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.
“I’m more of a visual learner.”
How often have you heard people use this phrase to describe the way they learn? You may have even said it in reference to yourself. A popular definition of learning styles labels people as either Visual, Aural, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic (VARK) learners.
The idea that each person has a single “learning style” that ensures they retain the greatest amount of information is popular. It’s also a concept that researchers dispute and journalists pronounce dead (some might say gleefully).
It can be hard to turn back the tide of public opinion. The idea learning styles matter when you communicate has mass appeal. A 2014 survey of teachers found that 96 percent believed in learning styles. This creates a culture where school teachers, university professors, and corporate trainers try to cater to what they perceive as students’ dominant learning styles.
What people traditionally classify as learning styles are personal preferences to receive information. The truth is, we have the capacity to learn using any or all of our functional senses. After all, looking at a picture of a lemon does nothing to teach you what it smells like.
Difficult or detailed concepts, such as employee benefits, require a multi-faceted communications approach. This will increase comprehension and retention. Keep these three ideas in mind when you help people learn about their benefits.
1. Use the whole toolbox
A frequent criticism of the theory that learning styles matter is that it limits the way presenters share their materials. The popular assumption that most people are “visual learners” might explain the prevalence of PowerPoint presentations. Make an effort to diversify the way you communicate about benefits. Include tactics that connect with people who prefer to read or listen to content rather than passively watch a presentation or video.
2. Rely on repetition with variation
While you want consistency among your messages, look for ways to vary your content to keep people engaged. Take a set of PowerPoint slides and re-work the information into an eye-catching infographic or a script for a podcast. Don’t forget to let people know that these other forms of the information are available. This creates continuity and gives employees a choice for how they consume content.
3. Never neglect the message.
Perhaps the best thought on how to help people learn comes from Neil Fleming, the New Zealand researcher who developed the popular VARK learning styles questionnaire: “VARK tells you about how you like to communicate. It tells you nothing about the quality of that communication.”
To put it another way, the best starting point for any communication is a clear, strong and consistent message. Once you have that in place, concentrate on presenting the information in a variety of ways. That enables employees to choose their preferred way to receive your message.
The face of benefits has changed. As costs continue to rise, companies introduce new benefits, like consumer-driven health plans. Traditional PPOs or HMO’s enjoyed by our parents and grandparents are now prohibitively expensive. Terms like deductible, coinsurance and health spending accounts are part of the vernacular. All this represents a seismic shift in thinking for your employees.
Do you know what your employees think about this new world of benefits? How do their perceptions reflect on how they feel about you as an employer?
Employees may perceive benefits changes as the company not caring about what they think—or need. That’s a dangerous path that creates workers who are resistant to communications.
Remember WIIFM in New Benefits Introductions
How employees receive new benefits information depends on how well you communicate it. A solid communications plan puts “WIIFM” –What’s In It For Me— first. It can swing workers in the right direction and support them in making benefits decisions that offer them valuable coverage.
Communications that miss the mark, or worse yet, minimize employees’ pain risk falling on deaf ears. This decreases the level of appreciation for the benefits you do offer and your efforts to save employees money.
So, how can you manage everybody’s health care spending without alienating your workforce?
Make an effort to understand what employees think about new benefits. And that starts with listening.
Ways to Listen as You Introduce New Benefits to Employees
When you introduce new benefits to employees, there will be many questions. Be prepared to answer them through a variety of communications. Note commonly asked questions as cues where to focus your communications. Remember, delivery method matters. If you mail postcards to workers who’d rather get a text, your message could end up in the trash.
Here are four ways to get your message into the minds of employees and introduce new benefits successfully. They include both conventional and out-of-the box options. Chose one or a combination of two or more, whatever works best for your needs and audience.
1) Focus Groups and Surveys
There are a few conventional methods, like, focus groups and surveys to help you learn what employees think.
They’re best used to complement one another. Surveys and quick pulse polls are good at getting answers to broad surface questions. Focus groups are excellent for digging down deeper into a single issue.
2) Engage Employee “Listeners”
While there’s many ways to communicate these days, the most effective remains face to face. Non-verbal cues determine whether 93 percent of communications are effective. In-person conversations are an essential tool for reading employees thoughts about new benefits.
