How to Improve Engagement in Meetings

February 4, 2020
Meeting engagement
Laila El Tawil
Written By
Laila El Tawil

Employee motivation/engagement is widely recognized to be absolutely critical to improving productivity and quality of work. For example, as noted in a Gallup article about employee engagement, “organizations that are the best in engaging their employees achieve earnings-per-share growth that is more than four times that of their competitors.”

Yet, while many companies recognize the importance of employee engagement and have set strategies for improving it, they often don’t realize the importance of engaging employees during meetings. Instead of capitalizing on employee engagement strategies in team meetings, they treat those meetings as an issue completely separate from motivation.

Why is employee engagement important for meetings? How can you increase team engagement during meetings?


Why is Employee Engagement Important in Meetings?

Being able to keep employees engaged during meetings is important for several reasons:

  1. To Prevent Disruptive Behaviors:

    Employees who aren’t engaged in meetings are far more likely to be disruptive. For example, they may spend most of the meeting on their phones, start side conversations, or be excessively negative towards others. This can interrupt the flow of a meeting, distracting others from being able to benefit from the information being shared.

  2. To Encourage Active Participation:

    Engaged employees are more likely to take an active and positive role in team meetings. They will share insights and ideas that can help, avoid causing disruptions, and pay more attention to the input of others—all of these things help to increase the efficacy of meetings.
  3. To Improve Alignment with Team Goals:

    Team meetings are an important way of communicating high-priority goals. When employees are engaged with meeting content, they’re more likely to remember, and thus align with, major team goals and initiatives discussed in the meeting. This means important work is more likely to be finished first, instead of waiting for employees to “get around to it” after completing other, less important work.
  4. To Garner Employee Feedback:

    Part of the “active participation” thing in meetings is employee feedback. Without feedback on things that may be negatively influencing employee morale, it can be difficult to identify and remove obstacles to better performance. Engaged employees are more likely to provide valuable feedback instead of passively sitting back without trying to make things better.

These are just a few reasons why employee motivation is important in meetings. However, knowing that it’s important isn’t the same as knowing how to improve employee engagement in meetings.


How to Improve Employee Engagement in Meetings

Team meetings are a notoriously dreaded part of the work week for many employees—a fact that comic strips such as Dilbert have long made fun of. The problem is that staff meetings are all too frequently seen as a pointless distraction. Instead of viewing meetings as a chance to get valuable information, employees see them as an interruption that keeps them from getting to their real jobs.

Knowing how to leverage employee engagement strategies and apply them to team meetings is crucial for ensuring that people actively listen during meetings and realize their full benefits. Here are a few tips on how to improve employee engagement in meetings so your meetings are more fruitful and less wasteful of your resources:

  • Link Every Meeting to an Objective:

    Why are you holding a meeting in the first place? Is there something that everyone needs to know (and possibly provide input on), or could this just be a short team/department email? Consider the purpose of the meeting before putting it on the team calendar. Before the meeting begins, be sure to communicate to everyone what the objective is—whether that’s to reach a consensus about a particular goal, reprioritize work, or to recognize the team’s achievements. Knowing what the meeting is about beforehand can help to demonstrate why the meeting is important and why people should actually pay attention.
  • Avoid Wasting Time:

    Create a meeting agenda and stick to it without wasting time whenever possible. Nobody likes having their time wasted, and long diatribes that cause meetings to go well past their time limits kills employee motivation incredibly quickly. So, try to impose a reasonable time limit for each topic in the agenda and follow it as much as possible. It may take some time to get the hang of how long each topic should be discussed, but you should eventually be able to create reasonably accurate estimates. If you really struggle to keep to a time limit, consider using stopwatches or timers to enforce time limits.
  • Give Each Employee a Role in the Meeting:

    From taking notes to making presentations, it’s important to give every member of the team something to do during the meeting. By having a role in the meeting, employees are more likely to be engaged—if only because they’re waiting for their cue. For example, one person could be in charge of managing a slide presentation, while others are asked to provide specific presentations about projects they’re working on.
  • Ask for Direct Employee Feedback: 

    There may be occasions where employees have valuable insights or feedback to give, but don’t want to interrupt the meeting (or may lack the motivation to provide it). So, it’s important to ask for employee feedback directly. However, simply saying “any questions?” isn’t going to be enough.
  • Keep Feedback Anonymous:

    Some employees may not feel comfortable speaking in public, or may worry that their feedback will be received negatively. For these employees, it can help to create a method for providing anonymous feedback that can be discussed by the group as a whole (such as writing feedback on note cards and inserting them in a “meeting topic suggestion” box). It is vital to maintain the anonymity of this method—even if you can take a logical guess about an employee’s identity from the content of a suggestion, you should never call them out on it. Doing so can destroy any faith employees might have that their anonymity will be preserved, keeping them from providing any more employee feedback (and causing some internal friction).
  • Be Respectful During Team Meetings:

    If you scoff at employee suggestions out of hand, or roll your eyes, or make some other easily-noticed dismissive gesture, your team will notice. Signaling a lack of respect can drive a wedge between leaders and their teams—creating strong disengagement during the meeting. Being a respectful active listener (waiting for employees to finish before asking questions, maintaining eye contact, and not being disruptive) is a basic strategy for maintaining employee engagement in meetings. Also, being respectful of employees who are providing feedback helps encourage others to share their ideas instead of staying silent to avoid ridicule.
  • Provide Recognition for Good Ideas/Success Stories:

    When people on your team get things right, be sure to provide some recognition. Even something as simple as “Congrats to Sam for closing that deal!” or “A round of applause to Ellen for beating that project deadline!” can make a world of difference in keeping employees engaged. This helps provide a sense of accomplishment to employees while subtly encouraging some healthy competitiveness as people try to outdo their peers.


Need help improving team meetings so your employees are more engaged?

Reach out to the team for more insights and tools to improve your team meetings.


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