You might imagine workplace communication has become more efficient with the rising popularity of remote work. Indeed, we have more technology than ever to assist with meetings, emails, and chats.
Despite that, workplace stress levels are 7% higher (1) than in previous years and companies lose an estimated US$21 billion a week (2) because of poor communication. The main culprits are siloed departments, an overabundance of interaction channels, and an increased need for productivity in an uncertain economy. All these issues can cause teams to prioritize finishing tasks over communicating effectively.
Given how critical communication is to success, there’s an urgent need for companies to ensure it's as effective as possible. That’s why we’ve created this guide to support you in:
- Optimizing meetings and conversations between team members
- Leveraging asynchronous communication
- Harnessing collaborative tools, such as shared documents and messenger channels
- Finding the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication
The importance of efficient meetings & communication in the modern workplace
Good communication is vital to the health and success of any business. It ensures all employees understand organizational goals and work toward them effectively. More importantly, healthy communication is fundamental to the employee experience — it allows team members to share ideas, exchange feedback, and build meaningful professional relationships with each other.
On the other hand, poor communication can impact your productivity and detract from the employee experience. 85% of professionals say they send the same messages each week and a further 31% say they can’t complete tasks on time due to emails and meetings.
A recent study by Gallagher asked employees what they thought the main purposes of effective communication were. Here are some of the key findings:
- Healthier company culture (74%) — Companies use communication to emphasize their values and give employees a louder voice which creates an energizing, inclusive work environment.
- Closer alignment (67%) — When businesses clearly express their mission, objectives, and values, it’s easier for team members to get on board. Then, it’s more likely everyone will share a unified vision and sense of accountability and ownership over their work.
- Higher engagement levels (51%) — Employees feel more connected to their jobs when they understand the overarching purpose of their work, and clear communication enables them to perform at their best.
- Organizational agility (47%) — Efficient communication allows teams to identify areas of growth and adopt new practices faster.
- Increased retention (22%) — Good communication not only improves job satisfaction but also allows managers to show employees their future with the organization via transparent promotion processes and development talks. This can lead to lower turnover.
Interestingly, more study participants recognized the impact effective communication has on factors related to employee experience than business performance. This indicates how integral they find communication to an enjoyable, sustainable company culture.
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How to make meetings more efficient
Meetings are one of the most popular communication methods in the workplace. However, many professionals don’t reap enough benefits from them. In fact, they consider half the time they spend in meetings to be unproductive, which means the average worker wastes an average of 31 hours in them per month.
That’s why this section details all the ways to streamline meetings and ensure they still provide value to your entire team.
1. Set clear objectives
When you invite participants to a meeting, tell them what you hope to achieve, whether that’s creating a timeline for a project or getting input on a new initiative. Doing so aligns everyone behind a shared goal and increases the chances that you’ll collaborate well and meet your aims. This will help keep everyone focused and make the time your team spends in meetings effective and worthwhile.
Explaining the purpose of a meeting to employees can also reinforce that they’re spending their time productively. This can boost efficiency indirectly by increasing engagement and motivating people to actively participate in the discussion.
2. Create & distribute effective agendas
Meeting agendas list all the points you intend to cover during a session. They ensure you allocate the right amount of time to each topic and thereby prevent you from overrunning or cutting discussions short. Team members can also prepare questions and responses if you distribute the lists in advance using a platform with meeting features like Leapsome. All in all, agendas enable teams to get everything done while respecting everyone’s time.
Despite planning well, you may still struggle to cover every topic you want to within a planned meeting time. That’s why it’s a great best practice to cover your agenda points in order of priority. Then, if you don’t get through everything, you’ll have already addressed the most important matters and will be able to leave the other topics aside for a future session.
This also applies to how you conduct one-on-one meetings. Although conversations between two people may seem more casual than group discussions, they still require structure and direction. You can use one-on-one meeting templates to create your agenda and guide the flow of the conversation.
💡 To keep meetings on track, don’t just assign a notekeeper! Give someone the role of timekeeper to ensure you don’t spend too long on any agenda points.
3. Encourage active participation
Helping employees become more involved in meetings can turn discussions into more positive, collaborative experiences. Here are some tips to promote openness and teamwork:
- Respect team preferences — If employees feel comfortable with how you conduct meetings, they’ll be more likely to engage. For example, 67% of professionals prefer to be on camera during video calls because they believe it facilitates communication.
- Involve employees — People will feel more invested in meetings if they’re responsible for hosting them or talking about a specific agenda point. This also creates some variety between the sessions, which keeps discussions fresh.
- Create an open door policy — Ensure you offer the types of meetings employees want. For instance, 92% of reports say they’d appreciate the option to see their manager without a scheduled appointment, but only 37% of companies regularly hold these kinds of sessions.
- Schedule recurring meetings — Conducting meetings at the same time every week or month helps your team build a routine. This can get them in the habit of preparing questions and ideas for each session, and they’ll feel more prepared. However, make sure to regularly assess recurring meetings, and if you notice that they are no longer providing value or are regularly being skipped, consider removing them.
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4. Invite fewer people
Having the right number of participants in a meeting can help you make decisions faster and waste less time.
