Use Meetings for Employee Development

Meetings are often considered the bane of employees’ existence. Among the most common complaints: being forced to attend a meeting that has little or no value.

Through a more optimistic lens, however, meetings that are properly planned and executed can actually offer development opportunities for some employees. Here are some tips to use meetings as a development tool.

Assign a different staff employee to put together the agenda for each staff meeting. This will require the person to gather information on reports to be made and issues to be discussed. It will also require the assigned employee to discuss priorities with the manager and allot time to each agenda item.

Development potential: It gives that employee a broader perspective of the work of others; it helps further develop business acumen; and it adds meeting management competencies.

Assign a staff member to bring in and lead a learning activity. This might be in the form of discussing a recent problem, circulating an article of interest (and the leading a discussion of it), suggesting a change in how the group does its work, or bringing in information on a competitor’s product or service.

Development potential: Leading a discussion; listening skills; presentation skills; learning other perspectives and receiving feedback.

Rotate responsibility for facilitating each staff meeting among staff members.

Development potential: Listening skills; meeting management skills; facilitation skills and conflict management skills.

Brainstorm the solution to a problem, challenge or opportunity. Managers can opt to announce the topic during the meeting or inform employees of the topic ahead of time so they can think about alternatives before the brainstorming session.

Development potential: Brainstorming skills; listening skills; influencing skills; developing synergy among staff members; critical and creative thinking skills.

Invite a guest speaker. This could be a customer or a supplier who can address how the two groups can work together more easily and effectively.

Development potential: Listening skills; critical and creative thinking skills; and problem analysis skills.

Notice who dominates discussions and who participates little, if at all. This can help introverts to participate more and extroverts to limit their input. Not only will this result in more equal participation, but it will also model meeting management and facilitation skills for employees.

Development potential: Meeting management skills; facilitation skills and leadership skills.

Be open to new ideas. When a staff member suggests a change in how the group handles a procedure or process, and it’s something that won’t work or varies from what’s in place, don’t just reject it out of hand, but ask probing questions to help the employee develop the idea. It may be that a discussion of the idea may spark others to suggest improvements that will work.

Development potential: Facilitation skills; critical and creative thinking skills; and conflict management skills.

Be creative. Instead of following the usual agenda, take employees on a field trip to spark their thinking and creativity. This must be followed up, however, with discussions of what everyone saw and how to use new and different ideas and methods to improve the company’s operations.

Development potential: Creative and critical thinking skills.

Help employees see the larger context of their work. Too often, employees are so focused on their own tasks that they lose sight of the larger context. By demonstrating how their work contributes to larger organizational goals, employees develop a more nuanced understanding of the business.

Development potential: Business acumen and taking pride in one’s work.

Daniel R. Tobin is a consultant, author, and speaker on corporate learning strategies and author of seven books, including Learn Your Way to Success. He can be reached at