How 3 Billion Meetings Per Year Waste Time, Money and Productivity in the Enterprise
Meetings are often a waste of time in the Enterprise. Every employee has sat in countless meetings that drone on – meetings where you’re not really needed, meetings about mundane details of the business, even meetings to plan for future meetings. With an estimated 11 million formal meetings per day in the United States, corporate America has been held hostage by 3 billion meetings per year. It’s not that every meeting is a waste of time, or useless, but rather that meetings are overused and often unnecessary when there are tools like social software that can be used to collaborate instead.
At its core, a meeting is a gathering of people designed to allow collaboration on a specific topic. Webster’s defines a meeting as “an act or process of coming together.” However, this simple definition doesn’t capture the intricacies and expectations of meetings in the enterprise. Like email, people are “cc’d” into meetings when they don’t really need to be present. According to a Microsoft survey, employees globally spend an average of 5.6 hours a week in meetings. 69 percent of participants feel that these meetings are unproductive and unnecessary. Not only is the mental cost of these meetings high, they also affect a company’s bottom line. These weekly 5.6 hours of unproductive time is like giving each employee 12 additional days of paid vacation per year. In fact, Group Vision estimates that Fortune 500 companies waste an estimated $75 million per year in meetings. The numbers clearly make the case that meetings are costly beyond their value.
Holding fewer meetings each week doesn’t seem to be the answer to the challenge. Office Team asked 150 senior executives if they thought company meetings would be more productive if banned one day a week. Only 13 percent of executives surveyed felt with any confidence that meeting productivity could improve if they limited the frequency of meetings. Artificially reducing the opportunities for employees to connect isn’t going to solve the problem; each meeting has its nuances and participant personalities that cannot be reigned in by simply enforcing an arbitrary time limit. Few have read “Robert’s Rules of Order” to understand the way to participate in a meeting. Therefore, the solution is finding alternative ways of disseminating information, collaborating, debating, and sharing ideas outside of the boardroom. Our traditional approach to meetings, like many other traditional business practices, is due for a fundamental change.
There is no definitive answer to this challenge, but there are options that companies can employ based on their culture and communication needs. One option is a private social network used for asynchronous communication and collaboration, which gives the benefit of discussion without stealing everyone’s time all at once. A second option is more formal meeting training and a technology “blackout” for companies who do determine that meetings are required; more structure and fewer interrupting cell phone calls may create a more conducive environment for productivity. Dozens and dozens of additional options exist. However, it is clear that meetings are not going away, but in their current state they cannot continue.
What is the answer at your company? How are you handling unproductive meetings? Are there alternatives, or will meetings have to change to better fit the current, schizophrenic state of technology and communication?
Sources: CIO.COM, GROUPVISION.COM, ALLBUSINESS.COM, SHIRLEYFINELEE.COM, EXAMINER.COM, INC.COM