How to Get Your Quiet Employees to Participate in Meetings

You’ve heard the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Does that adage apply when you’re trying to engage your employees in meetings at work? If you have a corporate culture of blaming or a place where employees feel shut down, it’s likely that your quietest employees will be reluctant to speak out in meetings.

Here’s how to change the vibe in your meetings so that even your most recalcitrant employees will feel empowered enough to speak up.

Best Ways to Encourage Meeting Participation 

While research firm Pew says employee engagement is increasing, 70% of your workforce just isn’t that into the work they’re doing. It’s a problem for managers who are trying to increase audience participation during meetings to increase innovation and change corporate culture. Here are a few ways to help engage your teams: 

  • Don’t let managers or even workers dominate the discussion during meetings. Retrain managers to ask more questions to guide discussions. Many times we see leadership soliciting advice from their team and then immediately filling the silence with their own opinion. What worker is going to blatantly go against their manager in a public setting?  
  • Avoid open-ended, vague questions and instead focus on improving the quality of the questions you ask. Make the questions very specific, such as:
  • “What type of incentives can we use to increase customer feedback?”  
  • “What steps can we cut to improve our time-to-market?” 
  • “Give me one suggestion for how we can improve worker safety?” 
  • Never, ever, shoot down an idea in a meeting. It will make that employee feel shut down and less likely to contribute in the future. It’s demoralizing and frustrating and even worse because everyone is watching how you handle the interaction. If you mess this one up, your employees will be less likely to speak out in subsequent meetings.  
  • Try a round Robin approach to meetings by going around the table to ask each person their opinion. This will be hard for your shiest employees, but it’s a way to force their inclusion and engagement. But if the manager is trained to give each person direct eye contact, or affirm that you’re listening with a head nod, or, if the meeting is virtual give verbal support, such as, “Thanks for suggesting that.” Use the person’s name during the interaction so that they know you’re hearing them. 
  • Make sure your meetings aren’t a waste of time. If you’re subjecting employees to a number of useless meetings each week, they are more likely to disengage. Instead, ask workers if the meeting is helpful or necessary. If you ask workers what they have to contribute and the answer is, “Nothing,” perhaps the meeting isn’t as necessary as you thought. 
  • Finally, encourage workers to disagree with you by supporting their alternative suggestions. Don’t shoot the suggestion down; instead, talk about it in a positive way. This is a good way to draw out reluctant or quiet employees into the conversation.

Meeting dynamics take a constant process of tweaking and some skill to ensure that they go well and that employees feel like their input is needed and heard. If you’re frustrated with the contributions of your employees, perhaps it’s time for some fresh talent. That’s where PrideStaff can help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.