Inclusive Hybrid Meetings Are the Future — 8 Ways to Manage Them Well! — KNOLSKAPE

Summary- While hybrid meetings are not a novel concept, it can take time for leaders to figure out how to execute them in an inclusive, effective fashion. In this blog, we share some of the best practices you can utilize to ensure your hybrid meetings are efficient, well-run, and maximize team participation while combating biases.

As we enter a new professional era, the shift to a remote-first culture is gaining momentum. Accenture’s Future of Work Study 2021 found that 83% of employees prefer a hybrid model. However, the not-so-great news is that this new model poses several challenges for employees — mostly from a collaboration and visibility perspective.

A hybrid workplace which is a mix of remote and in-person employees brings together the best of both worlds, but also requires the right balance to ensure everyone feels included and valued.

If organizations need to ace their hybrid culture, they should be deliberate about putting in those extra efforts, especially when it comes to hybrid meetings. Conducting an all-embracing hybrid meeting not only helps teams overcome disconnection but also keeps employees productive.

According to the 2022 Work Trend Index Annual Report, the findings reveal that 43% of remote workers do not feel included in meetings. In this blog, we’ll uncover some practical ways to make hybrid meetings more inclusive at work, thereby reducing employee turnover.

Let’s get started.

Focus On Delivering an Unbigoted Experience

Leaders can help eliminate biases by allowing both onsite and remote employees to contribute to the conversation. It is extremely important to ensure that remote employees’ voices are listened to and recognized so they don’t feel neglected or biased. Providing a truly equal experience for both sets of employees is the key when it comes to inclusive hybrid meetings.

In general, employees working from office have more opportunities in terms of being heard, involved, and listened to along with other benefits like shared experiences.

Especially in cases where conversations are important and ideas are being exchanged, enabling remote employees to ask questions, put forth their views, and be truly engaged can take us the extra mile in providing an inclusive experience for everyone. Likewise, directing the energy and attention only towards remote employees would drive apart in-office employees. This is why ensuring an equitable experience can play a key role in successful hybrid meetings.

Structure Your Hybrid Meetings

To make the most of hybrid meetings, leaders need to design a clear structure to ensure that hybrid meetings are as inclusive as in-person meetings. Even in a hybrid setting, context and agenda for the meeting still remain a priority. Leaders need to set meeting expectations clearly and right beforehand.

Every team member regardless of their location must be equally allocated resources and time to be better equipped for the meeting. This could be in the form of a shared meeting agenda sent before time. This way everyone knows why they’re in the meeting and can prepare well in advance.

Also, tying together a purpose to the meeting ascertains that everyone commences the meeting with one voice. Another way to stay on top of your hybrid meetings is to establish ground rules that all employees must adhere to. The goal should be to provide a seamless experience without casting out anyone.

Communicate Inclusively

The new era of work is not exactly the same as it was 2.5 years back. It takes extra effort to connect with employees in a hybrid environment. To be honest, you need to go beyond zoom sessions to run better hybrid meetings.

As a leader, you need to be intentional and mindful about using language that supports diversity and inclusion. Hybrid cultures can witness challenges when it comes to fostering inclusive communication. Especially for distant workers whose facial expressions are difficult to get, it’s not that easy to figure out how different individuals prefer to communicate.

As stated above, hybrid meetings need an altogether different approach to engage both remote and in-office employees. Leaders need to act as change agents and call out employees who dominate or interrupt the discussion at any given point. This inherently challenges them to listen and opens the door for others.

Proactively ask remote employees if they’re able to comprehend and contribute to the discussion. Leaders should also encourage less vocal employees to share their opinions so that they get equal opportunities for participation. Besides asking for opinions, leaders must also be respectful of each individual’s personal view. When a team member makes a valid point, acknowledge their ideas. This can be extremely beneficial if you have introverts in the team.

Get Rid of Biases

Remote workers, women, and introverts often struggle to be well-liked in meetings. Studies indicate that quite often, men interrupt women way more than they interrupt other men. This behavior may not be intentional but it’s derailing the effectiveness of your hybrid meeting.

In hybrid meetings, proximity bias can manifest in different ways. As a result, excluding employees in the workplace. To mitigate such biases within a hybrid setting, leaders must encourage video meetings from both sides. Allowing remote employees to contribute to the participation can eliminate the chances of anyone being left out. Managers need to be vocal about proximity bias and have honest conversations with their remote employees. Ask them about their experiences, what’s working and what’s not. This will allow you to be purposeful in your one-on-ones and build genuine relationships.

