Inclusion is the key to engagement

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Sep 07 2023 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

How do you keep employees engaged when they arenít interacting with their team-mates and leader every day? The answer is to make sure weíre mindful about including them whenever we have the opportunity.

Positive team inclusion makes for stronger emotional connections, both with fellow team-mates and our work. We become more invested in our work, and we work harder and smarter. That makes sense on paper, but what does real inclusion look like?

In Meetings

Obviously, we want people to participate in our meetings no matter where they may be. In truth, physical distance creates both challenges and opportunities for better team inclusion. Some of the things we can do to be more inclusive during meetings are:

  • Donít let the people in the room dominate during hybrid meetings. Allow those connected remotely to take part in discussions early, rather than as an afterthought. Make sure the sound and picture are clear (even if you have to invest in new meeting room equipment).
  • Encourage connection by using chat and webcam. The smaller the group, the more it matters.
  • Actively solicit input. This is especially valuable if you know someone has expertise or critical information the others donít have. Raising their profile within the group increases their value as well as their sense of connection to the work. Allowing people to hide serves no one well.

When Collaborating

People often take collaboration to mean working together at the same time to solve a problem or reach an outcome. That assumption means we rely on meetings that exclude some peopleís contributions while over-valuing others. It ignores the realities of time zones and creates an advantage to those in the main office or geographic area. It also doesnít leave time for quiet thought and examining assumptions. On a hybrid team, team inclusion is not just getting contributions from every member. It also allows time and space for every member to do their best work. Include people more effectively by:

  • Using discreet discussion groups in Teams or Slack. Keep the group small and focused on a single task or project. This way, you only involve those with a stake in the outcome.
  • Leave plenty of time before and after meetings for additional input from any team member. Have fewer, more focused meetings while still sharing ideas and asking important questions.
  • Actively encourage co-located team members to be inclusive of their remote team-mates.

When Managing Day-to-Day

A sense of inclusion makes people WANT to take part in the teamís work. What other practices promote and even advocate for inclusion?

  • Delegate tasks for their development and inclusion outcomes, not just completing the task. When youíre looking to get something off your list, change up your own routine. Instead of delegating it to the same person you always delegate to, pick someone else. Pick someone who maybe isnít as close by as your usual go-to person. Someone who might even need some input from another team member to get the job done. Collaboration is often a jumping off point for inclusion.
  • When asking for volunteers or those interested, donít assume asking once in a meeting is enough. People who work isolated from others can be distracted and hesitant to volunteer for things in the moment. Actively solicit participation. Use your coaching conversations to uncover work or projects that will energize your team members.
  • Encourage your team to be inclusive as well. Itís tempting to grab near-by warm bodies and brainstorm. But you may miss out on an opportunity to involve other team members.
  • Ask each member of the team how theyíd like to be involved. Some want to be in the spotlight, while some folks are just happy to be involved. Everyone likes to be recognized for their talents and contributions, just not in the same way.

Stop and ask, ďAm I including everyone and giving them a chance to succeed?Ē It wonít mean every team member grabs the opportunity or becomes actively engaged. But you should still do everything you can to include everyone and get the best outcomes.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.