Over the past couple of months, organizations have had to reinvent the way they work, the way they reach customers, and the way their teams keep plugging along. Everybody is learning. Everybody is struggling. And everybody is wondering about when this might end.
We recognize the efforts organizations are making to keep things moving forward in this uncertain time. The world has seemed to pause, yet the responsibilities for employees, their families, and the business are even greater than before.
Here are some tips on how to have effective online meetings to keep employee engagement up.
1. Don’t confuse employees being home with work-life balance. Many organizations have taken this time to dump work on their employees – reports, classes, meeting-after-meeting. These same employees might be home with older parents who need care, children who are connecting for online school, juggling lunches, dinners, and dealing with a very uncertain tomorrow. Keep perspective.
2. Know your technology. Keep it simple. There are so many free online meeting technologies that are easy for anybody. Test it ahead of time. Invite participants to download it the day before to test as well. Send log-in information for the meeting at least one day ahead of time. Ask participants to test connectivity and log in 10 – 15 minutes before the meeting begins.
3. Set the agenda ahead of time. Virtual meetings take more preparation than person-to-person meetings. If you have visuals, send them to the team ahead of time. Prepare the meeting structure, share information about who will be attending, be clear about what each attendee will bring to the meeting (information, visuals etc.), and have all relevant files and/or documents prepared.
4. Stay focused. Virtual meetings are wrought with distractions. People are at home. Phones ring. Something’s burning on the stove. Keep the meeting to one or two topics, at most.
5. Set time limits. Generally speaking, an online meeting should last between 40 minutes to an hour, maximum. If you need to cover more than one or two topics, schedule separate meetings (shorter) for each item.
6. Remember, you’re in a meeting. Don’t respond to messages, check your agenda, or get distracted by other things (web surfing, checking social media etc.). This is a meeting. Take the time to listen to participants’ points of view. Put your breakfast and coffee down. Get dressed! Keep it professional.
7. Follow-up. Who is assigned what? Make sure everyone knows their responsibilities – deliverables. Because if you’re meeting just to … meet, you’re wasting your team’s time. Set a clear follow-up date on deliverables, whether it’s one-on-one with members or another whole-team meeting. Send a follow-up meeting survey with the team. Make it short and anonymous.
8. Can it be an email? Probably. Again, as with regular meetings, can you skip the meeting and send an email?
We know organizations are struggling to stay on track. So, too, are their collaborators. Here are some resources for businesses – information and policy recommendations. This is temporary. We’re all struggling. The best we can do is support one another and keep things moving the best we can.