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4 Tips for Running Inclusive Meetings

4 Tips for Running Inclusive Meetings

Diversity and inclusivity are prevalent concerns in the business landscape right now. This can only be a positive thing. Nevertheless, businesses need to commit to focusing on how this applies to specific areas of their businesses. One aspect it’s easy to overlook is the meeting environment.

Meetings can be spaces in which ideation breeds and the most valuable interactions occur. Unless there is a strong focus on inclusivity here, the outcomes are likely to be weaker. Not to mention that more inclusive meetings demonstrate your company takes its duty to provide equal opportunities seriously. If you want to drive innovation and bolster contributor satisfaction, you need to take action to keep everyone meaningfully involved.

Let’s take a look at a handful of ways you can run more inclusive meetings.

Communicate Ground Rules

Inclusivity is not something that tends to happen automatically. Eventually, it should certainly be a goal for it to be an inextricable aspect of your business. Until such time, however, it’s important to provide your employees with clarity on the matter. As such, it’s worth putting in place and reiterating inclusivity ground rules for meetings.

This should include expressing the expectations your business sets as a part of its overall company culture. If necessary, be explicit in describing actions that are required or unacceptable during meetings from an inclusivity perspective. Be consistent in your approach to outlining meeting room etiquette here. Everyone must be confident in their understanding of what the standards are.

Include these ground rules in the meeting invitations you send out. This could be in the form of a link to the company handbook where such meeting inclusivity guidelines are set out. It’s also important to address these standards at the beginning of each meeting. This can be in the form of inviting everyone to address anything they are not clear on about the ground rules you sent them with the invitation, alongside repeating the reasons these rules are in place.

Bolster Flexibility

Flexible work breeds inclusivity. Flexibility continues to be a particular priority for workers in minority groups. Different attendees will have varying physical, psychological, and social needs. By having some flexibility in your meeting approach, you’re empowering everyone involved to contribute to their best ability.

Provide the option to utilize remote spaces as well as coming into the office. In some cases, having everyone in-office can be beneficial and preferable. Nevertheless, sticking too fervently to this preference can throw up unnecessary hurdles. Your approach here may involve keeping the possibility to call in from home available. Alternatively, you could provide more distant staff with access to coworking facilities so they can attend remotely but in a professionally-focused environment.

To be fully inclusive, it’s important to ask attendees to submit their preferences in advance. You need to have a solid idea of what everyone’s needs are and how these need to be served. You can then take this information and utilize your meeting room booking software to identify and allocate the most appropriate space for the session.

Educate Staff on Inclusivity

There are likely to be a few staff members that are shirking their responsibility to inclusivity deliberately. Many examples of exclusionist attitudes and behaviors are unconscious in nature. This can easily be solved by educating your staff on inclusive behavior.

Providing formal and structured training on inclusivity can help positively influence staff behavior and minimize the potential for conflict. It should include information about types of language and actions — big or small — that are considered to be disrespectful. Don’t just provide examples of non-inclusive actions, but their indirect and direct effects.

A part of this education can also include bystander intervention. This kind of training teaches employees the difference between being a bystander in conflicting scenarios and actually standing up and making a difference. With this training on their side, everyone will make it their responsibility to make sure meetings and the workplace, in general, are inclusive spaces. This kind of training can be provided by your human resources department, which can provide resources for employees who want to reach out about a potential conflict.

Ensure Equal Contribution Opportunities

One of the problems you may find occurring during meetings is that some members of the group can dominate proceedings. This may be the result of more forceful personalities at play. It may be the case that some contributors experience social anxiety and are pushed aside by other more neurotypical attendees. As such, you must make concerted efforts to ensure everyone can have their voice heard during meetings.

The responsibility for this usually falls to facilitators. They have a position of leadership for the session. As such, they must make time to individually reach out to all contributors to seek their opinions, ideas, and concerns throughout the session. This should include prompting those attending via videoconferencing or teleconferencing if necessary. They must also be proactive in minimizing the negative or disruptive impact of more forthright attendees.

This isn’t just a case of being fair, although that is an important factor. The ability to contribute makes it a more meaningful session for everyone involved. Finding meaning in work has a direct impact on employees’ satisfaction, stress levels, and engagement. Everyone wants to feel valued for their contributions and this is an increasingly important factor for workers. When facilitators give all attendees equal time and respect, the project, company, and stakeholders all benefit.

Conclusion

Inclusivity in meetings can help to maintain equality, bolster satisfaction and boost innovation. It’s vital that your business takes consistent steps to make certain it’s a priority when running any session. Your actions should include communicating clear ground rules, offering flexible options, and educating your contributors about proper inclusive behavior. Facilitators should also commit to ensuring everyone’s voice is heard throughout each session. With the right tools and procedures in place, your meetings can be spaces in which everyone can thrive.

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Guest post written by Sam L Bowman

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