How can I structure our employee meetings to keep everyone aware and on task of what we're working towards?
Recently, there has been miscommunication between my team members and management on the best practices for our company and where our resources should be spent. I don't want to waste any more time and am looking for innovative ways to get my employees focused. Please advise, thank you.
Jason, I am reading a couple of things going on here, let me know if I am on track or not:
1) Miscommunication regarding best practices and where resources should be spent, is more a strategic discussion on the company mission, vision, and directional plan for the business, that should be communicated to the entire team. And being the beginning of a new year, this is the perfect time to have you and your management team get clear on that, lay it out in a clear communication and have a company wide meeting on it.
2) Note - your entire team does not need to know, understand or even accept where your resources are being spent. They should understand the mission and vision of the company, which they would then see the resources being spent in support of those plans. Not knowing how large of a company you have...be careful not to be swayed into having everyone know everything. It just is not appropriate or needed.
3) Be clear with them in the above type of meeting/communication that they need to be focused...however, ensure that the tactical execution of the company supports communication, follow through and accountability (focus) at all levels of your company.
4) Best practices, operational policies/ procedures, and standards should be documented and provided to the organization. If they are not, add a goal for 2015 to have it completed.
5) Yes, as others noted, you can include them in the process of determining the mission, vision, goals and objectives for the company, which would lead to them getting creative about what to work on, new ideas, best practices and more.
Again, this is the perfect time of year to lay out your business goals, objectives, expectations, targets, and more...then gather the team together to communicate it, and their role in helping you and the entire team achieve it.
A few quick ideas:
1. Always have an agenda. No one should be expected to accept a meeting request if there is no agenda set.
2. Have standing meetings where everyone stands
3. Change who leads/speaks at the meetings. If this is a company wide meeting let the managers/directors talk for their division/group.
4. Keep the meeting short and on topic.
5. Have clear takeaways and next steps repeated at the end of the meeting and included in the meeting notes that are sent around.
6. No devices - phones, laptops, etc.
Not sure if all of those are ideas you can use but hopefully at least one or two can help.
I always have an agenda and each team member has certain pieces and updates they are expected to bring to our weekly meetings.
To ensure communication is tracked and in a place accessible to everyone, we use two different project management software platforms. The management team uses Basecamp to track communications between each other on a specific project, or with our overseas teams. My team (marketing and communications professionals) use Trello to track projects, communications within projects, and completion of items. This is brought up on our screen each week during our meeting so that we can update it all together and clarify any outstanding questions.
It has helped keep all members of the team aware of their specific tasks and has cut down on the "I didn't know" responses substantially.
Best of luck to you!
This answer is quite long, and makes a lot of assumptions about how you work since I'm not sure, of course, but I do have a lot of experience with this type of stuff over several jobs on both sides of the fence (staff and supervisor). If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (best), Facebook or LinkedIn.
>>Stop having meetings
Nine times of 10, meetings are just a waste of time. There are certainly times when having a meeting helps get everyone on the same page or furthers discussion on a topic that perhaps there's no clear-cut vision yet. Then you need a meeting.
I run a team of 15 or so copy editors. We're all freelancers, which means none of us live in the same area. Some of them (those who started before I did) I've never once spoken to by phone. Of those I hired, I've only talked to most during the training call. I don't have meetings. They already know how to copy edit or I wouldn't have hired them. That means they only need to even speak to me when there's something special and even then, I don't call a meeting, I use alternative means (see below). In the entire time I've worked for that contractor (just over three years), I've only had four meetings other than training calls.
Sitting people down to go over something they already know how to do is a waste of time. Unless you have an unusual business structure, chances are, your employees are always doing the job they're trained for. Chances are, unless there are special circumstances, most projects always go a similar or the same way. In fact, if you trained them right, you could get mono for two weeks and come back and everything would be plugging along like you never left. If you don't have things set up like that, there's part of the problem.
Establishing a standard is essential; so is setting expectations, but is a meeting the best way? Not usually...* If you go over things people already know, they get bored, which leads their minds to wander, which means people miss key points they didn't know before they come back to the land of the living.
* If you're communicating on the fly, you're more likely to misspeak or say things that can be interpreted multiple ways.
