Communication is at the heart of any business.
If your team can’t properly communicate, they probably won’t be able to get things done and meet their goals.
As a manager or business owner, it’s your job to create an environment where they’ll be able to tackle new challenges and articulate themselves clearly than alone by themselves.
Here’s a look at the methods and tools you can use to improve team communication.
Note: If you’re looking for a simple way of managing your employee’s internal tasks, check out this list of effective task management software.
Your employees must be able to communicate confidently and clearly with one another. Here are four aspects of team communication that can make or break your business:
1. Efficient planning. Maximize efficiency
Getting your project off the ground will be difficult if your communication is in disarray.
The narrower the gap between the understanding of a sender and the recipient, the clearer the communication. Clear communication across a range of channels gives your team the power to collaborate flawlessly and move their project forward.
Clear communication also makes it easier for your team members to know where they stand and what’s expected of them on a daily basis.
2. Agile execution. Stay flexible
Your team will find it difficult to respond to changing circumstances if they cannot communicate effectively.
We all know that in business, things change fast. Your team needs to think on their feet and communicate with one another to accommodate those changes. The ability to communicate gives your team the power to succeed in the face of shifting circumstances.
3. Constructive feedback. Move in the right direction
If your team members don’t feel comfortable sharing suggestions and opinions, the quality of your product or service will suffer.
It’s important that every member of your team is encouraged to find their voice and provide clear feedback. Your team members interact with your business daily, and their insights and opinions might help boost your bottom line.
4. Satisfied colleagues. Keep everybody happy
If your colleagues feel ignored or undervalued, they’ll quickly abandon your business and find an alternative.
We are all social creatures, and it’s very important that our voices are heard. We will quickly leave a group if we feel that our contributions aren’t valued. This is why every team member should be empowered to speak their mind.
Finding the right team communication channels for your projects
In today’s world, we communicate in more ways than ever before. Here’s a closer look at the key categories of communication channels that you should use.
1. Face-to-face interaction
Keep things personal.
Technology is all around us, but it will never be able to replace face-to-face communication. In fact, our brains are shaped in such a way as to seek physical interactions and respond to even the slightest signals of it. This helps us to articulate ourselves clearly and understand another person’s intentions.
Face-to-face communication is very important in the world of business too. Research from Harvard shows that a request made face-to-face is 34 times more likely to get a positive response when compared to an email – keep things personal to create a sense of team spirit and build strong links between your team.
2. Instant messaging
Unlock immediate communication.
Smartphones, tablets, and other devices have made it easier than ever to reach one another. A question that might have taken days to ask in the past can now be answered in a matter of seconds.
Instant messaging apps have become even more sophisticated in recent years and promote advanced features like file sharing and group chats. Used properly, those features can empower teams to collaborate more effectively. A survey from ReportLinker found that 14% of employees use instant messaging exclusively for email reduction, for instance.
3. Video conferencing
Bridge any distance.
Faster internet speeds, powerful devices, and more sophisticated software mean that video conferencing has improved dramatically in recent years.
Video conferencing has evolved from a clunky creation of uncomfortable moments to a viable communication channel for businesses around the world. Now, video conferencing can help colleagues to connect across vast distances to keep the conversation going.
Video conferencing is often a great way to build relationships and enjoy a great sense of connection remotely. Team members around the world can share personalized greetings, for example, and participate in meetings on a regular basis. Those are just some of the reasons that remote teams should try to host regular video conference calls.
4. Knowledge-sharing platforms
Communicate across time.
Companies today generate higher volumes of information every single day – you’ve got to identify a space where you can collect that information and make knowledge ready-available to the entire team. Knowledge-sharing platforms give you this ability. Your team members can collaborate to leave important pieces of information and knowledge about processes and workflows in general.
Knowledge-sharing platforms are a great way to communicate with new hires, too. Through it, they can learn more about your internal policies, do’s and don’ts, as well as your product.
Here are some of the key knowledge-sharing platforms that you might have heard of:
You’ll find lots of sophisticated knowledge-sharing platforms on the market. You might decide that one of those platforms is the best for you, or perhaps go for a boot-strapped one in a Google Doc (as long as you don’t have a complex product or team).
5. Real-time review and approval platforms
Keep feedback simple.
A real-time collaboration platform can give your team the power to communicate about specific projects and collaterals in one place. This helps your team to deliver accurate feedback and cut out any confusion – we all know just how complex the review and approval process can be.
The most effective platforms are geared towards focused and productive communication. We’re talking about features like auto-generated to-do lists, notifications, and more.
