Learn how to accommodate introverts in the workplace, starting with training.
When we talk about diversity and inclusion, we often focus on making equitable accommodations for various physical differences and abilities. But what about personality differences? One major difference your employees might experience is how workers prefer to get their energy and interact. Extrovert traits typically take center stage in workplace interactions like brainstorming meetings and leadership summits. However, introversion provides unique benefits in the workplace — if you make room for the introverts on your team.
Accommodating introverts and extroverts in the workplace starts with training. Training programs are one of the first introductions a new employee has to an employer, so they can have a lasting impact.
Effectively training introverts may look different from training extroverts. Here’s how to design a training program that works for both extroverts and introverts at work.
How do introverts behave in the workplace?
It’s estimated that 40% of people are introverts, while 20% of people are “ambiverts” who can display both introvert and extrovert traits.
First, let’s look at what characterizes introverts in the workplace and the world. It’s estimated that 40% of people are introverts, while 20% of people are “ambiverts” who can display both introvert and extrovert traits.
Learning if you’re introverted goes beyond observing whether you’re quiet around other people. Introverts may be talkative in one setting, while an extrovert may contribute less verbally. The main difference lies in how someone becomes energized.
Introverts usually recharge their energy by being alone. Extroverts tend to become more energized when they’re around other people. Many introverts prefer to work autonomously, at least some of the time. Being alone while working gives introverts more time to replenish their energy stores and think creatively.
Introverts also tend to disengage from small talk. They value deeper connections and one-on-one interactions, rather than surface-level group conversations. An introvert might want to skip a big group lunch but would look forward to going to coffee one-on-one with a coworker to get to know them.
Why do introverts struggle at work?
Introverts may struggle at work when they’re in a workplace that’s more accommodating to extroversion. This type of work environment might look like one that:
- Has an open office plan, where coworkers can easily talk with peers or be heard in conversation
- Books worker calendars with group meetings
- Prioritizes brainstorming that involves group discussions
- Rewards workers who contribute more visibly by talking or promoting themselves online
When introverts don’t have time to be alone and recharge, their energy levels can deplete quickly. By the time the third group meeting of the day rolls around, an introvert’s mood may have become negative or irritable.
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What introverts need from a training program
It’s possible to design training to be more equitable for all personality types. Here are some best practices to keep in mind.
1. Explain what to expect
First, give your trainees time to process what they can expect from the training. This helps them mentally prepare for what’s ahead and set themselves up for success in the best way possible.
Provide an agenda that includes topics you’ll discuss and what kinds of speakers and social interactions to anticipate. For introverts, knowing what’s ahead can help them plan their days better and feel more in control of what might be a highly energetic or social situation.
2. Include quiet moments
Instead of having a trainer talk through the training points the entire time, include some quiet training moments. Let new employees read part of the training or work on an exercise on their own, for example.
Also, consider how you solicit contributions from trainees. If you ask group questions, introverts may be less likely to raise their hand, even when they have something to contribute. One way to include more contributions is to give trainees time to write down their thoughts first. Then, you can ask specific people to share what they wrote or give everyone in the training session the chance to contribute.
3. Consider the space
Introverts are sensitive to the stimulation in their environment. This could come from the number of people in a room, harsh lighting, or loud colors, for example.
To accommodate introverts, try to make your training space calm and inviting. Try using softer lighting or adding more comfortable seating options, for instance.
You could also break down training sessions into several groups to keep groups smaller. Another option is to make part of the training self-taught. That way, trainees can access material in whatever environment is most comfortable for them.
4. Schedule breaks
For longer training sessions (an all-day training, for example), schedule breaks that allow trainees to recharge. Make sure trainees know they can move out of the training room on their break to take a walk or find a private moment. If you force people to socialize in the same room on their breaks, introverts may start to feel drained.
Make breaks a priority for group work. When you schedule group training activities, surround them with quiet, solo-training exercises that will help introverts recharge.
For longer training sessions (an all-day training, for example), schedule breaks that allow trainees to recharge. Make sure trainees know they can move out of the training room on their break to take a walk or find a private moment.
5. Debrief one on one
After training, make sure trainees have time to meet with their managers to discuss what they’ve learned. Since introverts may prefer to communicate in one-on-one settings, make sure to include this type of meeting in your training.
A one-on-one debrief with a manager allows introverts and other trainees to express themselves and share anything they might not have felt comfortable sharing in a larger group session. This meeting also gives trainees the chance to ask lingering questions and get any clarification they need.
Focus on diversity and inclusion from hiring to training
At work, introverts can make significant contributions, especially when they feel supported and accommodated from the start. You can learn more about people’s preferred work styles when you recruit and interview candidates. Once you’ve hired an employee, learn what kind of training they prefer so you can work to accommodate those preferences.
After each training, gather feedback from trainees. As you learn about and listen to people’s work preferences, you can shape your organization to accommodate all introverts and extroverts in the workplace.