A Recent article by Microsoft suggests that there is a real employee productivity problem in American workplaces these days and they have identified five obstacles to productivity that might interest small business owners. The article posits that a big productivity killer is the dreaded “meetings.” It seems that too many meetings are taking up too much valuable work time and have killed the productivity rates of too many workers. Yes, indeed, folks, Microsoft’s research has revealed a very troubling trend.
Workers are suffering from “inefficient meetings” fatigue! In fact, according to Microsoft, “The data reveals an urgent need to make meetings more effective—people report ‘inefficient meetings’ as their number one productivity disruptor.”
So, the problem is not just the number of meetings. It is also the quality of the meetings. Many employees find the meetings completely pointless or lacking relevance or substance. They also find it difficult to contribute in a meaningful way to the meetings—especially now with virtual meetings being on the rise. It seems that post-Covid people just do not feel that they can actively participate in or benefit from so many meetings, in particular the virtual ones. They also are not having an easy time following up on whatever is discussed in the meeting and applying it to their work in such a way that their productivity increases.
According to Microsoft “Most people say it’s difficult to brainstorm in a virtual meeting (58%) or catch up if they joined a meeting late (57%), that next steps at the end of a meeting are unclear (55%), and that it’s hard to summarize what happens (56%). And since February 2020, people are in 3x more Teams meetings and calls per week (192%).
As a small business how do you fight meetings fatigue? Do you just eliminate all meetings? This is probably not the right approach. Clearly, all teams, organizations and companies of all sizes need to have meetings to keep the group abreast of what is going on, without having to set aside time to individually inform everyone. But the research that Microsoft has done seems to show that meetings have to be well thought out in advance, managers have to be good at keeping meetings as close to the written agenda and timeframe as possible, meetings need to be “effective” and “efficient” and fewer meetings need to be had.
Interestingly, Microsoft identified other obstacles to employee productivity in its research. They have found the following to be the top obstacles to productivity, following closely behind inefficient meetings: 1) feeling uninspired; 2) not having clear goals and 3) not easily finding information.
A manager reading this might think that the perfect solution is to have a meeting to get to the bottom of this. But as the article shows, this may or may not be a good idea. It depends on how effective that meeting is going to be, and how many other meetings it is lumped in with in the same time frame.
How can an employer help an employee to feel more inspired? That is not necessarily all on the employer. The employee also has a personal responsibility to work on themselves and gain inspiration within and without themselves. But it is clear that employers can help to make employees feel more inspired. For one thing an employer can act as a facilitator. It is not about doing the job of inspiring the employee but facilitating the employee’s ability to find inspiration through coaching, training, field trips, incentives, and other ways.
NOT HAVING CLEAR GOALS
Clearly, if the employee is given clear objectives by the boss, he or she will be much more productive than if he or she is left confused by unclear directives. It is true that an employee could be unproductive because he or she lacks an internal compass and clear goals about their own life and career goals. Not everything is the fault of the boss or manager. But to the extent that the boss or manager clearly lays out the goals and objectives of the company and the expectations they have for the employee, the more productive the employee is likely to be.
NOT BEING ABLE TO FIND INFORMATION
Nothing can kill motivation and productivity than the frustration of not being able to find what you need. If you have any doubt, ask any woman how she feels when she can’t find something in her own handbag. Employees need to know where to look and where to go in search of information in the workplace. Proper training and clear directions help a lot with this.
To conclude, employee productivity is the thing that drives achievement and profits in a business, and this has a direct impact on output and the bottom line. Bosses and managers need to ponder what is to be gained by killing productivity by throwing obstacles that can be easily avoided at your employees.