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Staff Meeting Alternatives

Many people feel weekly meetings are important for getting work done. This is true if the purpose of the meeting is to accomplish work by collaboration and participation. Collaboration means working together cooperatively. Participation occurs when everyone is sharing ideas, helping to solve problems, and taking outside work assignments.

However, many weekly staff meetings become status briefings. Briefings come from each attendee, who merely reports on what they have done in the past week or will be doing in the upcoming week. Sometimes an issue may be shared, but may not be followed with a request for aid from the group. Status meetings have their place in business, but sometimes they can cost the company more than they benefit the attendees. Below is a quick look at what a one hour meeting might cost and some alternatives a manager may choose from in order to reduce meeting costs, while maintaining or improving the business benefit received each week.

1. Keep things the same with an hour long weekly face-to-face group meeting.

– COST: Assuming the meeting is called by the manager at his location and he has six project managers in attendance and all seven makes approximately $28 an hour, the cost of the meeting time is $196. Now the meeting has additional cost related to travel to the meeting room because none of the project managers work at the same location as the manager. To get to and from the meeting, three have to drive 30 minutes and the others have at least an hour of travel each direction. That adds $252 in travel time to the meeting cost for a total cost of $448. If travel mileage is reimbursed then the total cost goes up even more.

– BENEFIT: If the meeting becomes participatory, where work is accomplished during the meeting, then the time may be a good investment. However, if the meeting continues to only be briefings, then this could be a business loss since the attendees could have spent the time meeting customers to increase revenue or working on their projects to improve the business and meet deadlines.

– IMPROVEMENT: If the meetings have some benefit and are to remain at the same time, then changing the meeting to where they are more beneficial needs to occur. Meetings that are participative typically provide a higher benefit than those that are strictly briefings or presentations that are for information sharing only. To change the meetings from briefings to participative sessions will require a mindset change. This may take time to motivate the attendees to work together in a safe environment where they feel valued and recognize the importance of helping each other and improving the business. Group meetings are a wonderful opportunity to share achievements, but should not be used for reprimanding individuals as this makes them feel bad in front of their co-workers.

2. Cut meeting time in half with an agenda and targeted reports.

– COST: If the meeting is reduced to half an hour instead of a full hour, then the cost of the meeting goes down, although travel cost will remain the same. Now the total meeting would cost $350 plus mileage reimbursement. However, the meeting might not accomplish as much unless some changes are made to the way the meeting is run.

– BENEFIT: While it is true that less time means reduced cost, it does not mean the meeting is any more effective. If the meeting is to continue to be for information sharing only, make sure the meeting is efficient. To increase efficiency, use an agenda to establish timelines and keep things on track so meeting ends on time. Then the attendees can get back to working with customers or giving more effort to their business and job responsibilities.

– IMPROVEMENT: To make the meeting more effective, create an agenda for each meeting that shows how much individual time each project manager has and what part of the meeting will be for group discussion or problem solving activity. Be sure the agenda has start and stop clock times on it so time is easier to track during the meetings. During the individual time, have sub-agendas which include the order their progress reports must follow in order to make the best use of everyone’s times.

3. Reduce travel time by meeting via conference call and/or internet.

– COST: If the phone call lasts one hour the meeting cost remains $196 but will not have travel costs associated with it. If the meeting time is thirty minutes, then the cost is $84. Although there are no travel costs, there may be a telecommunication and equipment cost related to using phones and a conference call or net meeting service. This cost varies among services where a toll-free number and code may be used for calling in. If meeting attendees are on-the-road and using their cell phones for the call, there may also be a cost related to their cell phone minutes.

– BENEFIT: Understand that reducing the travel cost also does not mean the meeting is a better investment because it may still remain ineffective. To make sure the meeting is still efficient; publish an agenda with established timelines to keep topics and timeline on track. After the conference call is completed, the attendees can quickly get back working with customers or giving more effort to the business.

– IMPROVEMENT: To make the meeting more effective, create an agenda for each meeting and send it to the attendees along with the meeting instructions. Make sure the agenda shows how much clock time that each person is allotted and what part of the meeting will be group discussion or problem solving activity. Make sure attendees who have individual time on the agenda understand what is expected of them by providing guidelines for their topic or a standard progress report format they should use so that it is easier for everyone to follow along and understand.

