Worried About Personal and Organizational Productivity and Effectiveness In A Chaotic COVID-19 World

Execution is more important than ever before. Clearer and more ongoing communication is required for employees and teams as well as for customers to maintain these important relationships

A virtual workforce and virtual meetings are a key part of our new reality and communication process. Best practices for meetings include having a clear purpose; having a sound agenda that supports the purpose; having only the right people attend; starting and ending on time and having just the right amount of time allocated; keeping conversations efficient and direct with open and free expression of ideas; and at the conclusion, creating action items for follow up.

Our research shows that 36% of a manager’s time is spent in meetings and only 39% of meetings achieve their objectives. These are pre COVID-19 numbers so you can only imagine what they are now. Ensuring productivity and engagement from a workforce that is struggling and working from home becomes even more critical.

By focusing on key processes and best practices for running meetings, both stability and results can be achieved. In addition, it will create a stronger and more engaged culture. In one case, we trained all senior leadership in effective meeting management. They strengthened their culture, increased productivity and grew their asset base from $2B to $5B.  Another client used these best practices to train their entire corporation in meeting management skills and increased their market valuation by over 30% prior to the sale of their company.

Meeting management best practices are often not followed. Numerous studies and anecdotal evidence bear this out. Gallup reports that senior executives are not exempt from meeting problems, and, worse yet, they actually appear to be part of the problem. Prior to COVID-19, senior executives were spending on average, over two days per week in meetings, and two-thirds of them report they did not use their time well. Leaders should not model this type of behavior for their subordinates.

Gallup also tells us that time lost in ineffective meetings costs U.S. businesses over $35 billion a year. An MIT Sloan School study recounts that the most goal-oriented employees, i.e., those who are most engaged, saw their job satisfaction decrease as their time spend in meetings increased.

The experience of engineers at a division of Microsoft illustrates the MIT study. Management of this division saw warning signs when internal survey results showed lower than desired satisfaction. Through state-of-the-art meta-data analysis and additional employee check-ins, management tracked the problem to time wasted by its engineers in large 10 to 20 person “coordination” meetings. Leadership organized these meetings with the best of intentions but after investigation, they discovered that these meetings diminished satisfaction and productivity in several ways. They ate up valuable time that the engineers wanted to spend on their project goals or in small meetings focused on innovation and creativity; the time for these was crowded out by management’s “coordination.” Furthermore, Microsoft sought to avoid losing valuable talent, as diminishing satisfaction eventually translates into turnover. Another MIT finding of interest showed that employees who are less engaged and less goal-oriented liked meetings much better, perhaps to lend structure to an unstructured, non-self-directed day. In short, ineffective meetings frustrate the most productive employees and allow the least productive to feel busy.

In healthy organizational cultures during this COVID-19 crisis, tools to foster employee engagement can take many forms. The importance of ongoing CEO strategic communication and outreach cannot be understated. Senior leadership briefings are important tools to disseminate strategic information to employees with concise, clear and targeted messaging that is both personal, empathetic and meaningful.

Leadership actions have an enormous effect on culture, especially since employees emulate the behaviors modeled by the boss. Accordingly, the CEO and C-suite must be in sync with the CHRO and human resource managers to assure that leadership’s effect on culture is tracked, understood, and managed. The role of the CHRO has become elevated significantly during this crisis. With workforces that are being laid off, employees still working but worried about being cut-back, and the need to continue key succession planning with the 50 top leaders, and to attract new leadership to the organization, their role has never been more important.

Leadership’s approach to how communication and running of effective virtual meetings is a good launching point for an in-depth analysis of your organizational culture. Senior leadership’s attention to developing and sustaining a culture that engages and inspires your talent is vital, as culture drives productivity and sustainable financial performance.

We wish you sustainability and resilience as leaders during this incredibly challenging time.