Microsoft Teams raise your hand feature – the issue most organisations haven’t considered

This new feature is great, but it requires some change in behaviour that many haven’t stopped to think about.

What am I going on about?

It isn’t a standard meeting behaviour to put your hand up. Seriously, when have you ever sat around a meeting room table and raised your hand?

While there is a place for it, particularly with everyone working remotely, how it works into meeting flow needs to be considered. Technology should allow us to try and mirror the in-room experience or innovate, not cause confusion.

I have been to meetings since this feature was released and it caused confusion. Why? Because there were no expectations set about when it was to be used. Along with it not being highly visible. People were raising a hand and others hadn’t noticed, while others would interject and participate in meetings as they always had. Even I jumped onto a call one morning, verbally asked questions or raised a point along with a few others, to find some people later raised their hand. I then felt awkward with this sense of “was I supposed to raise a hand and not speak? There was no instruction!”. I was participating in meetings the way they had always been run, like many of my fellow participants. Yet some people were adopting this new feature and it was confusing.

With many people working at home, I do feel this feature helps with some of the way we experience meetings. It can be much easier to click on this than to try to interject amongst dominating voices. This is great to drive greater inclusion, however there needs to be some guidance.

Just because there is new technology, doesn’t mean we are led by it and must change how we operate. We need to consider how it fits in to business process or innovates and decide if it adds value for us.

There have been some other enhancements to meetings this year and will be more to follow. Think about which ones enhance the flow of your meetings and take a moment to reset. You might want to have some targeted updates or widespread upskill on these features.

Release some guidance and communication. This can be widespread, or for particular groups. For example, if you have a weekly working group update them – check in with the group and kick off the next session with an update on how you can use this new feature in the flow of your weekly meetings. We don’t just mute everyone without addressing why, its common courtesy. I am certain some of our team meetings don’t need the raise hand feature, whereas a more formal briefing it add enormous value. I have also experienced presentations where the speaker cannot see a hand is raised while in presentation mode and the moment for that question is lost. People should be able to speak up verbally if the moment requires it (unless told not to!).

Joining a meeting remotely can be frustrating. You can lose the valuable visual cues like body language and even just be harder to work out how to speak up and make a point or ask a question. Microsoft are releasing great features to help this more and more, but we must own our experience and create an environment for our people to achieve their goals rather than just have inconsistency in use of features. No one wants to feel like they unknowingly insulted someone because they verbally interjected and didn’t see there was a hand raised. Help people understand and set expectations.

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