Find out how your organization can get group decisions right.

Committee

Workplace committees can help organizations gauge company-wide sentiments, develop new programs and make fair, balanced decisions.

Or — depending on how many you’ve created and how they’re structured — they can end up being a huge waste of time for both the committee members and the company.

When utilized correctly, decision making input and estimating overall employee satisfaction level are just the tip of the iceberg. Workplace committees can also serve as an inexpensive way of singling out high-performing employees and offering them professional development opportunities, according to Inc. — providing a potentially positive effect on employee retention efforts.

However, to make your workplace committees work, you need to carefully configure each one — from their overall intent to the number of meetings they hold — or you risk reducing committee member engagement and effectiveness.

You don’t need dozens of subcommittees. You don’t need complicated group infrastructures. You just need to follow these five steps:

1. Know your intent — and provide back-up: After the financial crisis, in 2010, global investment banking, securities and investment management firm Goldman Sachs’ senior management and board of directors decided to create a Business Standards Committee. Its goal was clearly defined: to extensively review and convey the company’s business practices and standards. To help ensure that goal was met, Goldman Sachs’ board of directors, which oversees the Business Standards Committee, created a separate four-member committee to work with the standards committee.
2. Stay focused: Each committee meeting should involve a detailed agenda, sent prior to the event, to prevent wasted time when you convene. Committee heads may, according to Salary.com, want to take a cue from professional meeting organizers and create an agenda for themselves — featuring the estimated time for each item, topics, speakers and key action items — and a separate agenda that’s given to attendees. Recording official minutes can also help create a stronger sense of accountability to ensure important tasks aren’t forgotten (or ignored). 
3. Make meetings concise: Committee productivity will be higher if members feel their time together is useful. While there’s no magic number for the ideal meeting length, Fast Company’s nine methods to boost meeting productivity may help you find your committee’s sweet spot.
4. Keep obligations current: Effective committees need to regularly reconsider their priorities and responsibilities, according to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and contemplate new approaches.
5. Don’t be afraid to disband an unsuccessful committee: In some cases, a committee just may not be producing the desired results. A recent report from the nonprofit Disability Management Employer Coalition, for example, found that return-to-work committees produced some of the least effective methods of welcoming employees with behavioral and/or mental health issues back to work. Measuring employee response to internal committees and rating their overall effectiveness can help you determine if an underperforming group should be retooled or eliminated.

If you’re not sure where your committee falls on the success scale, fill out the committee effectiveness checklist from DIY Committee Guide, a site developed by the Volunteer Development Agency (now the Belfast-headquartered Volunteer Now) in partnership with 14 other organizations.

For additional tips on how to host more productive meetings, download GoToMeeting’s free Insider’s Guide to Better Meetings.