4 ways to make group meetings more effective
Whether quickly huddling to develop a game plan or discussing a wide-ranging agenda with the entire staff, meetings take up a fair chunk of an FSD’s day—somewhere around half of it. A Harvard Business Review study found managers spend an average of 20 hours per week in meetings. So what’s the best way to ensure they’re effective?
1. Is the meeting even necessary?
“I don’t just meet for the sake of meeting,” says Dawn Cascio, director of food and nutrition at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J. Though she has regular daily, weekly and monthly meetings, Cascio will sometimes cancel a morning management meeting and send quick email updates instead.
Cascio will never scrap an all-staff meeting, though. “It just shows that management is involved and engaged and cares about what’s going on,” she says. Susan Malesa, director of dining services for Chartwells at Menasha Joint School District in Wisconsin, agrees. Some operators might find it too expensive to bring the staff together, but “I really feel like that’s money well spent,” she says.
2. Developing an agenda is key
Malesa keeps a dry-erase board in her office for staff to note topics or concerns they’d like addressed at the monthly all-staff meeting. “Things in your operation come up all the time,” she says, so it helps to write ideas down in real time. She whittles the list down to an agenda to help keep attendees engaged during her smaller informal monthly manager meeting.
3. Time is of the essence
Cascio and Malesa suggest limiting all-staff gatherings to 30 minutes or an hour, while managerial meetings can fluctuate. “We don’t want to make our meetings too ponderous, because people won’t be engaged,” Cascio says. Malesa also recommends taking breaks to digest the information; she even uses an app to quiz attendees afterward on what’s been discussed.
4. Consider a variety of personalities
Both operators encourage taking the extra steps to boost active participation. To allow shy employees a voice, Cascio says it’s useful to set smaller meetings with managers, who can often solve problems one-on-one. Malesa distributes pencils and paper in her meetings, following up on those notes to save time and ensure her employees feel heard. “I don’t have time to chase [the information] around,” she says.