4. Replace group meetings with one-on-ones with each staff member.

– COST: If a weekly group meeting is replaced with individual one-on-one sessions, then the hour of meeting time will remain the same for the manager. The meeting time would be reduced to 10 minutes per project manager though. This would result in a meeting time cost of $56. If the meetings are face-to-face in the manager’s office, then the travel costs would still be $252 plus mileage reimbursement. However, the manager may choose to make the 10 minute meetings via phone and eliminate the travel costs.

– BENEFIT: Having one-on-one sessions with staff members allows time for individual coaching to get improved performance. Each meeting can be tailored to the individual and their projects or a standard format such as a progress report for comparison can be used. This way each meeting is targeted, effective, and efficient because an agenda is created by the individual staff member will still be used to establish timelines and keep topics on track so each meeting ends on time. Individuals can return to work quicker to establish better customer relationships and devote more time to their projects and job performance.

– IMPROVEMENT: The manager can meet with each person on a different day at a set time each week. Or if the manager has a day that does not require attendance at other meetings, the beginning of each hour that day may be dedicated to one-on-ones. These individual meetings would become standard appointments on the manager’s and each staff member’s calendars. This way both have the meeting on their calendars and know what is expected in advance. To make the meeting highly effective, create a standard agenda which includes time for progress reports, issue discussion, and problem resolution. The individual meeting time will be an opportunity for personal development for the staff member. The manager will use the time to listen for understanding and offer suggestions when asked for help or an opinion. If an individual needs to be reprimanded, it is best to do it during these private times. Compliments can be shared here as well as in group meetings.

5. Eliminate meeting time by utilizing progress reports and making phone calls for clarification only.

– COST: Most of the time, this option makes the meeting and travel time cost zero since people are only writing and reading. Some may argue that there is additional time in writing and reading the progress reports. However, this might not be true since the staff members would have had to prepare notes or slides for presenting in a meeting anyway. Their time is merely focused towards putting those same notes into a standard format. As to time savings for the manager, they most likely can read the progress reports faster than the time they would have spent preparing for a meeting and listening to the presentations.

– BENEFIT: Asking staff members to provide weekly progress reports, gives the manager the same information he would obtain from their briefings in meetings. It frees the manager’s valuable time to be spent on higher priority items and frees their staff to get more work done. Additional time savings for the manager might occur if they are required to provide higher-ups with their team progress on projects. The manager can copy key data from individual progress reports and paste it into their own progress report or presentation.

– IMPROVEMENT: To make progress reporting effective, the manager must provide a standard format for staff members to use. This format must tell them what categories of data to provide and give limits related to the numbers of items per category. The limits will force the individuals to put only top priority projects and issues onto the reports. The progress reports can then be sent to the manager via email or placed on a department server where the manager may access them. The second option is better for managers who travel and get email on their PDA or phone, as this limits email numbers and size they receive. If staff members have detailed data they think the manager may need in order to understand their report, they may include it as an email attachment or as an active link in their report on the server.

6. Reduce time but keep group working as a team through a combination of alternatives.

– COST: Managers may choose to partially reduce cost by having one-on-ones or progress reports weekly for standard information sharing. Then hold monthly meeting for collaborative and participative work.

– BENEFIT: The manager would hold a group meeting once a month to get the benefits of working as a team. The monthly meeting ensures everyone on the staff becomes acquainted and understands the responsibilities of each other.

– IMPROVEMENT: The monthly meeting should be an improvement on past meetings as it would be a shorter one that is focused on group discussion and problem solving rather than giving updates on all projects.

It is important to understand the cost verses benefit of having weekly staff meetings, especially if they have become mostly status briefings. The above list of alternatives and ways to improve their use may help maintain or enhance the business benefit received from weekly meetings. Try some of the alternatives and suggest the ones that work for your organization to others to help reduce costs and increase effective use of staff time.

Remember to hold meetings only when there is real and important group work to be done. To know when to hold a meeting, first write the meeting purpose and develop a list of what is to be accomplished. If the list requires group collaboration and participation, then a meeting should be held to accomplish the purpose. If the list does not lean toward group idea sharing, problem-solving and individuals volunteering for outside work responsibilities, then consider an alternative way to accomplish the same purpose.

NOTES FOR MORE INFORMATION:

1. Ideas on formatting progress reports in article “Whatever Happened to Weekly Progress Reports?”

2. Find the value of meetings in article Are Meetings Producing a Loss or a Gain?”

3. Get hints on effective meetings in articles “Turn Meetings into Pep Rallies of Productivity” and “Minding Meeting Manners”.


Source by Shirley Lee

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