Here are some of the main review and approval platforms:
Again, there are a number of real-time review and approval platforms on the market. Those platforms vary according to the features and prices that they offer – explore those options to find the best fit for your team.
How to introduce new communication channels
… and motivate your team to keep using them.
Introducing a new communication channel is no easy task given that your colleagues might struggle to change their habits.
In fact, statistics from Gatehouse show that 54% of internal communication professionals believe technology is a top barrier for internal communications. Technology can facilitate communication, but the implementation and use of the technology is a different story.
Here are a few steps to make sure your team embraces and sticks with the new communication channel:
1. Explain why you’re using the channel
It’s very important that you tell your team members exactly why you have decided to introduce a new channel or platform. You should share the strategic reasons behind your decision and what you hope to achieve.
This means providing useful background information like:
- The goals for your new communication channel
- The reasons for the change
- What you expect from your new channel
To maximize the reach of that background information, you could include it in your launch campaign for a new communication tool. Try adding it in email blasts, for instance, and corporate newsletters. Your marketing department could even help with the messaging.
That strategic insight will help your team members to understand what’s at stake and how they should interact with the platform. In return, they’ll be more likely to adopt and stick with the platform once it’s been introduced.
2. Provide advance notice
All too often, businesses decide to make changes in communication at very short notice. This means that team members might be reluctant to shift, given that they haven’t had the time to reorganize their routines.
You should make sure to explain the switch in advance. Work alongside your marketing team to develop a robust internal communication strategy that will drive adoption of your new tool. The channels you might want to use are:
- Internal company newsletter
- All-hands meetings
- Bulletin boards
To get a high adoption rate, develop a way to monitor how your new tool is being used. You’ll often find that leading communication platforms offer usage statistics. Take a look at Slack, for instance, which offers an analytics dashboard that looks something like this:
In terms of a more manual approach, you might be able to extract a list of users, for instance, and provide direct reminders to those team members who have yet to adopt the tool.
3. Use the channel effectively
Finally, make sure to actually use the channel in the first place. Let’s imagine that you ask your team to move from Skype to Slack – you should make sure Slack is set up appropriately or your team might just be tempted to switch back to Skype.
When it comes to laying the foundations for a strong Slack experience, for instance, you’ll want to handle things like:
- Management of user permissions
- Configuration of Slack apps and integrations
- Creation of appropriate groups and channels
Take the time to understand the platform that you’re switching to and provide guidance to your team members. This will help them to feel comfortable on the new platform right away.
7 proven ways to ensure effective team communication
Installing the appropriate communication infrastructure is just one part of the battle – you’ve got to make sure that you use every trick to ensure effective team communication.
Here’s a closer look at the strategies and techniques that you can use to make team communication as seamless as possible.
1. Create a conversation culture
If you want your team to communicate effectively, it’s important that you create a culture that welcomes conversation. When businesses celebrate open and clear conversations, they help their team members to communicate with confidence and share information freely. This culture is also often indirectly influenced by your company culture.
On the other hand, you’ll find that communication is negatively impacted in teams where employees are scared to speak and share their mind.
This is why it’s critical that you try to break down barriers and encourage your team members to speak their mind. Here are some of the techniques that you can use to create a conversation culture:
a) Use the “Five Conversations Framework” to guide important conversations
Dr. Tim Baker is a leadership development consultant who coined the Five Conversations Framework in his book The End of the Performance Review. Under his system, team leaders cover one theme per month for five months in a row – meaning that each theme is covered twice a year.
Here are the five conversations as outlined by Dr. Baker:
- Climate Review – used to measure satisfaction and general morale
- Strengths and Talents – used to identify opportunity to build upon abilities
- Opportunities for Growth – used to improve overall performance and standards
- Learning and Development – used to focus on learning opportunities
- Innovation and Continuous Improvement: – used to discuss how effectiveness can be improved
This system helps you add structure to your conversations and gives organizations the ability to reimagine the outdated performance review systems. Bonus: it’s also simple to schedule. Just set up recurring events using Google Calendar and you’ll be able to track the development and opinions of your team.
b) Make openness a part of your company culture
Your core company values act as the north star that supports your overall vision, shapes your company culture, and defines the identity of your organization.
You might want to install some variation of “communication” as a core company value. Take a look at the core values of Starbucks, for instance:
- Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
- Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
- Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
- Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
In some way, each value hints at communication. Consider drawing inspiration from prominent examples of core values to shape your own communication-centric values.
c) Encourage your team members to cut back on emails
Open-plan offices are all the rage within modern work environments. A cutting-edge study recently found, though, that employees in those spaces spend 73% less time in face-to-face interactions while email and messaging rose by 67%.
