With Americans holding 55 million meetings weekly, chances are you’ve met with your team recently. The secret to making all these meetings as productive as possible? Making them as inclusive as possible.
A more inclusive work environment leads to increased productivity, improved efficiency, and a 59% increase in creativity and innovation – all elements which lead to more successful meetings.
“The one sure way to lose great talent, is to disengage them,” said Bridges Holmes, Vice President, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Corporate Social Responsibility at the Adecco Group. “This can easily happen by not intentionally including those team members in meaningful critical thinking opportunities, which can cause them to feel undervalued. Leading inclusively is free and the only cost is our ego.”
Keep reading to see how to make your meetings more inclusive.
1. Make sure all voices are being heard
A more inclusive group means more perspectives on how to solve problems and new ways your company can innovate. But only if these perspectives are voiced. Unfortunately, according to research, the most diverse voices, such as women and individuals from minority groups, are more than twice as likely to be interrupted in group dialogue.
To prevent these interruptions, set clear ground rules at the start of every meeting. Determine how and when team members will voice their opinions and make it clear that cutting someone off won’t be tolerated.
2. Be candid and compassionate
Making your team members comfortable enough to participate is essential to running a productive meeting. Being transparent with your colleagues about how their feedback will be used will make workers more invested in the decision-making process, encouraging them to share ideas – especially ideas that provide a different point of view.
Meetings serve as an important tool for team building and collaboration. To build stronger relationships during meetings you’ll need to foster healthy debates between participants, encourage honest and helpful feedback, and show empathy towards your employees.
3. Be mindful of tone
The average worker in the US spends 2.8 hours a week embroiled in conflict, causing companies to lose $359 billion annually. A big cause of conflict isn’t a difference of opinion, but how we express it. During your next meeting make sure you adopt a calm and welcoming tone, give feedback constructively, and acknowledge contribution – research shows that employees prefer public displays of appreciation, especially in meetings.
With a more diverse team, tone is even more important. Some cultures talk more directly than others while generational differences shape the way people communicate. Set the tone at the beginning of each meeting of how to respectfully communicate and team members will follow your example, creating an inclusive culture.
4. Ask enough questions
Communication in management is important and meetings provide a clear pathway to connect with your team. Make the most of this time and leave no questions unasked. As you go through each agenda topic, pause to ask questions, agree on the next steps, and reach conclusions about points brought up.
Questions are critical in integrating all participants in the conversation. Some team members are naturally quieter or don’t feel comfortable giving opinions that dissent with the group. Asking them questions brings them into a discussion that they might not otherwise participate in.
5. Welcome new ideas
With a diverse group, you’re going to have diverse opinions. Make sure participants are comfortable sharing ideas that may differ from the group consensus. When stating the ground rules at the start of a meeting, encourage people to share differing opinions and to disagree respectfully.
Before your next meeting starts, send the agenda to your team members so they can come prepared with ideas free from the influence of others. Practice brainwriting, an exercise where participants write down all their ideas at the start of the meeting, to make employees more committed to expressing their individual ideas and not just go along with the group.
By following these steps to make sure your employees feel comfortable, valuable, and included in important decision-making, you’ll encourage an environment that fosters more diverse ideas, stronger team relationships, and eliminate groupthink which can prevent you from finding the best business decisions.
Diversity and inclusion are integral to a successful business. Adecco is here to help foster inclusive working environments to make the future (and meetings) work for everyone. Check out our blog for more posts on the benefits of hiring diverse working groups like veterans, and for more information on how to run more productive meetings read our article on common meeting mistakes and how to avoid them.