Extroverts get a lot of attention and recognition because they’re the squeaky wheels at your company. The valuable contributions of introverts, on the other hand, may get overlooked because those employees are less likely to fight to get noticed. Sound familiar? Then you may have an employee engagement problem on your hands that could cost you a lot of money in the long run.
We tend to value extroversion in the workplace because it looks a lot like passion and dedication. Quiet, thoughtful introverts can look less dedicated at first glance, but are often more productive, better risk takers, and make great leaders. Ignoring the needs of these high-performing employees when you’re looking at employee engagement activities can mean unintentionally alienating a big portion of your workforce — which might just mean they will vote with their feet.
That’s an expensive mistake to make when you consider that the average cost to rehire for a single position is typically equal to 33% of the annual compensation for that position. It makes a lot more sense to look at employee engagement strategies that can help introverted employees feel more comfortable, more satisfied, and as a result, more loyal to your company.
Below, we’ve put together a big list of employee engagement strategies designed just for introverts — but first we want to talk about what sets your introverted employees apart and why engaging them matters so much.
Instead of talking about ‘energy’ like many articles about introversion and extroversion do, let’s look at the science behind introverts and extroverts. Introverts and extroverts quite literally have different brains. When you look at scans of introverts and extroverts, you’ll see a difference in concentrations of gray matter, and where there’s more gray matter, there are more of certain kinds of skills. Your classic hand-raising, go-getter extrovert will have more gray matter in the medial orbitofrontal cortex area of the brain, while deep-thinking introverts have more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex.
On top of that, introvert brains and extrovert brains respond differently to dopamine — the chemical that motivates us, makes us more talkative, and keeps us alert, among other functions. Extroverts have more active dopamine receptors, while introverts respond more readily to a chemical called acetylcholine that makes people feel good when they turn inward.
All of this technical stuff means that your introverted employees have great problem-solving skills, amazing memories, and a knack for planning and then following through on long-term projects. They are energized by thinking, reflecting, and mapping out the future. By common metrics of employee engagement, they can seem unengaged, but if you shift your employee engagement strategies and corporate communications strategies to include activities and tech tools they’ll like, they will become some of your most engaged employees.
The short answer is that engaged employees stick around. When workers in different industries are surveyed, researchers commonly find that many — as many as half — would be willing to accept another job offer on the spot if the benefits were right. What’s surprising isn’t that those employees would be willing to go, but rather that the other half are willing to stay even when given the promise of greater pay somewhere else. That’s employee engagement.
When your workforce (introverts and extroverts alike) feel a connection both to the work they are doing and to your company’s larger goals, they’ll be more likely to stick around through thick and thin, which will save you time and money. They’ll also work harder, be more productive, and more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Here’s how to make sure your introverted employees are just as engaged as the extroverts at your company:
1. Change your interview process
When your goal is to boost employee engagement in introverts, why not start from day one? In job interviews, many extroverts shine because they’re born to pitch, even in stressful situations or when what they’re pitching is themselves. Introverts will often perform best in job interviews that feel more like one-on-one conversations rather than panel-style interviews where they feel like a product on display. Unless you’re hiring for a high-stress position, you may end up with a broader pool of great candidates if you do things like make less small talk and give interviewees time to carefully consider their answers to your questions.
2. Limit team sizes on group projects
Working with huge teams can be extremely stressful for introverts for a variety of reasons. Two heads may be better than one, but once teams get too large productivity can suffer because there is more back and forth happening than actual work. Introverts tend to prefer less chaotic work environments, and you can cut down on chaos by following Jeff Bezos’ two pizza rule — if you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s probably too big.
3. Make work more flexible
Extroverts may love the hustle and bustle of your busy workspace, but that same energy can drive your introverts crazy. Create space for uninterrupted work time by instituting flex work and other policies that allow employees to come in earlier or leave later to take advantage of an emptier office. Allowing employees to work from home when the mood strikes or to disconnect from the company intranet when they’re heads down on a big project can also boost employee engagement in the long run.
4. Have meeting-free days
Regular meeting-free days also cut down on the kinds of interruptions that can leave introverts feeling disconnected from their work. When there are regular days or times when no meetings can be scheduled, introverts can comfortably immerse themselves in projects at those times because they know their focus won’t be compromised by yet another meeting.
