce
Of course, there is no such thing as a worry-free open enrollment. But if your communication strategy addresses these 5 “W’s”, you have a better chance of a successful open enrollment. Good luck!
From working on social media projects and writing blogs; from sitting in on meetings and working on requests for proposals, to learning from seasoned employees, having breakfast with the CEO and going to a Phillies game, there was never a dull moment in Trion’s summer internship program. Being a Trion intern was a very rewarding experience because of the way they run their program and the way they treat each one of us.
When I first learned that I’d gotten this internship in the marketing department, I was both excited and scared. After all, this would be my first “real” experience working in Corporate America. After studying it in school, I was eager to learn if marketing was something I’d actually like in practice. I wondered if I’d get a better idea of where I wanted my career to go. I wanted to fit in with the other interns and employees.
I was also nervous. I had no idea what to expect about the company itself, the culture, the summer internship program or what was expected of me. Stepping into my first day of orientation was thrilling and intimidating. Now, looking back at the experience, I’m happy to say I’ve learned more than I could have hoped.
Understanding Expectations is Key
Having a clear understanding what was expected of me in the role helped me feel comfortable and valued. Trion’s clearly defined expectations gave me the structure I needed to do my best and reach my fullest potential. Interns were supposed to do our best work on projects, meet deadlines, show up to meetings on time, and work 40 hours each week.
I appreciated that team leaders didn’t just have me get coffee or file papers. They gave me real work. My projects were shared with clients, used by other employees at Trion and posted on the company website. Leaders also gave feedback to help me learn and show me they appreciated my dedication to a job well done.
It’s Nice to be Appreciated
Their guidance and appreciation were two of the many ways the people at Trion showed they cared about our experiences at the summer internship program. They put a lot of time into preparing for us. They set up meetings, lunch and learns, and other activities to help us get the most from our internships.
Our internship leaders consistently checked in to answer our questions and assigned us each a mentor. They let us make mistakes and gave us feedback that helped us do better the next time. They gave us deadlines so we could learn how to manage our time, and they followed up to make sure we were never unsure about what we needed to do.
There’s no Shame in Asking for Help
I will be the first person to admit one of my weaknesses is communicating especially when I am confused. No one at Trion made me feel bad about asking for help. To the contrary, my colleagues encouraged my questions and were eager to teach me. They were generous with their feedback and critiqued my work when appropriate. They encouraged me when I was tenuous and praised me for a job well done.
I can say with confidence my communication skills have grown tenfold during this summer internship program at Trion. I learned to be more confident and comfortable asking questions. I’m now more professional in how I talk, write, and interact with the professionals around me.
Soak it All In
Being new to the world of insurance and benefits, I had many questions. Every single employee I met was open and available to answer my questions. We had an opportunity to meet with employees from different parts of the organization. We learned more about what they did and how they got to Trion. We sat in on meetings and phone calls and went to training programs to learn more about the insurance industry, the roles of each employee, and how to be professional in business. These skills would serve us both professionally and personally.
While I came into this summer internship program unsure, I left with newfound confidence and knowledge. I am thankful for the time I spent at Trion and for all the wonderful people I met. I would recommend this internship program to anyone looking to leave with important skills they can use in the “real world.”
Earlier this spring, I spent a morning as a volunteer at the non-profit Cradles to Crayons. Along with seven of my co-workers, I assembled bags of clothes, shoes and books for children in need from our community. The event was part of Trion Cares, our company’s corporate volunteer program. We can build houses for Habitat for Humanity, cook and serve meals at the Ronald McDonald House and contribute our time and talents in other ways.
A corporate volunteer program shows our company cares about its employees’ well-being, too. Volunteering reduces stress and depression. Regular volunteers even live longer than their peers.
If your organization has a company volunteer program, that’s great! But are employees receptive to it? To maximize success and take advantage of the benefits to your business, spread the word about volunteering early and often.
Plant the Seeds
I first learned about Trion’s corporate volunteer program when I was offered my job. Human Resources explained it to me as part of the total PTO package. The program gives employees eight paid hours per year to volunteer at a certified charity. We can either join a company-organized event or find our own opportunity.
On-boarding communication is a logical place to describe your volunteer program. Include it in the employee handbook. To engage employees, include colleagues’ personal stories of their community service experiences.
But there could be an even better place to introduce this benefit. Describe the program in your recruitment communications. We are currently in a buyers’ market for jobs. Companies need to be creative when courting new and talented workers. A 2016 survey by Cone Communications shows 51% of employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have social justice commitments.
Engage job seekers and talk about your corporate volunteer program before they send in their resumes. List it as a benefit on job postings. Mention it on public-facing websites and social media pages. Include photos of the most recent event to emphasize the sense of togetherness volunteering provides.
