Portia Hickey, Chartered psychologist and co-creator of Thrive Matters
Inclusion has become even more important now that more of us are working remotely. It isn’t just an HR tick-box exercise, either. If, as a business leader, you’re not mindful of who you include, you open up your business to many risks, including decreasing engagement, a lack of innovation, missing client needs and employee mental health issues.
But making people feel included, and making sure that everyone is involved, is hard to do from afar, especially when we’re all so busy. How can you keep an eye on team dynamics and see who’s engaging in meetings when we’re all isolated to our own workplaces? The answer lies in smart collaboration.
Collaboration is a really good vehicle for instigating processes and philosophies that support inclusion. In theory, it unites people to achieve a common business purpose. In practice, it encourages people to bring their ideas, skills and opinions to the group.
Here’s how to encourage more collaboration that will, in turn, drive inclusion – even when working remotely.
Make the purpose of your meetings clear to everyone who’s invited
Before you send a calendar invite to a bunch of people for a meeting, consider letting them know what the purpose of it is and why they’ve been invited to it. For further guidance on this, some Harvard research shows how to structure your meeting based on what it is about. If people know why they’ve been invited, they’re much more likely to contribute actively.
Be deliberate about who you include in meetings
Following the advice above, don’t just invite whoever is front of mind. Put a process in to think more broadly about it – perhaps you can look at a list of people in your team from different areas to make sure you remember everyone. Think about different divisions – you might want to look to areas of the business that have been through a similar process and get them to talk about their experience. That will accelerate innovation, too.
Have an inclusion list to hand
For the meeting itself, have a list of attendees, with any notes of specific questions you have for them. Then, once the session starts, tick off who has spoken so that you can make sure you can invite any silent participants to contribute. It is also a good idea to keep an eye on how long people are speaking for so that airtime can be shared. If you are the leader – try to speak, and give your opinion, last.
Structure follow up after meeting
Actions from meetings are an opportunity to engage with others and widen networks. Think about who might benefit from taking forward certain actions from a meeting. Give them to the person who could benefit most from the exposure rather than to your usual go-to people.
Replace informal networks
Informal networks that people rely upon, like lunch buddies, running groups or friendships, have been disbanded. So be deliberate and helpful by creating more informal networks that get people to share, create and connect. Perhaps you can start a weekly coffee morning meeting where no work-chat is allowed, a monthly pub quiz or a book club. It might take up some working hours, but it could pay dividends in morale and inclusion.