While it’s important to include people with different perspectives and relevant expertise in conversations, each extra attendee means more discussion time. As a result, it can take longer to cover all your agenda points and ensure everyone has a chance to share their views. That’s why it pays to be selective and avoid inviting employees who aren’t directly implicated in a meeting’s subject matter.
This strategy not only streamlines the decision-making process, but also frees up time for teams to spend on other tasks. That includes the time spent in the session, as well as the 23 minutes it takes people to refocus on their work afterward.
5. Follow up & monitor progress
Once meetings are finished, you can still maximize their impact by following up with attendees and tracking the progress of the action points you discussed.
Meeting follow-ups can take many forms. From the simplest of thank you notes, to a comprehensive step-by-step action plan, follow-ups are important for summarising the outcomes of a meeting and letting teams know that their time was used wisely.
However, to maximize follow-ups, you should ensure everyone knows who’s responsible for each action point and that they have the resources required to follow through on them. Make sure that any action points from the meeting are highly specific and include a timeline of when the expected action should be completed to make it easier to monitor progress and hold accountability.
If the meeting is a recurring one, you can report on the progress as part of the regular agenda, or you can also share updates async. This demonstrates to employees that the decisions made in meetings have a meaningful impact on the business’s bigger picture.
Why asynchronous communication can be more efficient
While it may seem counterintuitive, companies can actually improve communication by reducing contact hours. A study by MIT Sloan discovered that organizations improved their productivity and engagement levels and reduced stress by implementing meeting-free days. Instead, employees relied on asynchronous tools to collaborate and share information.
Aside from improving engagement and productivity, asynchronous communication also has the following business advantages:
- Increased flexibility — Asynchronous communication means employees can choose when they absorb information, share their thoughts, and contribute to discussions. For example, if they normally come up with their best ideas in the morning, they can choose to engage with asynchronous communications at that time of day.
- Time savings — All meetings require a degree of preparation, which requires time investment. That could be setting up the meeting room or putting together a presentation. Asynchronous communication saves time by eliminating or streamlining these tasks.
- Enhanced focus and productivity — With fewer interruptions due to meetings, employees don’t have to break their concentration as often during their workdays.
- More support for a global workforce — If your employees are spread across many countries and time zones, asynchronous communication means you don’t have to worry about finding a meeting time that’s convenient for everyone.
- Greater inclusivity — Appointments can be difficult to attend for people with disabilities, and neurodivergent people may struggle with tone and word choice during discussions. If you replace meetings with asynchronous communication, you give employees the flexibility to choose their own schedules and prepare what they have to say as much as they need to. That way, you remove some obstacles for underrepresented groups and allow them to thrive.
Asynchronous-friendly communication methods
Although it sounds new, asynchronous communication is centuries old. Technically, the term encompasses emails and letters, as it refers to any form of communication where there may be a delay between responses.
Here’s a list of the types of communication that are best suited for asynchronous work:
- Message channels
- Digital whiteboards
- Online forums
- Instant messengers
- Project management tools
- Voice and audio notes
Balancing synchronous & asynchronous communication
It's recommended to have at least one dedicated meeting-free day per week. The more days are packed with meetings, the more your team's cooperation and productivity levels will decline. Not only that, but 79% of employees would prefer a mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication.
That means the best way to make your business more efficient isn’t to eradicate meetings altogether, but to find a balance between these two types of communication. Every company has different needs. However, there are some steps you can take to find an ideal middle ground:
- Identify the right communication method for each situation — Consider the circumstances when team members need to interact and decide whether each one is better suited to synchronous or asynchronous communication. For instance, OKR planning requires an in-depth discussion that would be most effective with a synchronous approach like a boardroom meeting. On the other hand, you could post promotion announcements on your messaging app of choice so your entire workforce can view them and leave their congratulations.
- Establish dedicated communication guidelines — The next step is to train staff on which communication tools they should use for different scenarios. Otherwise, they may feel obligated to attend meetings they don’t need to or use a chat app for conversations that would benefit from the clarity of a one-on-one meeting.
- Consider people’s preferences — 88% of employees have a preferred mode of communication, and 74% wish their employers would respect it. No matter what communication methods your company favors, you’ll have more success if your teams are satisfied with your approach.
- Define key performance indicators (KPIs) and track progress — It’s possible you won’t get the balance between synchronous and asynchronous methods right at first, or your communication needs will change. In that case, set KPIs to dig into how effectively employees are using the different types of communication available to them. Possible KPIs you could track include meeting attendance rates, communication software adoption levels, and ratings from employee surveys. If these are low, it suggests that people either aren’t finding the chosen communication methods effective or are not fully trained in using them yet.
Leapsome can help your organization communicate better
Although modern companies have more ways to communicate than ever before, with many additional options opening up for remote working after the pandemic, employees aren’t necessarily benefiting from this. Instead, many find meetings unproductive and unengaging, especially if those meetings are taking place on overcrowded, unnecessary Zoom calls.
That’s why Leapsome offers a range of features to enhance and enrich communication. You can put reviews and meetings on automated cycles, so employees know when to expect them and what they have to do to prepare. You can also share agendas, take notes, and assign action points via our platform.
For optimal asynchronous communication, Leapsome also offers survey and feedback features that allow teams to offer constructive criticism, share their opinions, and support one another even if they are not in the same location or are working across different time zones.
Leapsome can help you ensure communication at every point of your organization is efficient, effective, and engaging.
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