Meeting equity has become a bigger issue for today’s business. As workers trickle back to the office, companies are dealing with the challenge of giving everyone equal opportunities to participate in meetings, whether they join remotely or in person.
Compared to an all-virtual or purely in-person gathering, a hybrid meeting tends to be less inclusive due to the varying setups and locations of participants. This is forcing companies to try and create more equitable meetings that span both face to face and virtual.
Those meetings put everyone on a level playing field. Regardless of where or how they join, they get the same opportunities to engage and contribute. Virtual meetings will be almost as good as being there in person, so participants joining remotely can hear, see, and interact in nearly the same way as those in the office.
Meetings and interactions will be managed in a way that keeps things fair and gives everyone an opportunity to make an impact.
To start, consider the following practical tips.
1. Set a Goal
Establish what your organization wants to achieve in its meeting culture and the steps it can take to get there. This includes clearly defining what meeting equity means to your business and the outcomes it can deliver to individual employees and the organization.
Document your approach so that managers and meeting participants will have something to guide their efforts. It’s also important to communicate why you’re doing this and the value of inclusive practices in a hybrid workplace.
Be open to ideas too. Ask for suggestions from team members and colleagues on how to make meetings more equitable.
2. See How Things Are Working Now
Achieving meeting equity requires changing some established practices and habits. So it’s important to set the stage for an inclusive meeting. This can be as simple as emailing everyone before the meeting and telling them to be “ready to share as well as listen,” according to executive coaches Kathryn Heath and Brenda Wensil.
It helps to lay down some ground rules and set expectations at the start of the meeting, including reminding everyone that they can speak freely.
At the end of each meeting, spend time reviewing how it went and whether the steps you’ve taken are helping you get to your goal, even if only little by little.
3. Get the Right Technology
Consider if you have the technologies needed to build an environment that enables collaboration and productive work, both in and out of the office. These include cutting-edge tools that are bringing workers a step closer to in-person meeting experiences.
In addition, make sure everyone has equal access to these technologies and tools, regardless of where or how they’re working and joining meetings.
To encourage more interaction, take advantage of virtual communication features.
The New Future of Work by Microsoft suggests getting everyone to open their chat during a meeting when allowed. But it must be used to engage with the meeting topic so that the conversation becomes more inclusive.
4. Actively Chair the Meeting
Oversee the conduct of the meeting and make sure everyone gets a chance to speak. When an alpha personality is dominating the conversation, it’s important to intervene, according to Heath and Wensil.
“Watch closely for dominators and interrupters. If someone tries to control the dialogue, interject, and redirect the conversation back to the broader group.
“If someone is interrupted, step in quickly. You might say, ‘Wait a minute, I want to hear more of what Janice has to say.’”
The New Future of Work also recommends inviting remote attendees to speak first on any topic.
But more than just managing other participants, it’s important to show a good example. So listen and engage. Amplify voices, especially those that are not often heard.
5. Keep Learning
Once you commit to creating equitable meetings, keep at it until it becomes part of your organizational culture. You will likely not get it right straight away but continue improving. Use feedback from participants on what works and what doesn’t.
Learn from other organizations too. No one has likely mastered meeting equity in a hybrid workplace. But there’s always something to learn from organizations with established equity and inclusion strategies and how they’re changing their practices to embrace hybrid work.
Make Hybrid Setup Work
There’s no better time to address the need for inclusive meetings than now. Hybrid work is likely not going away and today’s organizations have so many innovative tools at their disposal.
With the right strategy that combines human and technology factors, you can address the unique challenges of hybrid work and make meetings more equitable, productive, and meaningful.
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