* People take really crappy notes. I have a ADHD. I've been largely unmedicated my entire life, opting instead for coping mechanisms. One of those things has been training in taking notes. When I see most people's pathetic excuses for notes, I just want to cry. I know that in a week, they'll have no damn idea what those notes mean. That combined with the fact that most people don't have eidetic memories is a recipe miscommunication and disorganization.
* Meetings stop people in the middle of doing their jobs to ineffectively discuss doing their jobs.
* It's not unusual for people, especially those who are already busy, to be resentful of meetings that don't help them accomplish their goals. If you MUST have a meeting, carefully consider who really needs to attend and who's time would be better spent keeping their nose to the grindstone and reading a memo about the one point that affects them later.
* Endless back-and-forth emails are the same as meetings. They take up unnecessary time and are usually even less productive. If you need that many emails, consider one of the following alternatives.
>>Try an employee wiki or blog
There's plenty of free wiki software out there, or you can start a private blog to which only employees have access. Which you use depends on your needs. These solutions are best for setting standards and sending out reminders or making people aware of changes.
If they have questions, they can always access the blog, which if you keep it updated, means they have no excuse for not knowing the rules. Your posts can be carefully considered to avoid confusion and stakeholders and management can approve posts before they're pushed out to the staff. Make a mistake? Make a correction in an instant and shoot everyone an instant email to clarify. As a bonus, if it's organized properly, it can also function as online training material for new employees.
>>Try project management tools
For the nonstandard stuff or the stuff your team is dependent upon one another for, consider project management tools. Because I'm a freelancer, I like online tools, but I also liked those before I freelanced because they allowed flexibility for team members who weren't chained to a desk all day. Many of these also have apps, which means mobile employees are always updated. I like Asana because it's easy to use and can be used for simple projects AND more complex ones. I've even used it as a way to communicate phone messages to employees while they were out.
These tools allow you to start with your standard workflow and make easy adjustments as it's necessary. You can also assign tasks to each team member as needed and any team member can log in to see where in the workflow you are.
>>Keep meetings brief unless absolutely necessary
You're eventually going to have to have a meeting. If you have a reason that everyone does need to meet daily or weekly, do 15- to 30-minute max team meetings and make a few bullet points at a time. No one sits down during these meetings (including the meeting runner). That ensures you won't get off track or take too long. If there are support materials, they should be ready before anyone arrives. In restaurants, they're called pre-shift meetings, and you can search that term for tips on how to conduct them. They work just as well outside restaurants, trust me.
Longer meetings should only be held when things just need to be figured out. ONLY ask key employees to attend. If someone will be affected by one or two things that happen during the meeting, but have no say in how anything is implemented, they don't need to be there. A supervisor can send them a memo later. Their time is better spent doing their job than attending an hour-long meeting of which five minutes of content applies to them and no one is asking their opinion anyway.
Write an agenda and stick to it. There's nothing worse than being pulled from your daily tasks only to spend an hour talking about what other people did this weekend, especially if it means you'll end up staying late to finish your work.
No phone calls! Unless it's an emergency (and by emergency, I mean someone's bleeding), no one takes a phone call during a meeting, not even the boss (you have to lead by example). If you're expecting an important call from India, you don't have time to call a meeting. Everyone should be asked to leave their cell phones in their offices or turn them off during the meeting.
It's also important to remember that while you all do different jobs at different pay grades, no one person's time is more important than another's. The janitor has just as much to do as the CEO (let's face it, probably more), and everyone has a family or personal life to get back to when they get off. It's important to respect that. The more you do, the more your employees will make an effort to respect their time at work as work time (makes the no-Facebook-at-work rule carry more weight if you're not cutting into their personal time constantly by causing them to work late).
When you do have meetings, it needs to be apparent that you respect their work AND personal time, which means not calling last-minute meetings just because you finally decided to get involved (which you need to acknowledge they may not feel they need). They should be scheduled in advance and an agenda sent with the meeting request (both so they know what they're going to need to prepare and so they can request additions if they feel it's necessary...and so they can request they not be included if they don't feel it affects them).
