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How orgs like Shopify are reducing meetings to save millions

Unnecessary and unproductive meetings are costing organizations — nearly $2.5 million each year if you have 100 employees and over $100 million if you have 5,000 employees, according to a study with UNC Charlotte.

  • Why it matters: Despite 71% of senior managers saying meetings are unproductive and inefficient, the number of them continues to grow — up 12.9% from pre-pandemic levels, with a 13.5% jump in the number of people invited to each meeting.

Shopify is one top company fighting to end that calendar clog. They started 2023 canceling all recurring meetings with three or more people and instituted “no meeting Wednesdays” — two moves that cut 12,000 events, or 36 years of meeting time, from their calendars. 

  • Then, they created a cost calculator. Accounting for things like meeting length, attendee numbers, and job compensation, it estimates a meeting's true price — with an average 30 minute meeting costing $700 - $1600. So canceling those 12,000 events, on the low end, could save $8.4 million. 
  • “No one at Shopify would expense a $500 dinner,” Shopify Chief Operating Officer Kaz Nejatian said in an interview. “But lots and lots of people spend way more than that in meetings without ever making a decision. The goal of this thing is to show you that time is money. If you have to spend it, you think about it.” Accounting for things like meeting length, attendee numbers, and job compensation, it estimates a meeting's true price.

Other companies are doing similar things. GitLab hosts an annual “Meeting Cleanup Day” to assess which ones are needed. Asana did a “meeting doomsday,” where employees deleted all recurring meetings and started fresh with updated invites. Meta, Canva, and other organizations added no-meeting days — likely seeing increases in autonomy, communication, engagement, and satisfaction like organizations in a study published in MIT Sloan Management Review did.  

The next question they’ll need to face: How do they ensure people get the information they need to stay aligned and productive? A meeting may no longer be the way, but critical details still need to move up, down, and around an organization effectively. And tried and true methods, like email and newsletters, are the only methods employees say they’d like to see more of. 

To make the shift toward a more meeting-light environment, consider these tips:

  • Audit your meetings: Catalog what information you’re currently sharing in meetings that might be better shared or reinforced through written communication. 
  • Make writing those updates easier: Create a single source of truth for anyone in the organization to find what’s critical to them. Train your leaders and managers to use it consistently. And build trust with your teams that it will always be updated.
  • Bring AI into the picture: Generative AI helps leaders, managers, or collaborators who aren’t confident in their communication skills have a better place to start. While AI won’t replace you, it can improve productivity and get important information out. 
  • Explore best practices: Lots of best-in-class organizations have found ways to communicate more efficiently and are willing to share what that looks like. See a few real examples

The bottom line: Unnecessary meetings are costing organizations dearly, but leaders can regain control by using emails and newsletters not only to take their place, but to get everyone aligned around the same goals. 

Go deeper: Bad workplace comms waste creativity, innovation, and up to 57% of salaries

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