This can have a negative impact on communication within your team, so it’s important that you develop a strategy to mitigate this risk.
To do so, try to enforce policies that limit the number of impersonal and distracting emails that are sent. You might decide to incorporate those rules into your employee handbook, for instance, or make them a part of your company culture.
2. Invest in communications training
Great communication skills are a precious commodity in both personal and professional life. While we all know that some people are perhaps better at articulating themselves than others, your team members can absolutely improve and reach your desired level.
You might decide to share your expectations and get your team up to speed by investing in communications training. These sessions can be lots of fun, and there are a number of consultants that offer those types of sessions.
You might also decide to handle the training internally. This piece from eLearning Industry shows you how to plan your employee training program in five steps. Here’s a quick checklist of those steps and what you’ll need to achieve in each:
- Decide what you need to teach – Develop a clear understanding of what exactly you need to teach your employees and what you hope to achieve.
- Audit your training resources – Take stock of your existing training materials and other external resources.
- Secure buy-in from management – Put together a strong pitch that covers the objectives you outlined in the first step and the resources you have.
- Prepare to collect feedback – Decide upon how you’ll assess the impact and success of your training before you even deliver it.
- Create your training plan – With the groundwork in place, create a complete training plan. This will include things like the curriculum, a content creation plan, and other important logistical details like who will deliver the training and when.
3. Involve everyone in the conversation
Communication is a two-way street and everybody within your business must feel comfortable and empowered to share their perspective. If you want to improve communication within your business, make sure that all of your team members are involved in the conversation.
Some businesses make the mistake of drawing harsh lines between senior and junior staff, for instance. This creates invisible boundaries that might just stop your more junior team members from sharing an excellent idea or a piece of amazing feedback.
4. Identify your key communicators
Some people are born communicators. They are comfortable engaging with other people regardless of the subject at hand, and they have an uncanny ability to make everybody feel comfortable and valued.
You should identify these leadership qualities within your team members and use their natural charisma to help guide and shape company conversations. Ask those people to communicate ideas within their departments, for instance, or request them to try and engage with other more reserved members of your team.
5. Cater to different communication styles
When it comes to communication, there’s no right or wrong way of doing it. Some people are more introverted, which has its benefits and place within your business.
If you want to make sure that everybody feels comfortable and shares their insight, though, you’ve got to welcome all communication styles. To achieve this, offer a diverse range of communication channels where even introverted people are encouraged to contribute.
Here are some actionable steps that you can take to draw everybody into the conversation, regardless of their communication style:
a) Ask your employees about their communication style during onboarding
Edmund J Bourne is an American psychologist who posits that there are five communication styles. These include:
People can use different styles in different contexts, Bourne explains, but they’ll often have a natural preference. That style will determine the choice for the communication channel, type, and tone.
You might not want to use those terms with your new employees, but it’s important that you try to get a better understanding of their communication style during the recruitment or onboarding process. Equipped with that information, you’ll be able to better cater to their diverse communication preferences and balance input from them.
b) Use anonymized employee feedback tools
We all know that some people are more likely to speak their mind than others. There are countless reasons why a person might feel reluctant to share their honest opinions, but those insights are incredibly valuable.
A great way to access those insights is to use anonymized employee feedback tools. There are a number of options out there, that used properly, can elicit frank feedback from even the most passive of team members.
If you don’t want to invest in a specific tool, make the most of Google Forms. It comes with a range of templates that you can use, allowing you to anonymize your forms by toggling “Required” on certain fields:
c) Monitor who you hear from
Each member of your team has a valuable perspective, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll share it without being prompted.
This is why you should monitor the level of input from your team members. You’ll quickly notice your more vocal contributors, but try to engage others at the same time.
You could do this by taking those employees to a quieter environment and using one-to-one meetings to full effect. Whichever approach you decide to take, it’s important that you’re always mindful of those employees.
6. Create a communication culture
If you’re going to achieve effective team communication within your business and better understand the thoughts and feelings of your team members, encourage open communication among your team. Try to build a culture of open communication by using some of the following techniques:
a) Host regular one-on-one meetings
One-on-one meetings are a powerful tool in the hands of the right managers. Adobe switched from performance reviews to regular one-on-one meetings and witnessed an impressive 30% reduction in voluntary turnover.
