How To Create Meetings Worth Their Time

Are meetings in your organization valuable or a waste of time? Here are tips on creating better meetings.

Types of Meetings

Staff Meetings

A complaint of many employees and supervisors is that they have too many meetings to attend. While every supervisor conducts meetings of different types, the most common type is a staff meeting.

Frequently, poorly run staff meetings draw significant criticism from employees. Almost all employees have at one time or another been to a staff meeting that was a complete waste of time. You do not want your staff meetings to be in that category.

Group Meetings

Group meetings, including staff meetings, help to establish a broader awareness of organizational activities by sharing information about an organization’s big picture. Group meetings are communication processes during which many employees receive information simultaneously, thus allowing employees the ability to act on news at the same time.

Every organization should include group meetings as part of an overall communication strategy for disseminating information to employees. Group meetings should be held frequently to allow employees to stay abreast of what is happening in the organization and their work unit.

If you do not have the time to plan the meeting, do you have time to waste each employees’ time when the meeting does not accomplish its purpose? The plan does not have to be an extensive agenda; it can be as simple as using notes to guide you through the meeting. 

What Makes a Good Staff Meeting?

Staff meetings are a common formal communication process used in most workplaces. These are usually scheduled for the same time and location each week. Most often, a supervisor runs the meeting. Some staff meetings will have a pre-ordained length. All of these factors make staff meetings a formal communication process.

The real question is of what value are these meetings? Quite often, staff meetings are dreaded by employees. A staff meeting for the sake of a staff meeting is a waste of time. Common complaints from employees about staff meetings are: “the meeting told me nothing of value, it went on way too long, there was no real discussion, just the supervisor going on and on, and if there is nothing to tell us, then why are we here?” 

Creating a Good Staff Meeting


Does the meeting have a clearly understood purpose and objectives?

For example: Is the meeting solely to disseminate information? Or is it to discuss a workplace problem? Is it an instructional meeting to explain a new work process?

It is best if the purpose and objectives of the meeting are clearly understood ahead of time by the employees because this gives them an opportunity to prepare, if necessary, but also to consider what is going to be discussed. 

Preparation for the meeting

The more preparation by the supervisor, then the better the meeting will go. If the supervisor is not prepared for the meeting, the meeting will not meet its purpose and objectives.

A simple process such as writing notes about what is to be discussed will help to give some structure to the meeting. Such notes can be the basis for a meeting agenda. If there is no time to prepare, then it may be better to reschedule the meeting and set it for a time when the supervisor will be ready. 

Meeting Length

A staff meeting should have a normally scheduled period of time so that employees can set aside that time from their other work activities.

It is not always necessary to use this scheduled time. If there is not enough information to take up the time, then the meeting should end.

Rather than just fill up the time allotted, a bigger mistake is to have overly long staff meetings. If the meeting is going to take longer than the normally scheduled time, a special time should be set up with a notice to the employees. 

Meeting Rules

Having rules for the conduct of the meeting will improve its effectiveness. Simple rules, such as the meeting starting and ending on time, will help employees know that they can plan their day. Whether issues that are not on the agenda can also be brought up will help employees to understand whether the meeting is strictly for the purposes of the agenda or may be open to other issues.

Rules that encourage or discourage employee participation will further help them to understand what they should be prepared for at the meeting. If employees have a responsibility to report work progress or work problems, this should also be part of the rules for the meeting. How long such reports should take will also be helpful to employees. A supervisor should always think in terms of what will help the meetings be more successful, including asking employees how to improve the meetings.

One on One Meetings

One-on-one meetings are just between a supervisor and an employee. It is important to establish ground rules for when employees should seek help from a supervisor, rather than when employees will be expected to solve problems on their own.

Ground rules should frequently be repeated so that employees understand that appropriate communication with supervisors is an important aspect of their jobs. Some areas to establish ground rules for employees can include:

  • Way(s) for employees to make it known that they would like to talk to you
  • The best times and places for supervisor-employee discussions 
  • When email should or should not be used to convey information
  • Which issues should be prioritized for communication

You may ask, why spend time establishing ground rules? The answer is simple: Because you do not want to be among the supervisors who 42% of employees think are poor communicators.

This article is short because your meetings should be short. Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that meetings should never last longer than half an hour. How long are your meetings?

About the Author

Joe Swerdzewski, former General Counsel of the FLRA & owner of JSA LLC is the author of The Essential Guide to Federal Labor Relations, A Guide to Successful Federal Sector Collective Bargaining, etc. For more info on JSA’s services, email or subscribe to JSA’s newsletter.