5. Make meetings introvert-friendly
Don’t spring meetings on your introverts who may benefit from time to prepare for each one. Make sure introverts get a chance to prepare for each meeting in advance and to give their input after all the extroverts have had their say. Also, be sure that your meetings are relevant to current projects and have structure. You can bet that it’s your introverted employees who are feeling the most annoyed and uncomfortable when a meeting goes off the rails.
6. Or just have fewer meetings
Before you schedule that next meeting, ask yourself whether you really need to pull that employee away from their vital tasks for some face-to-face time? Could you accomplish the same thing with an employee app like Blink that lets you curate and disseminate information in ways that respect your introverted workforce’s valuable time?
7. Update your communications methods
Just because extroverts are the first ones to stand up to deliver project updates in front of the team doesn’t mean introverts have nothing to say. An app like Blink can help the introverts at your company have more of a voice without forcing them too far outside of their comfort zones. You could use video as an update tool versus requiring all employees to give in-person presentations. They can connect with their colleagues for collaboration and mentorship right in the app. And it’s a way to recognize and applaud the contributions of introverts without forcing them into the spotlight.
8. Invest in additional training
One of the biggest challenges deskless workers face is feeling like they don’t have the same resources available to them as employees in a traditional office setting do. This can make them feel less confident in their work—especially if they are introverted and may not feel like they are able to reach out for help. By offering ongoing training, you will not only help your introverted, deskless employees feel more confident in their work, but you’ll also show them that you are invested in their success.
9. Brainstorm better
Group brainstorming sessions can feel chaotic to a true introvert because there’s little structure and some voices will always drown out others. Brainstorming sessions are easier on introverts when groups are smaller and there is some structure in place guiding the sessions. That might mean pre-planning when you’ll discuss what topics or asking people to prepare ideas in advance. That will give the introverts in your company time to reflect on what they want to say and as a result, they’ll be more likely to share their great ideas.
10. Give introverts opportunities to get social
The idea that introverts don’t like people or don’t like having fun is a pervasive myth that has unfortunately caused a lot of harm. Introverts are as friendly and as fun as extroverts—and can party just as hard when they want to. Give your employees a platform like Blink where they can share social events with coworkers and encourage (but don’t require) people to get to know each other inside of and outside of work.
11. Rethink the open office
If you’re in a position to contemplate an office redesign, keep in mind that open office spaces aren’t always the collaboration engines they were meant to be. Between greetings, noisy colleagues, chit chat, and other interruptions, open offices can be very distracting—and not just for introverts who might not want to stop work to talk about last night’s big game. If a redesign is out of the question, think about creating ‘quiet zones’ outside of communal areas where introverts can get a break from the noise.
12. Put introverts into leadership positions
You might assume that extroverts are more suited for leadership roles, but consider that many of the world’s most capable leaders (e.g., Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, or Warren Buffet) have been introverts. Why do introverts make good leaders? They tend to be fiercely dedicated, thoughtful decision makers, and surprisingly strong willed. Plus, they’re good listeners.
13. Make space for communication
Be sure that you’re giving introverts space to share their ideas and concerns, whether that’s by asking for their opinions in meetings, holding regular open-door hours, or giving them an employee engagement platform like Blink where they can respond anonymously to company-wide polls. If you get the sense that your introverted employees don’t feel like they’re being heard, ask them to share their thoughts or feelings in writing at their leisure.
14. The right praise and feedback go a long way
Often, deskless and frontline employees don’t have a supervisor observing their day-to-day performance and as a result, may receive little to no praise or feedback from their manager. While it’s true that praise and feedback are good for all employees, how you deliver praise and feedback is important too—especially when it comes to your introverted employees. Introverted employees want to be recognized when they do an outstanding job on something, but likely prefer a personal email from their manager, rather than a company-wide shout out.
15. Realize that introversion is a spectrum
Avoid stereotyping the introverts and the extroverts at your company by acknowledging that each individual will fall somewhere on a spectrum. That way you avoid making the mistake of leaving introverted workers out of employee engagement activities or not giving extroverted employees time for quiet reflection or uninterrupted work. Ideally, the employee engagement strategies you put in place should address the needs of all the people who work at your company.
There are so many diverse personality types at every company, and that’s a good thing. Everyone who works with you should feel like they have a role to play, whether it’s the thinker, the communicator, the analyzer, the risk taker, or the seller. When you make sure that introverts feel just as comfortable and fulfilled at your company as your extroverted employees, you’ll absolutely reap the benefits. Engaging employees across the board should be your ultimate goal.
Blink is an all-in-one employee engagement platform that can change the way your workforce feels about your company. Try it out today! Request a Demo