Actively participating during meetings can be hard for some employees; just 35 percent said in a recent survey that they felt they could contribute every time.
However, recent research from the Harvard Business Review indicates three workforce segments, in particular, are consistently overlooked in meetings: introverts, remote workers and women.
Introverted employees, for example, often need time to process information that’s shared in a group setting. Their silence, though, can be misconstrued as a lack of interest or understanding.
Ensuring an even playing field for all meeting attendees can be challenging; but it doesn’t mean you should forgo meetings altogether. Research has shown they can provide positive benefits. Employees whose managers hold frequent meetings are three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers don’t, according to Gallup.
To host more effective meetings, the Harvard Business Review recommends providing data and a purpose beforehand, so more introverted employees can prepare; drawing them into the conversation by asking what other elements they feel should be discussed—and sending a summary after the meeting to ask for additional ideas, which can allow introverted employees to contribute.
A few other tips to set up more effective meetings:
Call on specific attendees to encourage them to speak. Women provide helpful perspectives; yet men often control the conversation in professional meetings, according to a 2012 study from Brigham Young University and Princeton University, which found female attendees spoke only 25 percent of the time. Increase that percentage by purposely giving female employees the floor.
Guide the conversation. Women generally get interrupted more frequently in conversation — by both men and women — according to research published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology in 2014. Establishing (and upholding) a general framework, with allotted time for various attendees to speak, can make for more effective meetings. Let attendees know how you plan to structure the discussion, and step in, as needed, to ensure employees who are cut off get a chance to finish their point.
Avoid alienating off-site employees. Remote workers may not be able to see all participants, gauge who is about to speak or sense the best time to add to the conversation — or they may not be able to contribute at all. Twenty-nine percent of British workers who regularly use phone and video conferencing have left a colleague out, either intentionally or unintentionally, according to a recent survey from Steelcase. As the workplace solutions provider points out, conference rooms are a popular choice for video-enabled meetings — but with long, rectangular tables, they can make including everyone on camera difficult.
Hosting small discussions in conference rooms or using a more open space, such as a cafeteria or lounge area, may let you visually feature more attendees.
Employee participation is just one aspect of hosting effective meetings. If you hold too many, and fail to establish a focus or intent, meetings can have a detrimental effect, essentially wasting employees’ time and potentially reducing productivity.
Get a few suggestions on how to make your meetings more successful in our recent Have You Gone Committee Crazy? blog post.