“That meeting could have been an email.”
You’ve probably seen this meme if you spend time on social media. It refers to a fact that has only become more apparent since more and more of us are working remotely. Meetings can be more or less productive, depending on how they are conducted. However, one dynamic that may be less apparent is how meetings can inadvertently exclude the best ideas from everyone on our team.
Conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace often address cultural changes at the organizational level: employee handbooks, company policies, values statements, etc. However, the commitment to being more equitable and inclusive in the workplace must also take place at the interpersonal level, where change happens through discussion and education. Some of the best opportunities to engage in more inclusive and effective practices are meetings. These include staff meetings, department meetings, ownership groups, or any other grouping of team members. We often unintentionally create a dynamic where some team members are discouraged from attending meetings or speaking up. Other times, we don’t realize how meeting patterns can leave some people feeling left out or disempowered.
Studies have shown that being a more diverse and inclusive organization is correlated with being a more engaged, creative and financially successful organization, suggesting that if we as craft beer companies were more intentional in our commitment to inclusion, our community, our workspaces, our fund lines, and our people would all benefit.
Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging at work. This means that every employee feels comfortable and supported by the organization when it comes to being authentic themselves. Greater inclusion can help create greater fairness in our organizations when processes and programs are impartial, fair and allow everyone to achieve equal results. Greater inclusion and equity can help cultivate thriving diversity and vibrant differences in visible and invisible identities, backgrounds and perspectives that exist harmoniously in the workplace.
Here are considerations and resources for hosting more inclusive and effective meetings.
Considerations before the meeting
- Give advance notice of the meeting. Even if something feels urgent, do your best to give ample notice.
- Make sure everyone who needs to be involved is present at the meeting. If someone can’t be there, try to find a way for the person to join the meeting remotely. This can include video calls, phone calls, or making sure they jot down thoughts on the agenda that can be brought up in their absence.
- Set rules for the meeting. Don’t assume everyone knows the procedural and etiquette expectations. These rules can be short and to the point, but you, as a leader, must practice what you preach for them to remain rules. Example: When commenting on another colleague’s ideas, think about your understanding of them before commenting.
- Create an agenda. Send agendas with as much lead time as possible, ideally with the original meeting notification or invitation. Even if the agenda is for a regular meeting, the agendas don’t have to be the same for every meeting. This can give the impression that there is no room for comments or new contributions. Allow space for everyone to contribute or have the opportunity to add anything to the agenda ahead of time. Sometimes people need time and less pressure than being put on the spot to find something. Using a shared document can simplify this process.
Considerations during the meeting
- Be aware that seats are important. Make sure everyone is located the same, which means all seats are the same height, equidistant, and there are no head tables. You want to be there on the same playing field as everyone else. You are all collaborators.
- Managing interruptions and fostering interactions. Set the tone at the start of the meeting to encourage feedback and discourage interruptions. When someone interrupts, acknowledge that they have something to contribute, then redirect to the person who was interrupted. Be aware of unfair interrupt patterns. Research suggests that women are much more likely to be interrupted, and comments from people in marginalized communities are much more likely to be ignored than those of their white male counterparts.
- Find ways to encourage people of all comfort levels to participate. Invite participation at multiple levels. People process information and communicate in different ways. Asking for attendance during the meeting in the agenda ahead of time and on the meeting notes afterwards are two ways to increase attendance and inclusion with the added benefit of keeping the conversation going and relevant. for the team spirit. If you have particularly reluctant team members, you can start with a non-sales question encouraging everyone to speak up. For example, BA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee begins each meeting by inviting everyone to share something they are grateful for. Meeting leaders should strive to recognize when an individual or the same group of individuals is monopolizing the conversation and whether they are speaking for themselves or acting as a “spokesperson” for others who may have afraid to speak. Finally, beware of embarrassing people as this can cause them to shut down.
- Celebrate the value of opposing points of view. Creating a workplace where everyone feels a sense of belonging and is free to be themselves means recognizing the value of different perspectives and conflicting points of view. In fact, diverse teams have proven to be innovative because of the range of different ideas they consider. If your teams fall into consensus too easily, it may be because one more person is hesitant to offer what they think is an unpopular opinion. Try to ask strategically if anyone can give an opposing point of view to what has just been proposed or appoint someone to play the role of “devil’s advocate”. Taking care to normalize productive dissent can mitigate the risk of a U.S. against them dynamic to develop.
- Be aware of the role of biases. No one is perfect, but self-reflection and self-education will go a long way in reducing bias. Here are some forms of bias that commonly appear in meetings.
- A opportunity bias refers to our tendency to prefer quick decisions and actions. This bias can negatively affect introverts, those who prefer to take longer before speaking, those who are new to our teams, or those who might feel they are not members of a core group. Be sure to leave plenty of time for everyone to reflect and contribute.
- A proximity bias refers to our tendency to pay more attention to our physically close ones. This bias can affect our team members who attend meetings by phone or video. Please ensure that these team members are not out of sight when out of sight or physically in the room by setting aside space for remote contributions. Remember that implicit biases of all kinds can appear in a meeting. If not recognized and mitigated, this bias could very easily be considered “business as usual” for your organization.
Considerations for after the meeting
- Be sure to follow. If possible, send a summary or meeting notes to attendees during the day. If the meeting generated action items, ask your attendees on the days following the meeting about the assigned tasks.
- Provide opportunities for reflection and gather feedback. Ask participants how the meeting went and suggestions for future meetings. Questions you might consider asking include:
- What went well?
- What’s better next time?
- What could the meeting facilitator practice or model in the next meeting?
- What should the meeting leader know more about?
As you can see, there are many ways to make meetings more inclusive and effective. You don’t have to try everything. Try the strategies you can easily implement and keep working on new ways to make meetings better. If you are already using effective strategies to run inclusive and effective meetings, join the discussion in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion board on the BA forum.
The DEI Education Subcommittee is:
- Damon Arredondo (Unify Brewing – Kansas City, Missouri)
- Theresa Collins (Hopworks Urban Brewery – Portland, Oregon)
- Rachel Engel (Bosk Brew Works – Woodinville, Washington)
- Laura Lopez (Port City Brewing Company – Alexandria, Va.)
- Emily Silver (Brewers Association – Boulder, Colorado)
- William Teasley (Khonso Brewing Company – Atlanta, Georgia)
- Jody Valenta (Roadhouse Brewery – Jackson Hole, Wyo.)
- Tranice Watts (Facelift Lucy – Waldorf, MD)
- Roxanne Westendorf (AHA Steering Committee – Cincinnati, Ohio)