“A meeting is a gathering where people stand up, say nothing, and then all disagree”
This quote was made by TA Kayser in 1990. Despite being almost 30 years ago, most meeting attendees would probably agree that this statement has much relevance today.
Research indicates that the number of meetings has grown significantly over the last 45 years, for example, in the US, there were an estimated 11m meetings per annum in 1974, rising to 25m per annum in 1996 and a huge 55m in 2014.
But does this matter? Meetings are obviously beneficial, they have benefits for both the organisation as well as the individual, including:
- Increased revenue;
- Better/more informed decisions;
- Increased productivity;
- Increased shared visions, knowledge and information;
- Increased employee commitment to, and involvement in the organisation;
- Increased employee satisfaction;
- Increased collaboration.
Why else would highly intelligent individuals hold and attend meetings?
The problem does not lie with meetings. The problem lies with poorly structured, inefficient and ineffective meetings as a result of a poor understanding of what it takes to have a great meeting, including poor preparation, poor leadership and poor follow-up. Or a lack of understanding of how to run meetings. Research indicates that nothing gets done in 45% of meetings, and 51% of respondents noted that nothing was accomplished in their last 5 or more meetings.
Can you think of the last time you were ‘taught’ about how to hold a great meeting, or did you just learn from following the way others conduct meetings? You are lucky if you learned from someone skilled in meetings!
Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, considered meetings to be such an important part of Intel’s culture that he taught the class on meeting basics for new employees (of all levels) for many years himself.
But why does this matter? Does it matter?
Andy Grove obviously thought so. The main reasons fall into two areas. The first is the financial cost of meetings. The second is the soft costs. Dealing with the former, there are a number of studies which look at the cost of meetings.
In 1995, Kayser concluded that at Xerox’s 24,000 employee research unit, that the immediate cost of meetings was $100.4m. Another study suggests that 15% of an organisation’s personnel budget is spent on meeting time. A recent estimation by Doodle concludes that in the UK, the cost of a 2 hour wasted meeting, per week totals $58.11bn and equates to 384.6m years of time per annum. Another report by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management puts the cost of unnecessary meetings at £191bn per year. This is clearly a staggering waste of money.
For the individual company, a 1 hour meeting, with 30 minutes preparation time, every week, with 5 attendees at an average hourly rate of £20 per hour (£41,600 annual salary and 10% ‘add-on’ costs) costs £8,580 per annum and consumes 48.75 days (390 hours, or 9.75 days per attendee) of time per year.
Financial costs aside, the ‘soft’ costs include:
- Diminished performance by employees;
- Employee job frustration and dissatisfaction;
- Attendee ‘grousing’ and complaining;
- The cost of the interruption to ‘deep work’ caused by the break;
- The cost of ‘meeting recovery syndrome’ – time spent winding down after the meeting.
I hope that this post has illustrated to you not only the importance of meetings, but also how critical it is that meeting time is spent productively through effective and efficient meetings. Meeting costs are clearly one of the major waste of finite resources borne by companies (time and money), yet very little is done to address this issue.
If you want to learn more, or wish to understand your meetings better and look at ways to improve them, then please contact Innovation for Growth to discuss your needs further.