Staff Meetings: A Means for Effective Communication in the Workplace
Christine McDade, PHR, is an experienced human resources manager.
Consistent, regular staff meetings are beneficial to all.
Holding regularly scheduled staff meetings with employees in the workplace will greatly enhance the communication efforts that make up the foundation of the work group. Employees who can count on consistently meeting with fellow co-workers and their manager will feel more ownership of the work they do because of the frequent opportunity to communicate with one another at these meetings. Furthermore, these employees will feel a sense of trust for a leadership which includes them in on the planning and processes that make the workplace a better place to be for all. Since employees spend a great deal of their lives at work, it is important to make them feel that they are a part of the success of the organization as it meets its strategic goals.
Effective Communication for Managers and Employees
Staff meetings allow employees to be a part of the decision-making process of the organization because employees can communicate their opinions, ideas, etc., in a structured, yet commonly, accepted, means for doing so. While final authority and decision-making belongs to the leadership of an organization, leaders often reach out to their employees for their valuable input. Managers who utilize these meetings as a communication tools open up a great opportunity for employees to share their workday experiences with one another.
Some common characteristics of an effective staff meeting are as follows:
- Regularly Scheduled Meetings. To truly be an effective means for communicating information and gathering input from employees, staff meetings should be scheduled ahead of time to allow employees to anticipate them and to plan accordingly with the rest their schedule/calendar. Employees who can count on these meetings to occur regularly will see them as an opportunity to share information with others on a consistent basis.
- Meetings Starting on Time. If managers want their employees to show up to a meeting on time, they need to set the example of arriving to the meeting on time as well. Furthermore, the start of the meeting should be as scheduled so that tardy attendees will know that they must make an effort not to be late for the next meeting. As a manager leading the meeting, being prompt and starting the meetings on time will demonstrate how important the manager feels the meeting is.
- A Prepared Agenda. Since employees are likely to have information to share, it is helpful to have an agenda prepared to keep some structure and order to the meeting. It is easy to get off track when employees are offering up information that may be somewhat off-track from the prepared agenda. Agendas also serves as handy record keeping as a supervisor can go back and look at old agendas to determine if certain topics have been covered.
- Mandatory Attendance. A regularly scheduled staff meeting, which is conducted to share and gather important workplace information, should almost all times have a mandatory attendance requirement for staff. Employees need to be a part of this communication "think tank" which can only be effective if all are there to listen to the discussion, and offer their unique insight about the topics discussed. Permission to ship a staff meeting for another work commitment should be the exception rather than a commonplace occurrence.
- Professionalism. Since personal opinions and insight will be shared in the staff meeting, it will be crucial to have the manager monitor the meeting as others are speaking to be sure all remain professional and respectful. Employees often save certain topics for open discussion at a staff meeting. These folks might feel very passionately about their opinion and get their feelings hurt or become very defensive when others share a different opinion. It will be very important for the leadership at the table to keep everyone professional by reminding them that everyone has an opinion and we should respect their opportunity to speak to their coworkers in such a forum. If there is no control at a staff meeting in this regard, stronger personalities will out speak the others who will. Likely show reluctance to actively participate in the future.
- A Need to Cancel Staff Meetings. Managers may have occasion to cancel a meeting due to to their own unavoidable scheduling issues or there being no real issues needing staff input at that time. Since it is not effective to have a meeting just for the sake of having a meeting, canceling the meeting is wise because employees will appreciate the freeing up of the time on their schedule to do other work. It may be prudent to send out an email to let employees know that they are welcome to speak to the manager one-on-one should they have any unresolved issues they need to discuss. Permission to speak to the manager or promoting an "Open Door Policy" after a staff meeting has been unexpectedly cancelled will let the employee know that they do not have to wait until the next meeting to discuss something of importance to them.
Staff meetings that embody these characteristics will produce effective results that will benefit the organization and all who work hard to make it successful.
"A house divided against itself cannot stand.."
Abraham Lincoln gave his famous "house divided" speech in the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois.
A Good Place to Discuss Ongoing Issues
A regularly held staff meeting creates a forum for consistent discussion of any ongoing or new disagreements of interpersonal issues that undoubtedly can occur between individuals who interact with one another on a regular basis. If one considers how much of their day, and therefore, their life, is spent at work, it is not surprising that interpersonal situations can arise because of generational differences, values, and overall life experiences. The fact is that everyone comes to work with their own "baggage" of sorts that makes up who they really are. A regularly, scheduled meeting with co-workers allows a planned and, therefore, dependable opportunity to hash out problems before they become crisis situations. The working relationship is like any other personal relationship that needs that opportunity to solve problems that might prevent the work from being done and, thus, goals being met by the organization. When relationships are "divided" and continue to fester without leadership intervention, significant workplace disruptions occur from various teams or sides which challenge one another for dominance of their viewpoint.
Communication is Key
Taking advantage of all opportunities to communicate with one another in the workplace is key to the professional success of employees and their leadership. When staff meetings are conducted regularly, professionally, and in a manner that encourages all attendees to actively participate, an organization will reap the benefits of having a solid work team where trust is earned through productive interaction. The sharing of information amongst the very people who make an organization meet their goals and objectives will create a more harmonious environment for all.