For most, the adjustment to working 100% remote has been a ‘journey’ to say the least – each of us having faced unique challenges in adapting to this new way of working. While some enjoy their new arrangements, others are itching to get back into the office. Regardless of where you sit on that spectrum, one thing is for sure: video calls will continue to be an integral part of how we collaborate with our team.
NEW MEDIUM, NEW APPROACH
On the surface, the increased use of video in our day-to-day work lives may seem benign, but the effects that a video-heavy work culture can have on your overall corporate culture are worth noting. For a clearer picture of what I mean by this, take stock of how interactive your meetings are – who is contributing most during team calls, and who doesn’t get a chance to speak up? This lack of two-way communication is unnatural and can leave people feeling overlooked and disengaged with the projects discussed during the call. Now that video is the primary way most of us collaborate, it’s critical that we engage participants so that they leave meetings ready to execute and feeling energized by a positive social interaction with their teammates.
BUILDING A CULTURE OF TRUST
According to a study by ADP, employee engagement should be a priority for organizations because it’s known that when employees don’t feel engaged, the organization suffers. Trust or ‘psychological safety’ in the workplace plays a significant role in ensuring everyone feels relaxed and confident enough to turn their camera on, speak up, and contribute their perspectives. ‘Psychological safety’ is a term coined back in 1999 by Harvard Business School professor, Amy Edmondson that refers to the understanding that it is safe to take risks and that a person won’t be punished or shamed for speaking up with questions, concerns, ideas, asking for help, or admitting mistakes. According to ADP, this begins and ends with a team’s leader. When the most engaged teams were put under the microscope, it was found that by far the strongest indication of employee engagement was whether the team members trusted their manager.
COMBAT SUBCONSCIOUS BIASES
So, what to do? Take note – are there still members of your team who are perpetually on ‘mute’ or have their camera turned off? Prompt them to engage by asking them how their day is going or what they think about a point raised during the call. Next, it’s important to acknowledge subconscious biases that might be below the surface of this disparity. As Renee Cullinan shared in Harvard Business Review, two segments of the workforce that are routinely overlooked are introverts and women – and this is only exacerbated in a remote-only working scenario. Chances are leaders aren’t consciously silencing these individuals, rather it’s more likely that there are several hidden biases at play. For instance, Cullinan explains that our unconscious bias is that ‘smart people think on their feet.’ However, she explains what’s really going on is that extroverts talk to process their thoughts, and introverts take longer to process information and think carefully before speaking. Furthermore, the well-studied unconscious bias that ‘men have more to contribute’ and ‘are better suited to leadership positions’ are deeply ingrained and will take conscious work to unlearn. There have been multiple studies that have concluded that women are interrupted far more than men during meetings, and their ideas are taken less seriously. These unconscious biases undermine the quality of dialogues and put a significant dent in your team’s collaborative potential. To overcome these, consider the following ground rules.
HOW TO INCREASE YOUR TEAM’S ENGAGEMENT
Leaders should reflect on current patterns and make an effort to adjust communication flows with some ground rules for team calls so that everyone feels engaged.
Cultivate a Video-On Culture
Strongly encourage all meeting participants to turn their camera on. Naturally, a face-to-face video interaction will be more engaging for all parties. Additionally, a video-on culture will discourage multitasking and result in a greater sense of respect and increase the quality of the interpersonal interaction. If there are external factors influencing why someone can’t have their camera on, be understanding and make an effort to engage them regardless.
Comradery is your Secret-Weapon to an Engaged Workforce
Now that we’re all working from home, much of our team communication is purely task-related, leaving little to no time for small talk and niceties. Creating space for comradery is an important ingredient in employee engagement. According to Sterling, a thriving corporate culture results in “higher employee engagement, better retention, and more productive employees.” While a poor corporate culture leads to increased attrition rates, expensive hiring costs, and the longer roles are filled by new hires.
Now that in-person team building is not an option, allocate the first five minutes of the call to catching up about personal interests or hobbies or taking turns to share quick updates. These small yet impactful interactions go a long way in creating a feeling of belonging and “breaking the ice” before diving into business.
Take a Moment to Pause
One of the reasons some parties don’t engage is that they are not left an opening to share their thoughts without interrupting. A good rule of thumb for engaging ‘the quiet ones’ and combatting unconscious biases is to involve all parties by soliciting feedback, asking them for their opinions, and periodically pausing for input.
Circulate a Meeting Summary
For larger meetings, it’s not realistic nor completely necessary to hear from everyone on the line. However, some people might have ideas or clarifying questions that they either didn’t get a chance to ask during the call or didn’t have the nerve to speak up in front of so many people. Not to mention introverted types might still be processing information long after the call is over. For instances such as these, consider proactively soliciting engagement by circulating a meeting summary with something along the lines of, “If anyone has insights on any of the topics discussed please let me know, I’d love to hear from you.”
REMOTE CULTURE BUILT FOR THE LONG HAUL
Building a remote culture of trust and engagement will require more effort than it did in the office. Leaders that are serious about creating or maintaining a vibrant and collaborative working environment will need to spearhead the unworking of bad habits within their organization and pay extra attention to communication patterns during virtual meetings. With a little extra work and some great Poly technology to keep your workforce connected, organizations can unlock the full potential of their team’s collective thinking and create a thriving virtual culture where everyone feels welcomed and valuable.