A question that sent people to our blog last week dealt with how often labor-management committees should meet. Our answer is definite. Committees need to meet frequently on a regular schedule.
No one really wants more meetings on their calendar. We are all very busy, and time spent in another meeting is not what we want. This aversion to meetings is probably caused by the nature of most meetings. They tend to be dull and accomplish little. They are often sessions where we are simply told information with little chance to interact or be involved in any decisions.
If meetings provide an opportunity to participate in decision making or deal with issues meaningful to our jobs, the sessions have a purpose. Whether we are talking about labor-management committees or any other group, when there is an opportunity for real participation, members become more involved and engaged in the process. When there is a reason to meet besides listening and rehashing, we are willing to commit the time.
If committees do not meet frequently, they will not be able to learn the tools necessary to solve problems and work together effectively. If they come together only when problems arise, they will not have the relationships and trust levels necessary to solve problems. The result will be traditional, non-productive behaviors.
We ask new committees to meet as soon as possible after our training. This enables them to build on the skills and camaraderie they have been building. We had one committee decide to meet at 6 A.M. the day after training, and had a very effective meeting. While the meeting does not have to be quite this soon, we encourage teams to meet within a month. We also recommend the meeting utilize a neutral facilitator.
We also encourage committees to meet at least monthly at first. This enables them to continue to build upon the cooperative relationship they are developing in order to work productively. They can deal with the initial problems they have identified or been given. Later, as they have further developed their ability to work cooperatively and have been able to solve problems, they may be able to meet less frequently.
We have worked with many committees that have chosen to continue monthly meetings long after the training. While they may have been reluctant to do so at first, they recognize the value of meeting and maintain the regular schedule.