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This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at www.employeerecommended.com.

Most managers call meetings each week for a whole host of reasons. Some meetings are a part of the operations process to deal with quality control and reporting issues. Some are ad hoc to solve a new problem, and others are to support a special project.

The true value to the organization is often not measured or monitored. As a result, many useless meetings are ultimately driven by meeting cognitive dissonance, where the notion is accepted that in order to be productive, people must meet, no matter what, even if people feel the meeting is a waste of time.

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Having meetings makes sense when they generate impact and results, but when people are in meetings, preparing for or reviewing them, they aren't doing their core work.

Many meetings called by managers are unnecessary. One U.S. statistic indicates the salary cost for unnecessary meetings is approximately $37-billion (U.S.) a year. Forty-five per cent of attendees feel overwhelmed by all the meetings, and 73 per cent do other work in meetings.

This microskill is aimed at increasing meeting effectiveness. The goal is to ensure that meetings that employees are involved in are of value and to reduce useless meetings that add to employees' work demands and stress.

Manage the number of hours your team members are in meetings.

Two metrics a manager can track to evaluate the number of hours their team members are in meetings and the risks to their productivity:

· Every meeting costs money and time. A meeting of 12 people with an average fully-loaded salary of $75 per hour, plus the costs of meeting space and dial-in meeting phone lines, can cost an organization in excess $900. Keep a meeting budget to track the number of hours employees are spending in meetings each month, and the number of meetings you are calling. Evaluate the impact to help curb useless meetings that take away from work force productivity.

· Track the ratio of employees' meeting time to productive time and correlate the results. Simply take the number of meeting hours per week and divide by the number of hours worked. For example, if Jack is spending 20 hours a week in meetings and is scheduled to work 40 hours, this is a 0.5 ratio. Now compare this ratio to one of his key performance indicators. If Jack is 20 per cent below a target, perhaps he needs to spend less time in meetings and more time with clients. The goal is to not assume all meetings have no cost or impact.

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Structure meetings using the 75-per-cent rule.

This rule promotes the following criteria to be used for any meeting:

· Every meeting will have an agenda that clearly defines why the meeting is being called, key agenda items, and success milestone targets to be achieved by the end of the session, which is the call to action.

· This agenda is sent 24 hours before a meeting so people can prepare. There are always exceptions; this is the target.

· Every person invited to a meeting needs to know why they are there. Ensure all participants know why they are being asked to attend, and if they don't think they can add value, empower them to opt out. Again, there will be exceptions.

· Every meeting is structured with work time and follow-up time. A 60-minute meeting may have a 45-minute agenda with a hard stop after 45 minutes. Participants' schedules are booked and they are given the next 15 minutes to process the meeting, such as writing out an action plan while things are top of mind. This is to give them time to think between meetings.

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· Every meeting ends with a clear call to action, next steps, timelines and accountability. This is sent in a short follow-up note by the meeting leader so nothing is lost in translation.

· Follow up to ensure that every call to action is taken off the action list only when completed.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link: http://tgam.ca/workplaceaward

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