Staff meetings can be effective. Here’s how.
Updated: Jan 6
One of the most efficient ways to communicate with your employees is by bringing everyone together in one space. No, not necessarily a group huddle or a team night out. When it comes to aligning your team on what’s going on in the company, a staff meeting is a necessity.
While we may think of a bunch of big shots surrounding a table, this is far from reality. Your employees have every right to participate in your decision-making process. The reality of ineffective staff meetings can be miscommunication, lack of enthusiasm and transparency.
On the other hand, these meet-ups provide the perfect opportunity to sit together, share valuable information and, believe it or not, increase employee empowerment. While they might take your staff away from their desks, it’s for the purpose of building interpersonal relationships among colleagues, and improving teamwork and collaboration.
Due to encounters with poorly run staff meetings in the past, many employees feel these meetings are a complete waste of time. But, they don’t have to be. In order to make the most out of your gatherings while keeping your entire team synced, we’ve included proven ways to structure your staff meetings in a creative and productive way - along with tips on what you should absolutely avoid:
1. Set clear guidelines
There is nothing more irritating than receiving a calendar notification twenty minutes before the “most important meeting of the year.” Creating a staff meeting guideline provides your employees with an overview of:
What to expect
The frequency of the meetings
Who should attend
These guidelines can be sent via email a week in advance. Providing the right details will give your employees time to brainstorm and jot down points they want to raise.
Pro tip: Every week, assign a different team member to take meeting notes (see more in point six).
2. Always schedule
All-hands meeting - Monthly or Quarterly
Whether you’re a start-up of ten people or an established business of five hundred, an all-hands meeting, also known as a town hall, is necessary on a monthly or quarterly basis. These bring together all tiers of management and employees under one roof in order to provide updates and leave time for Q&As. These larger scale gatherings typically last a few hours, so it’s a must to schedule at least a month ahead. Be sure to stick within the scheduled time-frame for effectiveness, follow the agenda (see point three), and be direct.
Team or department meeting - Weekly or Bi-Weekly
Whereas all-hands meetings generally address the company’s overall efforts, team and department meetings are usually more intimate and focus on specific topics, such as achievements and updates. These meetings last up to an hour and should be scheduled on a weekly or bi-weekly basis depending on the team and department size.
Pro tip: An important aspect of scheduling is not wasting people’s time. If there are a few absences in one meeting, you may want to consider rescheduling.
3. Come prepared with an agenda
How many times have you attended a staff meeting with no agenda? Without one, these meet-ups normally go off track with random topics, promote side-conversations, and are less focused. This is everything you do not want for your business: standstill and no progress.
Effective staff meetings have a clear agenda of topics, follow-ups from the previous meet-up, project updates and more. When creating the agenda, make sure to only raise topics that are relevant for everyone, or to each employee. If the topics only concern a specific group of people, then there’s no need for a staff meeting, but simply one-on-ones.
It’s important to distribute the agenda a week prior to the meeting to provide enough time for employees to prepare and raise any additional points.
Here is a staff meeting agenda template (60 minutes):
Introduction and standout news (5 minutes): Welcome your staff and provide any noteworthy news (e.g. new client, project, new team member).
Praise and recognition (5 minutes): Start off on a good note with sharing successes, individual and team accomplishments and present positive customer feedback. This alone boosts team motivation and empowers employees.
Follow-up from last week (10 minutes): Freshen up your staff’s minds by recollecting last week’s items.
Company goal updates (10 minutes): Discuss the current business goals of your company. For example, KPIs (key performance indicators), and increasing customer retention and revenue. This will help your team prioritize their tasks in accordance with company goals.
Employee projects (15 minutes): Go around the room and have each member present what projects they are working on, in addition to the challenges they faced.
Action items (10 minutes): Assign tasks to one or more of the attendees. Make sure to provide context and why, how and when the item should be completed.
Wrap up (5 minutes): Ask the crowd for any lingering comments. If none, thank everyone for joining the meeting and as a reminder, state when the next meet-up will happen. Last but not least, remind attendees to fill out the feedback form by tomorrow (see point five for more details).
Pro tip: If the staff meeting contains sensitive matters or different people from other departments, having a staff moderator can help oversee communication between attendees. This individual is normally a neutral participant who has no bias in the decision-making outcome.
4. Address relevant topics
The risk of addressing unrelated topics may cause misunderstandings among your staff and can, in fact, be detrimental to your business. The whole point of these staff meetings is to keep everyone on the same page, to discuss company goals in order to drive your business forward.
You may be thinking, ‘Why not just send an email?’ Well, staff meeting topics can sometimes be too complex to be sent in a message. Additionally, it requires constant flow of communication from all staff members. One of the questions raised after a presentation could be: ‘What are the risks we face by doing x, y and z?’ So, just imagine what that email thread would look like. A definite potential for confusion to say the least.
To begin, use your set agenda as the backbone for your talking points. This will assist in addressing the main objectives of the meeting. From here, you’ll weave in more specific topics (e.g. marketing updates, new projects, staff updates) to communicate to the group.
5. Solicit staff feedback
After each meeting, make sure to send out a short survey requesting your staff for their input. It’s crucial to seek feedback 24 hours after the meeting when their thoughts are still fresh. This is essential to improving future meetings and measuring effectiveness.
To make sure you’re using your meeting time wisely, ask questions and use the following measurement scale 1 to 5 (1 - Strongly Disagree to 5 - Strongly Agree).
How productive was the meeting? For additional input, add a comment box below the question to receive elaborate feedback. ‘If you thought the meeting was not productive, please explain why.’
