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.
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.”
Ask any professional to tell you a key to his /her success, and you’re likely to get an answer like this: “I had a mentor earlier in my career who taught me a lot.” Mentors can provide professional and personal benefits to their mentees. There are serious benefits for themselves as well.
Mentoring is a positive experience. Mentors feel a sense of personal fulfillment by paying it forward. They contribute to the company by helping to keep talented employees.
Trion has a corporate mentorship program through its GROW initiative—Growth and Relationship Opportunities for Women. While women are encouraged to participate, it is by no means limited to women. The mentorship program is now in its second year. It’s a complete success, partly because of the effective communications the mentorship committee uses to get the word out.
Of course, it’s a challenge to coordinate such a program. All the participants are busy professionals, so it presents logistical difficulties. In the case of the GROW program, the committee solicits applications from those who want to take part, then holds a meet-and-greet. At this event, the prospective mentors and mentees each get eight minutes to get to know one another. Then, the mentees each submit a list of their top three choices for a mentor. The committee matches up pairs and holds a short training session. The mentors and mentees take it from there.
One key to the program’s success is the large awareness the committee created through communications. It uses a three-channel approach, which has proven effective.
Channel 1: Email
As the program’s launch approaches, the committee sends out many emails to inform the whole company the launch is coming soon. There is an application attached to the first email. The emails talk about past participants’ positive experiences, the timeline, and what new participants can expect. They have a sense of urgency but a positive tone to try to get potential participants excited to sign up.
Channel 2: Print/Newsletter
Each quarter, the overall GROW initiative publishes a print newsletter for the entire company. The newsletter describes the different, upcoming events and program. In the issue before the launch of the Mentorship program, the committee publishes one or more articles about the program. Topics include interviews with prior participants, benefits that mentors or mentees might enjoy, or program details.
Channel 3: Word of Mouth
The committee encourages participants in the corporate mentorship program to talk about their experiences—good or bad. Honest feedback can help the committee make changes, although the feedback for this program has been very positive. Word of mouth creates a buzz for the program and can reach colleagues that may have missed the other communications channels.
With this approach, Trion’s mentorship program looks to continue its success far into the future in large part thanks to effective communications tactics.
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.