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Hold the meetings – they’re a waste of time

                                                                                           May 2009

Hold the meetings – they’re a waste of time

Fed up with time-wasting meetings that involve lots of talk but very little action? You’re not alone, according to a new survey by global recruitment specialists Robert Half.

New Zealand’s finance, accounting and HR managers think more than one-quarter of the meetings they attend – 25.7% to be precise – are a waste of time, according to Robert Half’s 2009 Workplace Survey.  And the main reason they’re a waste of time is the participants lose focus and discuss anything they want, rather than the issue the meeting was called for.

But that’s not the only reason – frequently the finance, accounting, HR and executive-level managers Robert Half surveyed don’t know why the meeting was called in the first place. And they often feel people are involved who simply don’t need to be there.

If that sounds all too horribly familiar, spare a thought for the Swiss and Spanish, who think 38.8% and 38.4% of meetings respectively are a waste of time. In Switzerland they are most commonly a waste of time because they include too many people who don’t need to be there, while in Spain the attendees too often don’t prepare properly for the meeting.

And there’s no point in trying to escape by heading for New Zealanders’ two favourite overseas working destinations – Australia and the United Kingdom – because companies there, too, have more pointless talkfests than Kiwi employers.

In Australia, 34.5% of meetings are deemed a waste of time, as are 32% of meetings in the UK. The main reason for the frustration in both countries is the same as in New Zealand – lack of focus.

Instead, you could try heading for Luxembourg or Dubai, where only 13.7% and 16.9%, respectively, of meetings really should not have been called at all.

Robert Half senior manager Megan Alexander says that in these straitened times, when many companies are operating on reduced staff numbers, managers need to think carefully about why they are calling meetings and what they want to achieve.

All our surveys show that staff are feeling under more stress and feel under pressure to achieve more with fewer resources,” she says. “If they are compelled to attend meetings they feel are pointless they will simply feel even more stressed.

”At some companies, meetings become such a habit that no one stops to ask whether there’s even still a compelling reason to hold them. But now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your meeting schedule and analyse which ones are really necessary, and which are not the most efficient use of resources.”

For example, Ms Alexander says, emails can be a more effective way of sharing information that doesn’t require significant group input.

“If you do decide a meeting is the most efficient way to communicate, make sure you ask only staff whose attendance is critical. If you don’t know if someone should attend, explain what the meeting is for and share the agenda with them so they can decide themselves.”  

The Robert Half 2009 Workplace Survey questioned more than 6100 finance, accounting, HR and executive-level managers from 20 countries, including 207 from New Zealand. It was carried out in February and March this year.



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