James Campanini, Managing Director at Cisco Webex

Meetings are a big part of the fabric of our working lives, and it is important to remember that today’s company meetings are not just about bridging geography; they are the medium through which symbiotic business relationships are cemented.

We are seeing that the companies that survive and prosper in a recession are those that look to the future, and have a business mission that is cemented within the culture of the organisation and employees. Convening with colleagues is a proven way to bond workers and bring them together to deliver this mission, motivating employees to buy into the organisation values.

In the main, meetings that are well designed and executed to meet specific goals can greatly contribute to company profits and the benefits include improving employee engagement, immersing staff into the company culture, increased job satisfaction and higher employee retention.

Employees are most productive when they feel engaged with their brand. The emotional association that comes from being involved in their work and their company’s mission result in a commitment that makes the workforce more dedicated to their jobs. This makes staff more productive, which in turn means that the employees are more profitable to the company. Research has shown that engaged employees are more productive, reliable, build stable client relationships, stay with the company longer and contribute more to company profitability than non-engaged employees. Company meetings are a powerful tool that organisations can use to engage their employees.

Clear communication helps employees understand what is expected of them, what they need to deliver and how the company is going to support them to do this. With this information, workers improve their performance and are more efficient. Employees need company information, without it they analyse and ponder to try and work out what is going on. This is a distraction that can be avoided by communicating with employees about the issues that the organisation faces, and what the employees can do to help them to overcome the challenges.

Employees want to be challenged at work, they want to get on with their colleagues and they want to progress in their careers. Meetings are a guaranteed way to communicate about the company ethos and to share the challenges that the organisation faces, this gives employees the opportunity to take on an element of the challenge and find their own unique solutions. Moreover, training and development sessions also give employees the additional information they need to facilitate learning and growth. At the same time, it shows a company’s commitment to individual’s career development, something which can make the difference between a satisfied and dissatisfied employee.

Virtual training tools such as Cisco WebEx Training Center let businesses deliver remote learning and training sessions to employees as well as offer them a wider pool of talent from which they can learn and connect with. Essentially it enables training to take place wherever they are in an engaging way without breaking the budget or losses in travel time.

Teams need to know about each other to work well together. Informal gatherings allow workers to understand each other and develop a friendship. This makes it easier for colleagues to trust each other and collaborate together in a more cohesive way. Cracks in teams can be repaired by connecting co-workers with each other to understand differing viewpoints.

Keeping staff saves money and increases profits. Recruitment and induction costs are high and essentially eat into bottom line profit. Allowing employees to grow in their roles is the key to having high staff retention rates. Meetings make it possible to communicate directly across all levels of the organisation and as mentioned they provide training opportunities and allow colleagues to share information with each other.

In short employees get a great deal of job satisfaction from being appreciated and this in turn improves their performance. When companies cannot afford to give pay rises and bonuses feeling good about the job becomes more important. Company gatherings specifically tailored to focus on improving employee satisfaction and are a cheaper alternative than giving each person a rise which in this financial climate might not be possible.

It’s therefore worth considering the technology solutions that will make meeting virtually possible as colleagues do not need to physically meet face-to-face for a meeting to be successful. A great option for this is the Cisco WebEx meeting tool which allows co-workers to share information in real-time yet without the need to travel whilst still feeling that each member has had a meaningful interaction.

In this online business communications environment enough of the right knowledge can be swapped through use of robust team communication skills to resolve issues and move activity forward. In some cases the dreaded ‘meetings fatigue’ – where site meetings drag on unnecessarily long either through bad chairing, unfocused discussion or poor facilitation – can also be reined in. The benefit of a virtual meetings is that time is of the essence so it becomes imperative to keet a call crisp, energetic and focused to broadcast the most effective and relevant points.

The emotional value, often used to highlight the true value of group meetings, may still resonate in these new-style meetings as participants have a larger if not equal share of voice in call proceedings which in turn spreads their sphere of influence and knowledge within the group. Video conferencing especially offers staff an opportunity to a unique way in which to connect with colleagues as well leverage information in two-way format. These days the quality of bandwidth and clarity of visuals and sound means staff can feel as if they were actually chatting with a distant colleague in the same room when in fact they are on a video call.

Beyond time and cost savings, virtual meetings represent a perfect opportunity to hone and show off presentation, facilitation and leadership skills, and for those involved to become more intuitive of cross-cultural sensitivities. These soft skills and qualities are ones which many employers in a variety of sectors rate highly in staff as evidence of rounded, trusted and valued professionals.

To say that meetings are a hindrance, drag or even dead would be to overstep the mark. Today more than ever they hold their place as a method through which to evangelise to the workforce, spread vital learning and knowledge, strengthen hegemony and delivery essential training. However situating it in a bricks-and-mortar location is fast becoming a moot point. Meetings are taking on a different more fluid nature according to the needs and situations of staff. What is implicit though is that knowledge shared – in whatever format – can empower staff to deliver their best.

By James Campanini, Managing Director at Cisco WebEx

About the author

James Campanini is the Managing Director of Cisco WebEx for EMEA and LATAM. Cisco WebEx, a division of Cisco, is the global leader in on-demand collaboration services and web conferencing. James is responsible for the business unit’s strategic growth across all routes to market in the region, including direct sales, the channel and new routes to market.