Conference calls are a standard part of the workweek for most full-time employees, but not all calls get the same respect. Our recent study about workers’ dial-in habits uncovered that, while most employees budget ample time to join and wait on hold for meetings with higher ups and clients, they’re less generous when colleagues are on the other end of the line.
According to our data, 20 percent of employees dial in to calls with coworkers right as they’re beginning; only 10 percent dial in at the last minute for client calls, and 14 percent for meetings with supervisors.
Workers are less patient when waiting for colleagues to join calls too. Twenty-four percent wait three minutes or less before hanging up on coworker conference calls, compared to 16 percent for client calls and 13 percent for leadership calls.
When internal meetings get the shaft, team morale and collaboration suffers.
Businesses need a better way to motivate staff to give calls with their peers the same attention as those with customers and company leaders. Consider these four tips for persuading employees to prioritize internal meetings:
1. Boost visibility with video
Our research also found that most employees (63%) feel conference call attendees are more likely to dial in on-time or early for video meetings versus strictly audio. Being physically seen holds participants accountable for showing up and paying attention throughout a meeting. Video platforms—and the positive etiquette they elicit—also help strengthen relationships between remote staff and employees in different offices who have fewer opportunities for face-to-face encounters.
2. Give each meeting a purpose (or else don’t schedule it)
When employees shuttle between multiple client meetings and overflowing inboxes, some internal meetings can seem like a time-suck. Unfortunately, some of them are. There’s value in bringing teams together to discuss an important project, brainstorm ideas or resolve a problem, but it’s still common for people to schedule internal huddles without a clear purpose or goal.
Organizations should train staff to ask themselves, “Is X topic more appropriate for a meeting or an email?” before clicking “Send” on an internal meeting invite. The fewer wasteful internal calls employees attend, the more likely they are to be engaged (and on time) when important ones arise.
3. Invite the right people
As employees sketch out agendas for upcoming internal conference calls, it’s also important to note whether or not they have an item to discuss (or question to ask) with each invited coworker. Five people don’t need to sit on a call if only three people are involved in the conversation.
Even when meeting organizers have specific business to discuss with a colleague, they should determine if it would be better suited to a 1:1 call or email rather than looping them into a bigger conference.
4. Bridge the gap between conferencing and collaboration
Even when bound to a cubicle, workers today are constantly communicating with each other via email, instant messaging and other collaboration apps. In many organizations, it’s become standard procedure that colleagues can share files with each other and edit documents in tandem with a few clicks.
Conference calls shouldn’t be a vacuum where these collaboration capabilities suddenly stop. Businesses need to invest in conference tools that accommodate the multimedia-rich, interactive communication staff expect so that meetings aren’t an interruption, but an extension of the work they’re already doing.