With people now working remotely, it’s especially relevant for organizations to take into account the needs of introverts in their evolving work environments. Keeping talent engaged and continuing to perform has become even more urgent in these challenging times of both the pandemic, and economic and social unrest.
Organizations can look at this time as an opportunity to make overdue workplace changes. They can strive to become exemplary leaders of introverts, to implement hiring and promotion practices that aren’t biased against introverts and to create high performing remote work situations and flexible office spaces to ensure that everyone knows that they matter.
These seven key organizational practices will help to create more introvert-inclusive cultures and work practices:
1. Target great introvert talent. In a 2019 workplace survey of mostly introverts, 38 percent of respondents said their organizations demonstrate a willingness to hire and promote introverts. Today, organizations can take advantage of technology such as YouTube videos that offer people prospective employees the chance to see what it’s like to work for their company. Additionally, potential hires can now interview virtually without the pressure of in-person stressors.
2. Give introverts opportunities to share. In a typical group session, the ideas of quieter contributors rarely surface. One sales leader realized that none of the introverts shared during weekly conference calls and decided to give others a chance to speak. “I decided to wait for at least five comments before I spoke up. It was hard, but worth it because we heard many new voices.”
3. Uncover any unconscious bias. This time out of the office provides an opportunity to focus on expanding your knowledge of unconscious bias. Without even realizing it, you may perceive introverts as meek, indecisive and anti-social. This could impact the types of opportunities and support you offer them.
4. Provide introverts a forum to share their work style preferences. In the work from home scenario, it’s easy to become disconnected. Leaders need to provide safe environments where people can share. Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) like those established at 84.51°, provide forums where introverts can meet around specific topics. These groups sponsor discussions in which people can talk openly and understand each other in new ways. Another consideration is to talk with introverts on your teams about their preferred ways of interacting.
5. Design workable workplace settings. Organizations have learned a lot about being flexible in the past few months. Many have witnessed a huge positive response to remote work. But for companies reopening their offices or whose employees never left, it may be time to rethink office spaces. Open plans can be just as effective as traditional private offices, particularly when they offer quiet pods where the conversation is off-limits so that staff can focus. Lack of privacy and noise were perennial complaints from introverts responding to the workplace survey. Ask introverts what office plans work for them and listen to their ideas for addressing potential problems with shared spaces.
6. Support customized on-site and remote working arrangements. Working from home can offer increased autonomy and distraction-free alone time that allow introverts to do their best work. However, that isn’t true for everyone, including parents with children and other family members who are also in the home. Don’t assume that because people are introverted they automatically want to work at home. Not all do. Zillow’s Chief People Officer, Dan Spaulding, recently said, “…we also recognize that there is a balance between where people can be most effective, and that balance is unique for all of us. For some people, that may mean coming into the office a couple of days every month, and other people may want to come into the office three or four days a week just because of how their situation sets up.” Organizations can customize their work-from-home and in-office arrangements to fit employees’ needs.
7. Become a voice for the quiet. Rather than expecting introverts to adapt to the traditional, mainstream corporate culture, work to become a change agent in your organization to build a culture that can work both ways. Set the stage for a psychologically safe environment — one that welcomes quiet, calm contributions as well as expressive, energetic ones.
If you believe your organization needs to do more to harness introvert talent, encourage your organizational leaders to start by taking the Creating An Introvert-Friendly Workplace quiz. Compare your responses to others in your organization as a starting point for discussion and to show you where to focus your efforts.