Amy Casciotti, VP of HR at TechSmith, shares how an innovative approach to meetings and communication practices promotes equity, amplifies diverse voices, and cultivates a thriving work culture.
Amy, could you share some specific examples of how the traditional meeting structure at TechSmith inadvertently led to inequity among employees?
Employees often enter meetings with varying levels of subject matter familiarity, leaving those with less knowledge or a timid personality disadvantaged in sharing ideas or feedback. So it’s no surprise that contributions regularly come from the louder voices or fastest thinkers in the room — not always the best.
It also becomes unclear unless you can experience what happens when these discussions occur outside a meeting. When we conducted our Async-First experiment last July, where we eliminated most meetings in favour of asynchronous communication, I started to hear great feedback and opinions on HR policies from team members I seldom heard in our traditional meeting structure.
In the past, when we would discuss potential changes during a meeting, undoubtedly, someone would offer a new thought at a later date after having time to digest the information. Many times, decisions had already been made and plans put into action. It is possible that different choices would have been made had we received additional information from these individuals.
How did you identify and measure the inequities caused by traditional meetings? Were there any surprising findings?
Ironically, the inequities were the surprise finding during our Async-First experiment. It was designed to create fewer, better meetings for employees experiencing meeting bloat. But with teams communicating asynchronously, we noticed more participation from employees who were usually quiet in meetings. It opened our eyes to how many good perspectives may be lost if we don’t address the issue.
What steps did TechSmith take to address the inequities and create a more equitable meeting environment? What has been particularly effective in giving a voice to lesser-heard colleagues?
To maximise time spent together and combat inequity, team leads now create “flipped meetings” using screen capture technology to share important information ahead of scheduled calls. All attendees can view recordings on their own time, ensuring everyone is given an equal opportunity to process the information presented and brainstorm ideas in advance. Since adopting this new structure, reserved employees have become more comfortable and confident in sharing their ideas with colleagues.
Did you face any challenges or resistance when implementing these changes? If so, how did you overcome them?
Because our employees were accustomed to a certain way of doing things, there was an expected learning curve as we introduced asynchronous communication tools, such as Snagit and Slack, more heavily into the workflow to supplant meetings.
We realised quickly that the only way to overcome this resistance was to trust each team to create a workflow best suited for the way they work. If flipped meetings aren’t comfortable for a team member, we encourage them to find an alternative that suits their needs. These changes are guidelines within our company for this reason. While we are big proponents of these new updates, we value our employees’ happiness the most.
Besides the changes in meeting structure, what other investments has TechSmith made to improve equitable communication at their new hybrid-first HQ?
From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to implement a digital-first approach in our new office because if one employee is digital, everyone should follow a digital communication protocol, including those who are in-person. Wherever our employees work, we want to ensure they can communicate with one another seamlessly and that we are not enabling a system where in-person employees have an inherent advantage over remote staff.
To accomplish this, we spent over $6M in technology to mitigate the issue. We installed Zoom Rooms technology, where pushing a button can bring up current meetings happening across offices. Additionally, each room has a Zoom whiteboard, so brainstorming sessions can happen anywhere and anytime. We even implemented small details like speaking panels outfitted with over 100 mini microphones into our rooms to ensure those of all heights and voice tones can be heard.
In what ways has the new meeting structure and improved communication practices positively impacted the overall work culture at TechSmith?
Widespread adoption of asynchronous communication tools and procedures like flipped meetings have given employees precious creative thinking time and allowed them to optimise their schedules to best suit their needs. You can’t have flexible work if you’re anchored down by too many meetings – virtual or not.
Additionally, the technology implemented in our headquarters has allowed employees to make meaningful connections with their colleagues regardless of location. In a hybrid work setting, it can be challenging for employees to create and maintain close relationships with one another. Still, we’ve found that the latest technological upgrades within our new headquarters have helped reduce this barrier.
Have you noticed any changes in employee engagement, collaboration, or satisfaction since implementing these changes?
We have seen an increase in meeting satisfaction because we no longer use them for information sharing and only when important decisions must be made. We have noticed increased collaboration as it is now easier to share information with a group without trying to find time on everyone’s calendar through asynchronous communication. We are finding that with video, there are a lot fewer misunderstandings and miscommunication, like there can be when someone is sending information in a text format.
How have employees responded to the new meeting structure and the emphasis on equitable communication? Have you received any feedback from them?
TechSmith teams have received our new meeting structure well, with 85% indicating they would be cancelling some meetings and replacing them with asynchronous communication in the future. Our goal was never to replace meetings entirely, so we’re happy to see our teams thinking outside the box to optimise their schedules and time spent together.
What advice would you give other organisations addressing inequities in meeting structures and communication practices?
Start by actively listening to your employees more. Corporate leaders are seldom in the same meetings as the rest of their team and may be unaware that only a few voices are being heard. Managers should dedicate time to speak with their teams about the pain points they’re experiencing within their current meeting set-up, what they’d like to see change, and be open to feedback for solutions. It’s important to do this team-by-team, as not every department works the same way.
As more companies adopt a hybrid work structure, corporate leaders should be intentional about the communication and productivity tools available to employees. Whether at home or in-office, every staff member deserves to feel like they’re equipped with the technology necessary to complete work and participate on equal footing with others. By doing so, companies will also help foster open communication among team members and, thus, a more inclusive workplace.