Hybrid workplaces offer a mix of benefits and possible drawbacks. While most employees appreciate the flexibility to work remotely at times, concerns remain around potential inequities between in-office and remote staff. These differences often result from proximity bias, which is a largely unconscious tendency to give preferential treatment to individuals in our immediate vicinity.
Partiality shows up in many ways, and one place it could appear every day is in our communication. When supervisors and leaders experience proximity bias, they may prioritize the interests, concerns and opinions of their in-person staff and create information hierarchies across the team.
Already, less than 30% of workers feel that their opinion matters to their manager, and these communication discrepancies may decrease trust, lower productivity and sink employee engagement – all of which add up to higher turnover. To keep everyone in the loop, consider these six practices for your day-to-day work.
6 Strategies to Amplify Information Access
1. Use multiple channels to share updates and prioritize virtual interaction.
Accurate and frequent communication is critical to help a hybrid team thrive and provide each person with the inputs they need to do their jobs successfully. Identify multiple ways to share updates, including in writing and verbally to support individuals across the Expressiveness spectrum. In addition to offering avenues for business- or task-focused exchanges, be sure to include some channels that are intended for fun to support stronger interpersonal connections.
To flatten knowledge hierarchies, make a commitment to prioritize virtual interaction and first share information on platforms that all team members have access to. Also, try to overcommunicate. I believe it’s nearly impossible to do so in hybrid environments, and I encourage you to try to prove me wrong! Various platforms will resonate with different people, and most individuals need to hear a message a few times for it to fully sink in. Utilizing multiple mediums can make communications more effective.
2. Create feedback loops.
When managers experience proximity bias, they may be inclined to ask for the opinions of in-office staff more frequently than remote team members. Address this issue by creating communication avenues that go upstream and downstream. Get in the habit of asking for input in a variety of places, and experiment with notification settings and reminders to consistently check all channels.
Also, ask a lot of questions to learn what can be done to improve the hybrid experience. Intentional curiosity will uncover many great ideas to test out to improve feedback loops and enhance asynchronous and synchronous exchanges. Finally, share how staff inputs are being used, so that individuals recognize their impact.
3. Model desired behaviors.
Start by identifying actions that will keep the hybrid team connected and in-the-know. For instance, there could be value in using chat outlets to increase ideation or problem solving. To help people make this best practice a routine, take time to initiate conversations through those mediums. Encourage responses by interacting with colleagues directly in each avenue – even if it’s just giving a thumbs up to a message.
It’s also important to recognize the benefits of regularly checking in with colleagues. Model consistency by connecting via chat or hosting periodic coffee meetings. Proactively demonstrating the behaviors that improve information access can set the standard for employees and inspire them to form habits that will enhance intra-team interactions.
4. Practice empathy.
Empathy is one of the most important leadership skills, and leaders can apply it to minimize inequity. Everyone will have different needs and interests when it comes to communication. To provide relevant updates to staff, consider what will empower employees to feel confident to move forward and motivated to perform.
That starts with understanding who is on the team, learning about their communication preferences and asking what data, systems or practices will boost their productivity. Using tools like Emergenetics® creates greater awareness around the way individuals prefer to think and behave and how those interests translate into management and knowledge sharing. By speaking directly to people’s needs, it is highly likely they will gain the information they require to be successful.
5. Use the seven Emergenetics Attributes.
When conversing with the whole team, consider all of the Emergenetics Attributes. Employees are likely to have a wide range of preferences for the Thinking and Behavioral Attributes and addressing each of their needs will minimize knowledge gaps.
Knowing the seven Attributes will simplify this process, and if they are unfamiliar, these high-level questions below are a good start to enhance communications:
- Why is the information important?
- How will any next steps be accomplished?
- Who does the update impact?
- What possibilities may be unlocked?
Also, be mindful of delivery:
- How can messages meet the preferences of internal and external processors?
- What pace is being established?
- What is certain and what is still undecided?
6. Promote the value of cognitive diversity.
When information inequity exists, team members may miss out on valuable insights from remote employees. One way to persuade individuals to seek out the opinions of colleagues who are not sitting next to them is to celebrate the importance of diversity of thought.
Cognitive diversity improves so much about work – from innovation and creativity to productivity and performance. Use our programs to demonstrate the value of diverse perspectives and utilize Emergenetics Profiles to help colleagues find thought partners who offer different points of view. Outside of Thinking and Behavioral preferences, staff can share their skillsets and backgrounds with one another, so coworkers have a better understanding of who they can lean on for various expertise.
In an environment that promotes information equity, individuals will be more engaged because they will feel heard, understand that their perspectives are valued and recognize they have a positive influence on the outcomes and direction of their team. This sort of culture is possible through positive, effective communication.
If your organization could benefit from flattening information hierarchies, I encourage you to download our guide: Bridge the Gap to a Better Company Culture. It features more strategies and reflection questions to shape interactions and inspire a more productive, engaging workplace.
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