Bring in-office and remote employees on board on special projects. Pair up people who work in different time zones. By collaborating on something that is crucial for the organization, employees are more likely to bond with each other, collaborate, and hence neutralize bias.

Leverage Virtual Team Building Ideas to Set the Tone

Hybrid meetings often start with an awkward silence. That’s where virtual icebreakers can come to the rescue. There are several team-building activities that can act as great conversation starters and encourage lively discussions. Besides virtual team building games also play a key role and open doors for conversation.

A virtual team meeting is extremely helpful to build rapport, trust and strengthen connections among employees who are dispersed across the globe. No matter what type of team-building activities you pick, the ultimate aim should be to build a stronger team, encourage creativity and boost productivity amongst your hybrid team members. Read more about “ Team building activities for the modern workforce “ here.

Be Careful Not to Overdo It

We all know how tiring zoom meetings can be on the eyes. It is important to take this into account when deciding the agenda for hybrid meetings. Ensure not to keep it too lengthy and schedule breaks in between. The ideal length to stick to should be 15–20 minutes. While there’s no hard and fast rule, you can always experiment with time duration. One of the most common mistakes leaders do is that they book a slot for 1 hour without having a set agenda in mind.

It is always wise to finish ideation and planning before the call. So, it doesn’t intervene with inclusion and attention during the meeting.

Another important aspect to consider to ensure an inclusive experience is to have a limit on how long an individual can speak at a time. Anyone who goes too long should be interrupted, ensuring that the meeting is inclusive and not just about one individual. Both remote and in-person employees should be given equal weightage.

Up Your Tech Game

Investing in technology that enhances collaboration and doubles down on the meeting experience is yet another way to make hybrid meetings more equitable. Contrary to in-person, hybrid meetings require a physical space, hardware, and software to connect remote and in-office employees. Additionally, they also require virtual spaces with the best audio and video facilities so that distant employees can see and hear what’s happening clearly.

Before starting the meeting, be sure to test the system and tech. Create backup plans handy to ensure that there’s seamless connectivity even when the wifi goes down. When it comes to hosting larger hybrid meetings, ill-prepared networks can lead to buffering and hence lead to event failures. In order to avoid the same, it’s always good to have super wideband audio, high-quality video, speaker, noise-canceling headphones, display, and other useful tech stacks that ensure everyone can be seen, understood, and heard.

Invest in a video conferencing software that is pre-downloaded on both remote and in-office employee systems. Post the meeting, reel back to your remote employees to understand if they received enough opportunities to participate in discussions. Did in-office employees interrupt remote employees? By conducting an analysis, you’ll be better able to gauge the effectiveness of your meeting.

Master the Art of Operating Hybrid Meetings

Managing hybrid teams has never been more complex. When employees operate from dispersed locations, it adds a new challenge to being a team leader. To foster collaboration, strengthen inclusion and encourage maximum participation amongst hybrid teams, leaders need major shifts including:

Establish Trust via Role Modeling — This can be developed by constantly checking in with both remote and in-office employees, addressing blockers at the earliest, resolving conflicts, and prioritizing work-life balance. Read this blog to know more about building trust in remote teams.

Lead With Authenticity and Compassion — The many challenges that the pandemic has culminated has stressed the importance of authenticity and empathy at work. Deloitte’s 2021 Global Ways of Working Study predicted that 97% of respondents reported that effective managers must have and demonstrate empathy, but only 45% of respondents say their manager does. In a hybrid setting, when teams are dispersed with low or varying visibility, the shift to succeed in a hybrid setting will require empathy, compassion, belonging, and inclusion.

Understand That Recognition Is Key — Leaders should make conscious efforts to bring everyone into the discussion so that team cohesion is not suffered.

Wrapping It Up!

While hybrid meetings are not a novel concept, it can take time for leaders to figure out how to execute them well. Whether you like it or not, hybrid meetings are not going anywhere. Therefore, it is likely that you arm yourselves with the right skills, mindset, tech, and resources to have more inclusive meetings in hybrid teams.

In the era of mass exodus or the Great Renegotiation, leaders need to create high degrees of psychological safety for people, regardless of the location. Adapt your meetings based on who your attendees are and intend to drive behavioral change collaboratively.

Aside from the ways mentioned above, leaders need to align themselves and model empathy, resilience, and diversity in their way of functioning. Leaning into an open and honest dialogue where everyone is welcomed can be one of the most effective ways to foster inclusion, prevent biases, and thrive in an era of unprecedented change.

To know more about how we train new-age leaders with the relevant skills to lead in a VUCA world, book a call with us and learn about our high-end L&D programs.

Originally published at https://knolskape.com on August 25, 2022.

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