How to Improve Team Communication with Digital Technologies
How to improve communication within a team?
The question is really important. Because let’s face it: whatever the size of your company is – be it 1 or 10 or 100 employees – effective team communication will be an essential element to successful business life and a high level of productivity. According to the infographics from Weekdone Ltd, 41 percent of people believe that “lack of communication between staff and management” is one of the biggest issues organizations have while managing their employees. There is no doubt that collaboration and communication are the factors able to make-or-break the digital team.
Let's talk then! We are going to explain to you how to improve teamwork and communication. And we hope our tips would come in handy.
#1. Start from yourself (an obvious yet effective way)
You should always start with yourself… in our case, it involves finding the best way to communicate with a group, with your team... only then can you go to the next stage, which means improving your workplace, and more.
If you agree with our point of view, let’s take a look at the most effective team communication skills you should develop in yourself. Some of them might seem like ