We wouldn’t think that the purpose of meetings is to encourage employee participation. After all, meetings are held for a variety of specific work-related reasons. But the results of these meetings can vary incredibly. Productive meetings can include the successful collaboration of ideas, while unproductive meetings can result in decreased morale in employees. How can we do better? New research (Yoerger, Crowe, & Allen, 2015) investigated the relationship between participation in decision-making, or PDM, and employee engagement in the context of meetings.
PDM is defined as the amount of freedom that supervisors allow their employees to have in the process of decision-making. Meetings are an easy place for employees to address change in the workplace, though it does not mean they will take advantage of this opportunity and speak up. Not only is PDM a potential outcome of successful meetings, but this process can lead to a sense of belonging within the organization as well as job satisfaction. All of these factors can lead to increased employee engagement, or the extent that employees feel enthusiastic about their jobs.
PERCEIVED SUPERVISOR SUPPORT AND FREQUENCY OF MEETINGS
So if employee participation is important to make meetings productive, how can supervisors make sure that employees will speak up? Perceived supervisor support (or the extent to which an employee feels like their supervisor supports them in their work) can have an effect on employees’ likelihood of speaking up at meetings. Showing employees that they are supported and that their contributions to the organization are valued will demonstrate to them that their roles carry much importance. Why wouldn’t employees want to feel this way? And why wouldn’t you want your employees to feel this way? Employees who feel supported by their supervisor and their organization will also feel the need to reciprocate.
Another factor that helps employees participate and feel engaged in their work is the frequency of meetings. If meetings are held frequently, employees may not feel that their input will be considered, or they may put off their desire to speak up because they know there will be more opportunities to speak up later. If meetings are more sporadic, then employees may feel that this is one of the few times they will have an opportunity to provide input. In some companies, meetings may be the only times that employees have the chance to interact with supervisors or management, which can also significantly affect the results of these meetings.
BOTTOM LINE FOR ORGANIZATIONS
The next time you attend or facilitate a meeting, think about the outcomes that could result from the meeting beyond the content itself. It could have a profound effect on your organization, and all of its employees. By supporting employees on a day-to-day basis and by holding less frequent meetings, employees may be more likely to speak up and participate in meetings, and eventually feel more engaged in their work.
Yoerger, M., Crowe, J., & Allen, J. A. (2015). Participate or else!: The effect of participation in decision-making in meetings on employee engagement. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 67(1), 65-80.