Water the Garden
To encourage continued participation, you need consistent communications about the corporate volunteer program. Promote upcoming volunteer opportunities in email blasts, the intranet and employee newsletters. Reach out to partner community service organizations for their feedback. Quotes from them make for powerful testimonials to punch up your copy.
Vary the dates, places and missions of service opportunities to make the program as attractive as possible. This allows employees with different schedules, office locations and talents to pick what suits them the best. Corporate volunteer opportunities are a great way to promote camaraderie. At my recent event, I got to know co-workers from other locations.
Sign up should be quick and simple. Send periodic reminders and include directions to the service site and other useful information.
Watch it Grow
A corporate volunteer program has many benefits to your business. It positions your organization as a civic leader. As the famous comic book saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” There could be unmet needs within the community that your employees’ skills can address. Connect with area non-profits to ask how you can best serve them. Continue the conversation and check in periodically to look for updated opportunities.
Engage your employees with regular communications about corporate volunteering and reap the benefits. Community service programs are a powerful retention tool.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents to the 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey believe a company that sponsors volunteer opportunities offers a better working environment. Such opportunities foster loyalty and help employees advance in their careers. Another survey shows 80% of participants find active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles.
Corporate volunteer programs have a range of benefits, from employee well-being to positive perception of your organization. Don’t forget the most important benefit of all: The satisfaction that only comes from selflessly lending your time and talents for the betterment of others.
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.
Welcome to 2018! A new page in the calendar means time to set new intentions. 45% of Americans make a new year’s resolution. The most popular are losing weight, exercising, and quitting smoking.
While those are worthy ambitions, have you thought about making a career resolution instead? This year, devote time and energy to improving your performance at the office. Here are 3 ideas for how to make 2018 your best career year yet.
1. Learn a new skill
Ask yourself: What are the gaps in my skill set? What do I need to know to be more productive in my job?
Once you have your answers, investigate the best way to learn. Consider your time and your budget. Find out if your company offers reimbursement for professional development activities. If not, instead negotiate for the time to learn via low cost or free methods.
Fortunately, there are many platforms to help you meet this career resolution. Industry conferences are the costliest and most time-consuming. However, you can fully immerse yourself and pick up multiple skills from experts in your field. Your local community college is another resource for in-person professional development courses.
If virtual is more your speed, Coursera and EdX offer online classes at a variety of price points, including free. There are also countless YouTube tutorials and TED talks available to stream. If your gaps are “soft skills,” like time management, you might benefit from one of those videos.
Taking initiative to acquire a new skill shows your boss you are serious about improving your performance in 2018. Lifelong learning is a mark of intelligence and commitment.
2. Find or be a mentor
A mentor is a powerful ally as you climb the career ladder. Their feedback can help you make important decisions.
If you are a new graduate, a former professor may transition into the role of mentor, especially if your career lines up with your major. If you are further along in your career, search your professional network. On LinkedIn, look for a second degree connection whose career path you admire. Ask common acquaintances for an introduction.
Live networking events are another opportunity to meet a potential mentor. Your chamber of commerce is a good resource to find such opportunities.
Becoming a mentor and sharing your wisdom is another take on this career resolution. The best mentoring relationships are give and take. You and your mentee should both learn from each other. Providing career guidance to another can grow your self-confidence in your job.
If you want to share what you’ve learned, it’s easy to find a mentee. Many college alumni associations offer mentor match programs, pairing you with a student or young alumni. Your company might also have formal mentoring opportunities.
Technology means you don’t need to be in the same city or country as your mentor or mentee. Skype sessions, FaceTime, and Google video hangouts are free ways to have a conversation across time zones.
3. Vow to unplug
A digital detox can benefit both your mental health and your job performance. Being connected 24-7 gives the flexibility to work anytime and anyplace, which is a blessing and a curse.
Our brains can only handle so much information at once. Have you ever missed important details in a meeting because you were focused on checking your inbox? Interpersonal communication depends heavily on body language. What subtle clues are you giving coworkers in a meeting or friends over dinner if one eye is always on your phone?
There are several ways to temporarily unplug so you can meet this career resolution and improve your productivity. Install internet blocking software to minimize distractions when trying to hit deadlines. Charge your phone outside of your bedroom each night. Try not checking your work email on a Sunday. Use the time you save to engage in good-for-you, analog pursuits like cooking, exercising, and reading.
A mental reset means we face Monday morning better able to handle the challenges of a new work week.
Taking on a career resolution in 2018 can open new doors of professional success. By improving your relationships and your skill sets you increase your value at work. That sets you on the road to making a true impact in your job.