“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” ~ Ralph G. Nichols
We know that the workplace can be a very diverse environment that is made up of people who have different backgrounds, levels of experience, personality types, beliefs, etc. Having a diverse workforce is both a good thing and necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing business environment. Often we get business value and ideas from people through meetings, collaboration, brainstorming sessions and random chats. These spaces are an ideal opportunity to be inclusive and draw on the diversity of your people to elevate your business to the next level. Your people are a part of the general public. They have families, friends and interests outside of work. They’ve had different life experiences. It’s likely that they can provide unique insights and ideas that will set your business apart.
It’s important to manage and balance the voices in the room during meetings and collaborative sessions. There are individuals who actively contribute during these sessions, and there are individuals who appear to have no contribution because they hardly say anything. The lack of contribution could be out of fear of being judged or because they are drowned out by those who are more vocal. When the voices are imbalanced, the business loses out on insights that can provide true value, different viewpoints, untapped opportunities, and new ways to improve.
Balancing the voices and getting everyone to contribute isn’t always easy. The following suggestions can help you to get more of your people to contribute ideas:
If you are going to have a meeting or collaborative session, communicate this ahead of time and clarify the specific topic(s) that will be discussed and how everyone should prepare
Make your meetings and collaborative sessions a space that welcomes and values ideas and input from all voices in the room
People generate ideas differently – some by interaction with others, others by thinking alone. Split your brainstorming sessions between having conversations and quiet thinking time. This can help you to maximise the value and ideas of all your people
Since people generate ideas differently, provide alternative methods for your people to contribute and provide ideas after meetings or collaborative sessions (e.g. via written communication)
Give positive acknowledgement for the contributions that your people make, use ideas wherever possible and encourage them to keep sharing. “If you don’t create a great, rewarding place for people to work, they won’t do great work.” – Ari Weinzweig
An organisation that wants to thrive and move beyond conventional approaches needs to become innovative in how they get business value from all their people. This will help them to stay ahead in a business environment that has become volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous.
Businesses need support when balancing people engagement and business objectives.
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