If you do have a long meeting, especially one that lasts over an hour, hold it in the morning around 10:30 and serve a variety of small sandwiches and snacks. Something that's enough to be considered a light meal, but not too messy, too loud or too heavy. You don't want people smacking and crunching their way through other people's speeches, but you do want to make sure people who have other work to do have the option to skip eating lunch if they want to. Make sure the food is on the conference table so there's not a lot of getting up for seconds, or break halfway through to allow people to fill up their plates again. If you can't have it in the morning, have it be the last thing everyone does before leaving for the day.
Also, record the meeting so people don't have to take notes. You can have it transcribed by an online service very inexpensively and provide the transcripts to everyone who needs it.
Above all, remember that the purpose of any meeting is to facilitate working toward a common goal. Not to sit around and talk about a common goal instead of working.
I agree with Bernadette that there seems to be a number of opportunities to get everyone in the boat pulling on the oars in the same direction.
1. The executive team would benefit from doing a strategic planning session to define the vision, mission, goals and objectives for the company.
2. This plan would then drive the people (resources), processes, policies, and platforms/systems required to execute the plan.
3. Communication is the basis upon which everything functions. To determine the optimal strategies to drive the plan, engage your top performers in a brainstorming session using the SWOT methodology. Identify the best practices, quick fixes, and then mid/long term strategies for creating an organization focused on where you want to go and how you want to get there.
Communicating this roadmap, reinforcing it, and rewarding the behaviors you desire will enable you to accomplish your goals and let each person understand their role and responsibilities in making the vision a reality.
The issue is not the meetings, it is a clear focus on your plan, people, process, and platform that will create the synergistic and symbiotic relationships critical to creating a successful organization.
Hope this is helpful.
Jason I'd like very much to offer some guidance but there are too many unknowns so I will make an assumption. It seems you have determined the employees lack focus- let's assume this is so, however it's likely more involved than this. If employee focus is lacking the first question I ask is whether or not leadership has provided clear direction. I suggest at your next meeting the discussion revolves around 1) the direction you want the company to take and 2) an assessment of your employee buy-in and understanding.
Jason, I would advise you to take a firm and assertive stance in the agenda of your meetings. Let your team members and management know what will be talked about and how they will be talked about. Make sure the goals of the meeting and each topic are discussed before moving forward so you stray to far from the desired path. Hope this helps!
Your meeting should be the same time, if not every day, then It should held be the same day of the week. Set a limit for time. Do go short and never go over. Always having an agenda like everyone mentioned will help with time. Things can be revisited on a one on one basis or your next meeting.
Stay focused to the agenda and dont let someone change direction or dwell on something too long. Table the conversation if it isn't going anywhere.
Don't limit your communication to a daily or weekly meetings. Sometimes people fall in a trap thinking this is enough for development. Development happens all day long and all year.
Best of success.
My advice: assign segments of your employee meetings to your team members, In other words, just don't talk at them and present information. Give them some accountability for reporting at these meetings and presenting progress updates. No one wants to be caught unprepared in front of their peers and bosses, so if you make your meetings participatory and active (instead of passive) staff will likely come prepared and be more aware and likely stay on task. Another suggestion: leave plenty of time for questions. Or set up a new process where team members can email questions to you and then you answer those questions in a staff email. Don't use the staff member's name but make the process as anonymous as possible. So if someone has a question but they are reluctant to ask during a team meeting, they can email it to you. Without revealing the name of the person who asked the question, send out the question and the answer to the entire team. This is a great opportunity to use the old trick of asking and answering your own questions. By that I mean you could anticipate some of the questions your staff might have (you refer to miscommunication between team members and management, so you have already identified some potential questions that may need to be answered). Submit those anticipated questions to yourself and answer them as if a team member asked the questions. This is a good way to reinforce communication without appearing to be a manger who is just constantly repeating himself. Instead of reminders and repeated messages, you answer questions. Chances are there will be some staff members who had the same questions but were reluctant to ask. Even if you are the one asking and answering questions, this method provides the appearance that you are a manager who listens to his team and someone who is approachable to answer questions and clear up any miscommunications. This will likely encourage your team members to speak up, to ask their own questions and to take on more accountability in staying focused and on track.
To add to Dave's answer:
1. Agenda - email the agenda and any reports or links to employees prior. This reduces time spent, giving prepared responses to items.
One further suggestion - people have a tendency to sway from the item at hand. It's important you end the discussion quickly, advising whether relevant for a sub committee meeting at another time or not.