How many meetings are too many?

Too many meetings can quickly lead to resentment from staff and drops in productivity. Learn how to avoid meeting overload and give everyone more time to be productive.

Meetings are a critical tool for businesses, fostering team work and the type of in-depth collaboration that's only possible with face-to-face communication. However, scheduling too many meetings can harm employee productivity by taking time away from their busy days. An excessive number of these events can also harm engagement, making staff feel like they're constantly in a time crunch and unable to focus on important projects or deadlines.

Let's look at how many meetings are too many, and tips for limiting meetings to situations where they're absolutely necessary.

When the number of meetings go overboard and how it can hurt your company

"In all, 25-50% of meetings are likely unnecessary."

Financial website The Motley Fool said U.S. employers bear the cost of excessive meetings, to the tune of $37 billion annually. It pointed to research from the University of Nebraska that found 25-50% of all meetings are poor quality. In other words, they don't provide benefits in terms of planning for the future, building professional relationships or engaging in productive decision-making. When a meeting doesn't have valuable results, it becomes little more than a chunk of time taken out of each participant's day.

Understanding exactly how many meetings are too many is a unique consideration, one that rests on your organization's purpose, size, industry and other factors. But there are often ways to cut down on the total number populating each staff member's calendar. Some broadly applicable scenarios where a meeting may not be necessary or where participation could be more selective include:

Sharing information that every employee is expected to understand

Email, chat applications and similar tools can be powerful tools for enhancing productivity when they're leveraged effectively. When there's important information to share, many managers may want to review it in depth with their staff and ensure everyone is on the same page. If that information is something that employees can be reasonably expected to digest and contextualize, leaders should be confident in their workers' ability to do exactly that. Share the information via email and offer a follow-up chat or call if necessary.

Participation isn't necessary or valuable

A meeting that might be valuable for a select number of participants may be nothing more than another obstacle in the day of a staff member who is only tangentially related to the issue. Managers should carefully review the role of participants and only invite those who truly need to be there. Entrepreneur contributor George Deeb said it's vital that leaders give employees some personal agency, avoiding the tendency to oversee all decisions.

A clear agenda isn't in place

The Harvard Business Review pointed to dysfunctional meetings as an issue with serious negative impacts. Be sure that every meeting has a clear agenda and objective. Limit off-topic discussion to a minimum and direct feedback outside of the narrow purpose of the meeting to other channels.

"Along with having a clear agenda, I have found it beneficial to have a hard stop time," says Rebecca Wright, Senior Regional Director for Beacon Hill's Associates Division. "If your staff expects the meeting to be over at 10:30am, make sure you end it at exactly that time. Respecting people's time and keeping everyone focused within that allotted timeframe has been instrumental to our productivity and morale."

To learn more about hiring capable staff who won't need daily meetings to detail their tasks and responsibilities, get in touch with the experts at Beacon Hill today.

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