7 Technology Tricks to Turbocharge Inclusion and Engagement

Staying inclusive in the hybrid world requires constantly learning new and innovative ways to use digital tools. Using the full inclusive power of your technology will help your teams feel more connected, engaged, and included.

As organizations grapple with the Great Resignation, a critical element of retaining talent is proactively cultivating a culture of inclusion and belonging. This is becoming particularly important—and challenging—in today’s increasingly hybrid work world with teams distributed across the in-office and remote spectrum.

What we see across industries is that technologies to turbocharge inclusion and engagement are already here—but often underleveraged—so learning how to use them more effectively is critical.

7 Tech Tricks

Here are seven technology tricks that unlock inclusion superpowers:

1. Use Slack or Teams to connect in-office and remote team members. A media executive we’ve worked with has been doing this since before the pandemic, using Slack daily to post any insights from in-office “stop and chats” so remote team members could feel fully included through real-time updates. This not only helps current team members but also new ones, as they can read through past updates and get up to speed much faster.

2. Crowdsource ideas and questions. A great way to ensure everyone’s ideas are incorporated into a meeting is to ask attendees to provide input in advance. You can use polling tools like Slido or Mentimeter or a virtual focus group tool like Remesh. We recently used Remesh at our company offsite, for instance, to gather the “hottest” questions for an expert panel. Meeting participants could submit their questions and upvote questions from others—which enabled the organizers to see which questions had the most interest.

3. Brainstorm through virtual whiteboards. While brainstorming sessions with sticky notes are challenging in a hybrid world, tools like Mural or Miro make it much easier through a virtual sticky noting experience. We’ve run many workshops in which participants—both in-person and remote—have posted stickies real-time on the same canvas, largely recreating the in-person experience for everyone, regardless of location.

4. Adapt inclusive hybrid meeting practices. Many meeting organizers still design the experience around the in-person audience. This often makes remote participants feel excluded, when backs are to the camera, for instance, or when they can’t see everyone’s faces in an office meeting room. A best practice is to have everyone co-located also dial in from their laptop (muting sound) so everyone can see faces equally. Assigning a dedicated moderator as the “voice of the virtual audience” is also helpful for highlighting chat questions and ensuring all voices are fully heard.

5. Leverage accessibility features such as captions. Many platforms such as Teams have real-time captions, so ensuring those are enabled is a simple step that increases accessibility and inclusion. Microsoft itself, for instance, turns on captions as a default for all its meetings.  Captions also allow for real-time language translation on some platforms, which puts non-native speakers more at-ease, as well.

6. Encourage diverse contribution methods. Learning and encouraging diverse ways to contribute to discussions—speaking, chat, emoji reactions, etc.—helps team members with different communication styles feel they can comfortably stay engaged, even if they’re less comfortable jumping in to speak live.

7. Analyze and adjust to macro work patterns. The recent increase of virtual work has created much more visible data on workplace patterns and trends across the organization.  Regular analytics available through platforms such as Microsoft Viva, for instance, allow for organizational network analysis, which can be used to help the team expand their connections across the firm. Analytics around meeting hours and thinking time (or lack thereof) can be used by team leaders to get ahead of burnout and reengage the team.

Building a Sustainable Talent Advantage

Staying inclusive in the hybrid world requires constantly learning new and innovative ways to use digital tools. Using the full inclusive power of your technology will help your teams feel more connected, engaged, and included—building a sustainable talent advantage for the future.

Yulia Barnakova
Yulia Barnakova is passionate about helping people develop the skills and learning mindset to thrive in the digital age. She is always experimenting with emerging technologies and has been recognized by Microsoft as a “Most Valuable Professional” for her creative presentation technology tutorials, which have more than 8 million views on YouTube. Her recent TEDx Talk, Think You’re Not Tech Savvy? Here’s Why You Are, shows how everyone can (and must) develop the mindset and skill set embrace technology. Barnakova is an emerging tech strategist for Accenture, a global technology consulting firm. In her role, she works with Fortune 500 leaders to envision how emerging technologies will transform their business and how to stay ahead.