According to a Harvard Business Review, having a feeling of inclusion at work leads to more than just pleasant sentiments and friendships. It promotes employee performance, higher revenues, and low turnovers.
However, two-thirds of employees still tend to feel isolated, and their opinions are not valued. Feeling disrespected or unheard is one main reason people quit (and quiet-quit) their jobs.
Building an inclusive culture where everyone feels like they are part of the decision-making process is important if you manage a team. Starting with your team meetings is a great way to do this.
In inclusive meetings, each staff member has a say and feels motivated to engage actively and present their unique ideas. Meetings are the way to get started if a company wants to create a more inclusive culture — and executives want to exemplify the feeling of belonging.
Sales manager Shelley Gutta shares a few tips on fostering an inclusive culture through inclusive meetings.
How to Ensure Your Organization Has Inclusive Meetings
What does Meeting Inclusivity Mean?
An inclusive meeting is one in which everyone feels like they are part of the conversation and their ideas are being valued.
“I was really surprised,” Shelley says, “to learn that 40% or more of attendees and employees don’t feel valued. They don’t feel seen, they don’t feel heard. These folks are becoming the quiet-quitters because they don’t feel important.”
Fostering inclusion and respect in the workplace is important to boosting performance and employee longevity.
How to Foster Inclusion During Meetings
Inclusive practices in meetings can range from ensuring everyone has a place at the table to providing everyone an opportunity to speak.
Every organization likely has a few big personalities that overshadow more quiet introverts. These folks can feel excluded if they are not given the opportunity to share their ideas.
“We all have different meeting styles, and as a manager, it’s important to be aware of that,” Gutta says. “If you have someone more introverted, make sure they have time to process what’s being said and time to contribute. You don’t want to miss a new perspective that can be valuable to your meeting. We need to make a conscious decision to make sure everyone feels comfortable in the meeting and that their contribution is valued.”
Here are some actionable paths on how you can encourage all employees to feel confident to voice their opinions during regular or impromptu meetings.
1. Encourage All Employees to Share Their Thoughts
Procedures and expectations should be defined in advance of the meeting. Inform them that they can express themselves freely and without fear of repercussions. Ask the individual who is not participating directly what they perceive, but be careful not to make them uneasy.
If there are introverts in the room, begin with a brief round-robin exercise that includes everyone and allows guests to get to know one another better. You can divide employees into smaller groups or rotate the seating midway through the exercise for very large groups.
Shelley says, “you could even set up assigned seating to stir up conversation from folks that may not normally engage with one another.”
2. Make Everyone Comfortable
During the meeting, concentrate on basic habits that help people feel at ease. This might be as simple as sending out a pre-meeting email urging attendees to arrive “ready to give as well as listen.”
It may appear that this is a minor task that can be delegated to another employee, but in our daily job, leaders are in the ideal position to make people feel comfortable in this type of atmosphere.
3. Establish Clear Rules
Set clear general principles for the meeting and implement them. When inclusive meeting behavior is regulated, offenders are placed on notice, and everyone is aware of their rights and duties.
There will always be alphas who like to be in control of or regularly oppose what other employees have to say. Such individuals may cripple the efforts of introverted employees trying to voice their opinions.
Watch out for such individuals and interject to bring the conversation back to the larger group. If someone is being interrupted, intervene fast.
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4. Consistency and Follow Up
Most firms have already shown dedication through hiring procedures and the formation of diverse teams. The same is true for inclusion; we must insist on it as the norm at meetings and beyond.
Additionally, follow up on the actualization of ideas and opinions after the meeting. It helps them know that their opinions were taken seriously. Thank the attendees for coming and soliciting their feedback.
How Does Inclusion Benefit Your Company?
Companies receive significant bottom-line benefits when employees feel like they belong. An inclusion culture is directly proportional to an increase in workplace performance. It also reduces turnover rate and sick days.
Shelley says, “to have an inclusive meeting where all of your attendees feel important gives that person a sense of ownership, and that is often a bigger motivator than money.”
When employees feel their opinions are more appreciated in their workplaces, they are more likely to recommend their company to new job seekers.
Meetings have evolved over time: we now meet digitally, beyond time zones, and with significantly less face-to-face time. But one thing has been constant. Inclusive meetings largely create and foster a fully inclusive culture in any organization.
This culture promotes employees to accomplish their best at work. It is your responsibility as a leader to ensure that they do.
These tips will help you make every employee feel comfortable enough to speak up and be heard during meetings.