Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London
Do you find yourself engulfed in a monologue that doesn’t seem to end, hoping that your staff will say something?
Staff meetings can be an effective and powerful way to: communicate information; gain new ideas; and increase morale. They don’t have to be painful and the sooner you can turn the focus from “me” into “we” the better. Let’s take a look at a few ideas that will help make things easier for your participants to communicate with one another and with you.
1. Timing is everything. Your participants need to be available. Family time is important so please don’t schedule meetings at times that are difficult for staff to attend, for example after work hours or before work. Remember employees have a lot of extra responsibilities these days with eldercare, childcare and more. Your staff is not going to be very happy to come to a meeting if they have to rearrange their schedule outside of office hours to come to work. Check multi-faith and school calendars to ensure that your meeting time does not present a scheduling conflict for others. Avoid scheduling meetings during peak-hours. Meeting times during a lull will be much more appreciated.
2. Provide the agenda, minutes and supplementary materials in advance. With our increasing diversity in the workplace, it is important for us to remember that some people will need more time to read materials in advance to get a background on the subjects discussed. This is especially true for those with English language barriers or with certain learning disabilities who would find it particularly difficult to read materials on the spot and then comment on them.
3. Assign a meeting buddy. Designate one of your staff as a go-to-person to help orientate new employees to the staff meeting topics. Persons with English language barriers or those who are transferred from other departments, and new hires can really benefit from a meeting buddy. Taking this step also goes a long way in conveying the message that meetings are important and that their participation is valued. Spending even an hour before the staff person’s first meeting to give them a background on the process as well as the history/background of various topics will be very helpful.
4. Introductions. Ensure that each person gets introduced and has a name tag preferably black on white. This is especially good for people who are bad with names. Printed name tags with a good size font will also help you to identify others who may be sitting further away. You don’t need to use these all the time, but consider putting them on when you have a guest attending your meeting or when you have new staff.
5. Try something new. Add a video or case study for discussion. Use stories or quotes to inject your point. With so many possibilities these days with meeting technology and free videos, there is really no excuse anymore for dull meetings! Be creative and your staff with love you for it. By changing things around, chances are you will both see a different side of one another and that’s a good thing.
6. Get a grip on yourself. If you are not sure how your chairing is going and you really want to find out how your meeting style is perceived, all you have to do is: Ask! Institute a four or five checkmark assessment at the end of the meeting and it can tell you how inclusive your meetings really are. Here are a few quick questions you can ask your participants
1. Did you feel that you had an opportunity to express your thoughts at the meeting? YES or NO
2. Did the chair share the floor? YES or NO
3. Were the participants encouraged to express differences of opinion? YES or NO
4. Do you have any ideas for future meetings? YES or NO
5. Additional comments_______________________________________
Here are just a few quick and easy ways to make your workplace more inclusive. If you would like more information, please check out our other publications: The Inclusion Quarterly, and Diversity and Inclusion on a Budget: How to have a more engaged and innovative workforce for little or no dollars. Visit http://www.yourdiversityatwork.com.