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Committing To Meeting Equity: Your Checklist For Success

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Image: Brian Jackson - Alamy Stock Photo
Hybrid work has made meeting equity a hot topic lately and I am happy to see it gaining attention. Meeting equity has been on my radar for a long time – as a meeting participant, as a manager, as a marketer of collaboration technology, and as a woman, who at times in my career has been employed at organizations where meeting equity was definitely not standard practice.
 
Most of the recent coverage has focused on technology. Certainly technology plays a large role regarding meeting equity in the hybrid workplace, however, other factors are equally critical. Achieving meeting equity also requires a commitment to rethinking mission and management practices, as well addressing bias, often unintentional, in workplace culture.
 
Understanding The Context
The reason meeting equity is trending is clear. COVID-19 restrictions have largely ended; many companies are calling their employees back to the office.
 
Yet workers are resistant. In a recent Gallup poll, 32% of workers said they preferred to continue working remotely full-time and 59% said they wanted hybrid options. Even more telling are findings from a recent ADP Research Institute survey: 64% of respondents said they would consider looking for a new job if required to work in the office full-time.
 
The reason that workers are resistant to returning are diverse, with health concerns, better work-life balance, and the time and cost for commuting at the top of the list. Many employees have also seen their personal productivity increase and, in some cases, found remote work has even raised their employee profile. Whatever the reason, an inevitable outcome from this demand for hybrid work: a need to develop strategies to promote inclusion, build team collaboration, and optimize hybrid productivity and creativity. All key elements for meeting equity.
 
Defining The Goal
If you’re ready to commit to working toward meeting equity as a goal, the first step is defining it. Consider this simple statement below – my personal working definition – as a starting point and modify for your organization:
 
Meeting equity enables an equal experience for every team member, independent of location, workspace, technology, and meeting platform. It creates an environment that helps bring out the best in every team member.
 
Developing A Plan
You need to know upfront that working toward meeting equity is not easy – but it’s well worth the effort. As you start planning, most of your work will fall within three key focus areas: mission, technology, and culture. And each area has a series of strategies to consider and actions to take. There are many moving parts.
 
To help address some of the complexities, see the meeting equity checklist that follows. Based on my experiences and research – plus plenty of field input from the DTEN team – this checklist can be an insightful guide for your company’s plan of action. 
 
 
MEETING EQUITY CHECKLIST: Mission, Technology & Culture
 
MISSION
Meeting equity starts with a vision that becomes your guiding principle and benchmark. Key action items include:
 
  • Define meeting equity for your workplace. Like any important initiative, having a clear picture of what you want to achieve is critical.
  • Create an action plan. Outline tangible steps for improving meeting equity; a cross-functional team of remote and in-office team members can guide the process.
  • Communicate your objective. Don’t assume everyone on your team will know the importance of your mission. Become a meeting equity evangelist, emphasizing the significance and benefits.
  • Analyze your workplace’s current remote work. Understand existing experiences and determine potential improvements, not only in equipment, but also practices and support.
  • Examine your in-office layout. The “long-table” conference room may not be the best hybrid configuration: look at alternatives that best encourage interaction between in-office and remote participants.
  • Develop success metrics. Conduct employee pulse surveys, create engagement measures, do a two-minute review at the end of every meeting: create an engaging way to monitor progress.
  • Remember the big picture. Meeting equity is one part of overall workplace and collaboration equity; recognize how these initiatives overlap and build upon each other.
 
TECHNOLOGY
Hybrid work is here to stay; having the right video collaboration tools are critical to your team’s success. Key considerations include:
 
  • Invest in quality solutions. Select hardware and services that fully enable communications and interactions; in the long run, this investment will pay dividends in productivity and performance.
  • Don’t shortchange remote workers. Ensure remote team members have access to the same top-quality technology as their in-office counterparts. Full-featured, professional desktop set-ups are now readily available.
  • Keep it simple. The more components, the longer the learning curve and greater the opportunities for hardware conflicts and points of failure. Consider all-in-one technology focused on delivering natural, intuitive experiences.
  • Feel more connected with quality video. Visuals are perhaps the most important part of creating a “same room” feel in the hybrid workplace. Ensure remote workers have video equipment comparable to in-house systems including HD resolution, multiple cameras, and AI-enhanced features.
  • Present everyone equally. Traditionally conference room participants appear in a single screen, while remote attendees are displayed in tiles. Some meeting platforms now enable independent tiles for in-office participants as well – remote workers can see their counterparts more clearly and everyone appears equally.
  • Make audio a high priority. Look for technology that hones in on individual participants’ voices, with built-in echo canceling and noise reduction, the latter often of special concern to remote workers.
  • Use touch-enabled whiteboards. Virtual whiteboards can serve as a focal point for hybrid meetings. Ensure remote workers can equally share their input.
  • Recognize that collaboration is often asynchronous. Work often continues after the meeting ends; look for tools that enable collaborations to continue afterwards and be easily shared. “Async” work also can help cut down on the number of meetings in general and allow less vocal team members to share their expertise offline.
  • Strive for consistency of experience. Creating consistency of experience between home and office makes collaborations easier and more seamless, reducing user frustration and the need for technical support.
  • Invest in training. Even the simplest technology likely needs a “101” training session. Ensure the entire team knows how to comfortably use meeting software and equipment.

 

CULTURE
How meetings are facilitated and participants interact is the endgame for meeting equity. Key considerations:
 
  • Plan to collaborate. Updates and reports may be better communicated via email or project management tools. As much as possible, design meetings for interaction, ideation, and decision-making.
  • Publish an agenda in advance. People are better prepared – and may feel more empowered to participate – if they know the meeting purpose. And, whenever possible, allow the team to be part of agenda development.
  • Ensure everyone is heard. Organization hierarchy can unintentionally suppress participation; create an environment where everyone knows their voice matters.
  • Don’t allow dominant voices to overpower. A few attendees may monopolize meeting time; be prepared to politely ask to allow others an opportunity to speak.
  • Solicit input. At times, remote participants and/or junior-level staff may be reluctant to join in the conversation. Be ready to actively ask for their ideas in a non-threatening manner.
  • Provide equal access. Handouts, visuals, whiteboard – meeting resources and tools should be equally accessible for in-person and remote attendees.
  • Read the room. We all use non-verbal cues, body language, and expressions to monitor engagement; extend this to remote participants. Plus, actively monitor your platform’s chat for people raising hands or providing feedback.
  • Use built-in tools. Recording meetings and transcribing sessions make it easy for any team member to review collaborations, recall key action items, or continue working asynchronously.
  • Lead by example. Your team will take the biggest cue from you. Ensure you’re not the one monologuing. Make eye contact. Practice active listening. Credit people for their ideas.
 
 
Yielding The Benefits
As you read through the checklist, the complexities of achieving meeting equity are clear. Hopefully the outcomes are equally visible: an engaged and energized team, collectively creating and collaborating, where every team member can contribute to shared goals.
 
And in the end, meeting equity also offers a competitive advantage. A more inclusive team will invariably deliver better work products. Employees sharing a sense of purpose are more productive.
Additional viewpoints can breed innovation. Your workplace will be more dynamic – and, equally so, your business.
 

Nia Celestin is an executive at DTEN, known for its all-in-one, intuitive-to-use video collaboration solutions. Nia’s career has included ever-progressive roles with technology leading companies as well as start-ups. Her expertise includes collaboration equity, democratizing technology, and marketing agility. She is an active member of Chief, the only private membership network focused on connecting and supporting women executive leaders.

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