Finding Productivity in an Unproductive Meeting

productive meeting with 4 women sitting on a table with their laptops

There’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting and thinking about all the other things you could and should be doing. Unfortunately for most employees, this often happens with reoccurring meetings.

But there are instances where a meeting is essential. For example, a health and safety training session would probably be useful for all employees, while a business development meeting might only be relevant to those that it directly affects.

Going back to basics, a meeting happens to gather ideas, solve problems, gather feedback, and move projects forward. Yet it’s become commonplace for them to be utterly superfluous. And research suggests that most staff members consider them unproductive and a hindrance to overall performance.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of reasons why a meeting might become unproductive. Plus, the steps you can take to improve the outcome.

Reasons for Unproductive Meetings

  1. No purpose
    The problem with unproductive meetings is that there’s no clear purpose or objective. It might be a good idea to go over the reason for the meeting and if it requires the attendance of all those invited. If everyone doesn’t really need to be there, consider sending out company updates and other internal communication via email to update non-attendees.
  2. Inadequate time management
    A team meeting can quickly become unproductive due to poor time management. Make sure you have ground rules that ensure each topic discussion has a slot in the agenda.
  3. Actioning
    Meetings are bound to go off the rails when there’s no clear procedure to guide the debate points. Try assigning an attendee to guide and prioritise discussion topics, as well as to make a plan for implementing tasks that need completing.
  4. Attendees
    Meetings are likely to become unproductive if there’s a large number of irrelevant attendees. It’s important to identify the key members of the team that can attend the meeting and then pass down the information to their colleagues.

How to Improve Meeting Productivity

  1. Keep an agenda
    Keeping an agenda ensures that your meeting is purposeful and that it achieves your desired objectives. It’s important to set the expectations of the meeting and to remind attendees of what they are. You can achieve this through proper preparations before the event. Send out an agenda beforehand detailing required meeting materials, aims, and desired outcomes. With this approach, staff members are aware of the requirements involved in attending.
  2. Feedback
    Asking for feedback is an effective way of improving the productivity of your meetings. Employee feedback can help reveal areas of concerns within an organisation, employees are then made to feel valued. Offering your employees, the opportunity to voice their concerns can increase engagement.
  3. Saying no to a meeting
    As employees, it’s sometimes hard to say no in the workplace. Partly out of fear of alienating yourself from your colleagues. However, if you receive an invite for a meeting you feel is counterproductive, then there are ways to decline the meeting without seeming rude or lazy. To avoid attending a meeting you feel would be unproductive, you can consider turning the meeting into a phone or conference call. This approach means you can save yourself some time. In turn, you can transfer this over to your other priorities. In cases where you feel your expertise isn’t required, you can either pass the invite onto a relevant colleague or hand it over to your boss. Finally, if you can’t recommend an alternative you can turn down the invite. You can provide honest feedback, such as suggesting your skills or time aren’t required for the meeting.