Appoint trustworthy, likeable, approachable, and influential employees as “Listeners.” Arm them with some questions and send them to “Listening Posts” in high-traffic areas. There, they can approach passing employees and ask them question or two about what they think about the introduction of new benefits.
You decide how in-depth you want the questions to be. Promise anonymity to encourage honesty. Potential questions to ask include:
- Which aspects of the new benefits plan are unclear to you ? Where do you have questions?
- How do you prefer to get your communications?
The “listening post” process shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes. You could even give a small gift to anyone who participates.
3) Create How Are We Doing? Cards
Create a comment card style survey and place stacks of them near comment boxes around the workspace. Craft the questions to be open-ended and offer anonymity as an option. If you get any workable suggestions—and you likely will—be sure to attribute them to the program.
4) Hold Q&A Sessions
Often, workers don’t take advantage of the benefits they’re offered because they don’t understand them . Provide employees with an opportunity to participate in an open forum where they can ask their questions and get answers.
You can even offer separate sessions for separate groups, to provide new benefits information targeted to their unique needs or concerns. For example, one session can be for millennials just off their parents’ plans, another can be for new or expecting parents, and another can be for employees with chronic conditions, like diabetes.
Focused attention shows it matters what employees think when you introduce new benefits. As a bonus, you may get ideas for improvement you hadn’t already considered.
It’s crucial to strike the right tone in your communications that introduce employees to new benefits. These listening methods will help you refine your approach, benefitting both workers and the bottom line.
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.
Happy New Year! It’s time to prepare for a new journey for our well-being, both physically and mentally.
Well-being is encouraging myself and others to be remarkable, mindful, and live with a purpose. So, I’ll jump on my soap box and shout to the world: “Hey! Does your company support a wellness program for its employees?”
Well, if they don’t, I challenge you to stand on your soap box and get involved this year. Take ownership of your and your co-workers’ well-being. Create an employee wellness movement that drives change.
It’s time corporations listen and take interest not only in employees’ medical expenses, but in their whole person—productivity, engagement, loyalty, and job satisfaction.
Create a friendly, comfortable, open environment for your employees to develop a wellness movement. Your goal should be fostering a culture that is engaged, focused, and enthusiastic about living with a purpose.
Health care costs are going up every year. By incorporating robust wellness programs into your benefits plan, you encourage employees to take control of preventable diseases. Did you know that according to Health Affairs Magazine, workplace wellness programs support the prevention of cardiovascular disease?
It’s simple to create an employee wellness movement within your company. Remember listen . . . create . . . inspire . . . reward.
Develop a comprehensive survey to evaluate your employees’ understanding of how wellness affects every moment of their lives, at home and at work. Pose questions which are personal and caring. Ask how they would like to improve their health and professional development. Engage management to create a safe environment for your colleagues to get involved.
Your employees are hungry for health and wellness information. According to the Pew Trust Research Center, 35% of adults have gone online to find information on a medical condition.
Create employee wellness communications to educate, engage, and motivate. All communications should be targeted and multi-channeled with their frequency and placement.
Programs can start small, then grow into movements that drive behavioral change, enrich lives, and create productive, satisfied employees. Here is a case study on an insurance company that started a small wellness program and embraced the benefits of creating a culture of wellness.
Your employees work hard. Promote wellness by designing a work environment that drives behavioral change. A targeted, robust employee wellness program will inspire co-workers at every level. You will begin to hear chatter of wellness achievements and increases in behavioral change. These are the start of the benefits of a wellness movement.
Reward your colleagues for reaching their goals with caring and meaningful incentives. You will begin to see a community that recognizes success and celebrates each other. Your colleagues will come to work more productive, enthusiastic, engaged, and healthier. These are the benefits of educating and inspiring your colleagues into a culture of well-being. You did it! It’s an employee wellness movement.
The bottom line is, don’t just focus on the financial part of your benefits. Focus on the whole person. At Trion Communications, we have the tools to help create an employee wellness movement within your company. For more information please call or click to speak to one of our communication experts. We will help you get on your soap box and create a culture of well-being.
Remember to be remarkable, be well, be mindful, and live with a purpose.