A dozen ideas about making meetings work at hybrid startups
We recently held a roundtable discussion with founders of scaling startups in our portfolio on managing hybrid organizations in this third year of COVID.
They shared a dozen tips based on learnings from managing thousands of remote employees.
📅 More meetings are an unfortunate necessity
The common belief was that these needed to be more frequent for remote work to function: all-hands, team meetings, and 1:1’s need to be scheduled.
🚫 But you need to protect productive hours
The major challenge is striking a balance between the right cadence of meetings and carving out time to get stuff done. Most participants block out meeting-free days or times.
🧟 Kill Zombie Meetings
Once a meeting is on people’s calendars, it can be hard to dislodge. Create a “spring cleaning” process, so low-value meetings can’t shamble on forever.
📝 Expect more from each meeting
Insist on meeting agendas and pre-briefs, and that meetings start and end on time. These are simple requests, but when done consistently, they change the way people feel about meetings and the value they provide.
🔄 Replace meetings with workflows
Along the same lines, managers should turn many meetings into processes. E.g., If the goal is reviewing a document, commenting on a Google Doc is likely more time-efficient.
💻 Invest in tools
While there are many cultural practices, you should stand up, don’t sleep on software tools. I wouldn’t be doing my part if I didn’t plug our portfolio companies serving this market: Airtable, Akooda, Allma, Grain, Hugo, Ianacare, Karat, Troops.
📸 Cameras on
If someone doesn’t need to show their face, why are they being invited in the first place? More importantly, ensure everyone understands *why* they are there and what’s expected of their participation.
⏱️ Shorter is better
Setting default meeting times to 25/50 minutes, particularly using Google’s “speedy meeting” tool, was cited as a “game-changer” by many participants.
More on how to do that here:
Work hacks from G Suite: how to host more effective meetings | Google Cloud Blog
Meetings get a bad rap. Unfortunately, there's some truth to their reputation-approximately 71% are unproductive…
Executive facetime was another popular discussion topic. Here are a few of the recommendations the founders shared.
🪟 Make yourself available
Several founders/execs had created an “open office hours” system where employees could book time on their schedule in an attempt to recreate the encounters that once might have happened in the hall or cafeteria.
🫂 Hire in cohorts
One company has started grouping new hires into monthly batches. Groups of employees all go through orientation together in an attempt to create a sense of camaraderie. This format also lets executives spend more time with the group.
Founders recommended bringing the entire team together in a fun, non-office setting. They did note that this kind of meeting is an expensive outlay, and best practices to maximize ROI are still very much a WIP.
Several founders were reluctant adopters of remote work and still find it a strictly worse alternative to office culture. So they’re trying mightily to encourage people back to the office. Here’s some of what has worked for them.
🏙️ Show Up
If you want people in the office, make a point to make yourself available. Take your lunch in the canteen. Walk around. Announce when you’ll be free to chat. Lead from the front if you want people back!
🍔 Offer Lunch
It seems trite, but offering a free bite has had a good ROI. In addition, sponsored happy hours after work and other combinations of socialization and free stuff seem to help encourage people to re-engage with their colleagues F2F.
This thread is far from the final word on the topic, and things will probably continue to change dramatically. What has worked best at your startup? Are there good learning opportunities inside of your portfolio? Please share!