Those meetings also send a clear statement that you care about communication and the sharing of information. Just the presence of one-on-one meetings can help to cultivate a communication culture within your business.
b) Organize regular all-hands meetings
All-hands meetings are often difficult to organize, but the benefits are clear: these meetings can establish a shared vision, drive constant improvement, and encourage large-scale reflection.
Those meetings can also create a family atmosphere where every person in the business gets to be part of the conversation.
While all-hands meetings might present a seemingly insurmountable logistical challenge, modern video conferencing tools make these a viable reality for any business.
c) Throw social events
Social events can help your team members forge new connections that in return drive efficiency and collaboration within the workplace. They can also turn employees more loyal to their companies.
Use them as an opportunity to celebrate key milestones, share important messages, and recognize the contributions of key team members. Nothing speaks louder and sparks action than giving praise to someone who deserves it in open public.
7. Review communication regularly
If you’re going to achieve effective communication and unlock its myriad benefits, it’s important that you carefully monitor how your team members interact with one another. There are lots of factors that might change the effectiveness of your internal communication (new staff members, new communication channels, etc.).
Here are some of the techniques that you can use to review the quality and consistency of communication within your business to improve your strategy over time:
a) Monitor usage of communication tools
To understand the communication habits of your team members, carefully monitor the platforms that they use to make decisions about where and when to communicate.
Some communication platforms provide robust analytics options. If you use Slack, you’ll be able to access the previously mentioned analytics dashboard to see how your team uses it.
Be sure to extract reports on a regular basis to see how your platforms are being used by your team members. This will give you the power to monitor trends and usage over time.
b) Perform surveys
Surveys are an excellent way for you to get a better idea of how your team members perceive communication within your team. You might decide to organize these surveys once per year and ask questions like:
- Are you satisfied with the available communication channels?
- Do you feel that communication is effective?
- Is there a communication channel you like the least?
- Do you have any communication recommendations?
c) Pay attention to qualitative feedback
Another way to monitor the quality of communication within your business is to pay close attention to the general sentiment of your team members. You can use informal conversations to get a better idea of how they feel about communication, for instance.
As a team leader, you should learn to keep a finger on the pulse of the sentiment among your team members. To do this, pay close attention to informal comments and off-the-record conversations around communication within your team.
Best team communication tools you should know
Here’s a closer look at the world’s best communication platforms that can keep the conversation going in your business:
Paymo is a hassle-free work management software. The platform brings together business-critical functionality like task management, time tracking, and invoicing into one place. The tool is intuitive to use, too, so that small businesses and freelancers can get the job done on time with minimal disruption.
Pros & Cons
+ Manage projects from start to finish
+ A seamless user experience
+ Easily export data
– Requires time to explore all features
Start your free Paymo trial to test out team collaboration on your own projects.
Filestage is a review and approval platform that places seamless collaboration front and center. This tool makes it easy for in-house teams and agencies to manage the content review process. Filestage achieves this by making it easy for internal and external stakeholders to leave valuable in-context feedback.
Pros & Cons
+ Intuitive and easy to use
+ In-context communication and comments
+ Great customer service
– Mobile app is not available yet
Slack has cemented a reputation as one of the world’s foremost instant messaging and collaboration apps. The platform helps to keep teams working together seamlessly: it gives teams a place to connect, share information, and use tools together. It’s simple to organize the tool into workplaces and channels, too, putting messages in the right place.
Pros & Cons
+ Lots of plugins and integrations
+ Promotes exchange of information
+ Helps to improve employee relationships
– Potentially disruptive if not managed properly
– Potentially expensive
Chanty is an AI-powered team chat software that gives teams the ability to get more things done together. The tool achieves this by helping to boost communication and productivity across all departments. This chat platform places a strong emphasis on ease of use, too, so that everybody can get involved.
Pros & Cons
+ Unlimited messages
+ Strong customer support
+ Simple interface and design
– A lack of audio calls
– No support for GIFs
Flock is a powerful Slack alternative that is used by teams of all sizes. Countless teams around the world use this tool to reduce the number of emails that are sent and focus on productive instant messaging. The tool offers a number of integrations, for instance, as well as powerful features that improve communication and collaboration.
Pros & Cons
+ Makes communication simple
+ Lots of additional features
+ An impressive range of integrations
– Lack of control over notifications
– Some usability issues
Start improving your team communication today
I hope that this piece has inspired you to think about your own communication strategy and where you might be able to make improvements. There are more tools available than ever before – the right approach to communication can unlock their full potential.
First published on February 11, 2020.
Content Marketing Manager
Max Benz is a content marketing manager at Filestage, a content review software. He loves to create actionable content that really makes a difference.