Action-oriented meetings can improve productivity and reduce wasted time in a busy HR department. Switching to these shorter, more focused meetings is not as easy as it seems though — the transition can be a challenge for teams accustomed to long, drawn-out meetings. By setting expectations and enforcing procedures, you can set the stage for fast, effective meetings.
Choose a Purpose, and Set Expectations
A defined purpose is an essential part of an effective action-oriented meeting. Without it, the discussion tends to spin out to time-wasting tangents. Before each meeting, decide exactly what you want to accomplish, and communicate it in writing to the group with an email. Be as specific as possible: "Choosing between Plan A and Plan B" is easier to act on than "Discussing employee benefits." Let employees know that they should come prepared with possible solutions. That way, the meeting itself can focus on decision-making and debate rather than open-ended discussion. If you can't state an absolute end goal, you're probably not ready to have a meeting. Instead, consider holding a brainstorming session or a one-on-one conversation before getting the whole group involved.
Designate Meeting Duties
Simply announcing that you want to hold an action-oriented meeting is not enough — you must also take steps to keep it on track. Choose one person to monitor and enforce time limits for each presenter and topic to ensure that the meeting starts and ends on time. Select another person to lead the discussion and keep the group focused. Choose an authority figure to break ties and finalize decisions. If necessary, designate people to handle tasks such as note-taking and post-meeting follow-up. Spreading out duties prevents employees from feeling overwhelmed. It also increases ownership and engagement across the team.
Create Action Steps
One of the biggest challenges of an action-oriented meeting is changing ideas into concrete plans. At the end of each conversation, work together to come up with a set of steps to move the project forward. By involving the whole team in this process, you can catch potential problems and address them immediately. Assign each task to a specific employee immediately. At the end of the meeting, ask each person to restate their action items.
Keep Employees Accountable
For action-oriented meetings to become a useful part of your workflow, you must create a system of accountability. Ask your note-taker to record each person's assignments and make them available to the team after the meeting. This type of public awareness can create gentle peer pressure and encourage employees to stay on track. Set aside a few minutes at the beginning of the next meeting to follow up on the last set of action items; each person should give a quick progress report. By putting employees on the spot, you can discourage procrastination and run a more efficient meeting.
Done correctly, action-oriented meetings can increase productivity and help reduce employee burnout. With advance planning and firm policies, you can create a culture of fast, effective meetings that power your company forward.
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