The meeting objectives and agenda were clearly communicated and sent in advance.
Did the meeting start on time / finish on time? These can be simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’
Pro tip: Sometimes team members are not comfortable with sharing honest feedback. Give your staff the power of anonymity when filling out feedback forms.
6. Send a summary
Every meeting you have with your staff is important - new ideas are presented front and center, decisions are made and action items relayed. Really, there’s a lot at stake. This is why recording ‘meeting minutes’ can capture what was discussed in an organized and clear way. Here’s a list of what should be included in your meeting minutes summary:
Date and location
Staff member names
Meeting objectives and goals
Decisions approved or declined
Action items with assignees and deadline
The idea of a meeting summary is to refresh participants on the points discussed, and to review the action items and their deadlines. It also documents what was said - think of it as ‘evidence’. A less obvious benefit of a summary is for those who are absent. These compact conclusions are a much more effective way to catch up than asking someone to reconstruct the whole meeting from memory.
7. Use creative tactics to keep staff engaged
If employees know your meetings to be painfully boring, all bark and no bite, people will find other ways to entertain themselves (did someone say “Candy Crush”?) or simply not show up. The truth is, staff meetings do not have to be painful. Instead, they should excite and promote engagement. Unearth your creativity with these five staff meeting ideas to promote engagement and diversity:
Tell a joke or fun fact. As they say, laughter is the best medicine, which is why starting off with a joke can actually make attendees feel more comfortable and relaxed. In fact, according to a Scientific American article, humor can boost the effectiveness of meetings.
Pass the baton on to someone else. Sometimes having the same speaker in every meeting can get stale. Before the staff meeting, choose a team member who will lead the meeting. But no need for panic! You’ll provide them with the agenda and materials as needed.
Have an off-site meeting. Imagine a meeting that takes you outside the office in a completely different environment. No more fluorescent lights or cubicles. It might sound surreal, but it really isn’t as bizarre as you may think. In fact, an off-site meeting can boost creativity and have positive effects (e.g. team-building and increases in productivity). These off-site meetings can take place at a cafe or restaurant. Or, if you work by the water, take your team to the beach (not to build sandcastles). You can even go completely off the grid, rent a cabin in the woods and talk business under the trees and stars.
Move, move, move! You’ve been sitting for three hours at your desk, then you get called to a staff meeting where you sit for another hour. It’s common knowledge that when you get moving, so does your blood circulation and that translates into alertness. Start off the staff meeting by instructing everyone to do a movement of their choice behind their chair. This can include jumping jacks or jazz hands.
Try a fun activity. How many times have you thought a meeting was fun? Well if you said ‘never,’ then try an engaging activity that requires everyone's participation. One ice-breaker game many corporate companies love is Kahoot!. All it takes is your smartphone device, one code and a bunch of engaging questions to make your team laugh or cry hysterically. This alone can promote excitement for future meetings.
What NOT to do in a staff meeting
If your staff meetings are starting to look similar to a Western movie scene - one with tumbleweed rolling across the vast desert ground - it may be a good time to provide the speaker some constructive feedback.
The truth is, most employees would rather use this time to multi-task, blurt out something completely irrelevant, or socialize with their colleagues. Costas Andriopoulos, a Professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School writes:
"While many leaders see staff meetings as vital to the success of their organization, most employees see them as a painful waste of time. As a result, employees arrive or leave whenever they wish; check their emails; doodle; or use the time to make to-do lists of all the things they're not getting done in your meeting. The outcome is a lethargic downward spiral."
Here are six things you should by no means do during a team meeting:
Multitasking. According to American Psychological Association, multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%. And for a staff meeting, it probably is greater than that number. Unless you’re taking notes, avoid putting your mobile device or laptop on the table. Staff meetings require a lot of eye-contact so if you’re sitting there smiling lazily off into the distance, think again.
Eating. How can you participate if your mouth is full? Let alone stay focused if the room is full of many different smells. Leave food for lunch time. What if you have a meeting around lunchtime, you might ask? Well If that’s the case, check with the rest of the team before introducing your spicy meals to everyone.
Socializing. It’s difficult to stay concentrated in our hyper-stimulated world. When you see two people having a conversation that clearly isn’t work-related, it can make you wonder: ‘Why are you even here?’ It’s especially impolite when your staff members are speaking or presenting a project. There’s an easy fix: Save the funny memes or stories for after the meeting.
Getting up and leaving. It’s best to let your manager know you need to head out earlier than expected, especially when it’s during a meeting. Your teammates may have had questions prepared to ask you, or needed your valuable input on a specific topic.
Using hurtful language. This is diplomacy 101. No matter if you have steam coming out of your ears over a comment, avoid blurting out ‘You’re so wrong,’ ‘Why would you say such a thing?’ or ‘I hate that idea.’ You do not want to make the situation awkward nor waste other people's time. Instead say, ‘I understand your point. Why do you feel this way?’ or ‘How do you see that working?’
Dominating the meeting. We all have experts in every team, department and field. And you most likely have individuals who possess this quality, but don’t take it too far in a staff meeting. Just like an online forum, an in-office meeting works the same way. If you have a moderator or leader in these forums, it would be suitable for either of them to make sure everyone gets a turn in voicing their opinions.
Overall, staff meetings are more than sitting in a conference room. They are a necessity for organizations of any kind. While their main goal is to align everyone, they boost employee morale, increase engagement and collaboration. Meetings don’t have to be boring to be effective - it's what you make of them.
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