Badly prepared, over-running business meetings are harming businesses say the directors and managers who are wasting almost three days on average a year in unproductive meetings, finds a survey.
To make matters worse, over a half (of UK business managers say they have been to meetings where documents were found to be missing or else incorrect or out-of-date papers were presented. Close to a third said they are aware of erroneous decisions having been made in meetings as a direct result. These are some of the findings of a new study into how much the Great British Business meeting is a boon or bane for UK businesses. The independent study polled 300 senior executives and Board members on behalf of Perivan Technology, a provider of cloud software that helps marketing, compliance, sales teams, company secretaries and boards create, approve and publish compliant, on-brand materials.
Nick Roi, Managing Director of Perivan Technology comments: “With the C-suite spending more time in meetings than ever before, there’s a greater need for discussions to be managed productively. To prepare for a meeting, only to find that the incorrect documents have been issued or that you’ve debated a topic based on false information; the impact goes well beyond wasted hours.”
How much is too much?
In a bid to understand how much time executives are spending in business meetings and away from their desks, Perivan Technology asked how much is too much? On average, respondents said they participate in three meetings each week, though a quarter stated more than five per week. A significant 42 per cent said they believe they are attending too many meetings, while 47 per cent pointed out that the number of meetings they are being asked to attend has increased in the last three years.
Collectively, respondents perceived that just over half of their meetings are spent productively; just five per cent said the meetings they attend never overrun. Considering meetings were cited as lasting an average of 50 minutes a time and occur at least three times per week, at least 65 hours per executive are being wasted in unproductive meetings each year.
Of equal concern to business productivity is that 10 per cent claim that they are frequently brought into meetings that they are not required for, and the additional 49 per cent that admit this sometimes happens to them.
Clearly, businesses have some way to go when it comes to improving meeting productivity. Perivan Technology argues that positive meeting culture must be encouraged in order to achieve this. It’s a vital element that is clearly lacking given the 46 per cent of executives admit attending meetings for which they are not fully prepared.
Could technology be the answer? When asked, just 12 per cent disagreed with the statement that meetings would be more productive if technology was used to streamline the process.
Nick comments: “There’s little doubt that collaboration, workflow and management technologies can improve company processes, but it’s important that companies get the basics right as well. The meeting Chair should actively encourage productivity and preparation, and in this regard, lead from the front. The purpose of meetings should be assessed and measured to ensure desired outcomes are achieved; a level of transparency that reveals the true value of meetings should be given to improve business meeting culture.”
With the right attitude in place, technology can be used to further improve meeting productivity. One technology that is underutilised by companies is the online board portal, a collaborative software that allows meeting attendees to securely access documents and collaborate with others online. Currently just 15 per cent of business executives say that their meeting packs are exclusively collated and accessed online, far more common is for packs to be physically printed. That’s despite 54 per cent saying it would be better to have meeting packs available online as opposed to printed.
Nick says: “A fifth of the executives we questioned rely on printed packs simply because they haven’t ever considered an alternative. But printed packs can leave room for error; an alternative should be made available so that boards and meeting attendees can choose based on preference and circumstance. Given the evidence that collaboration software improves business productivity, it seems now is the time for companies to offer digital meeting packs in addition to traditional, printed formats.”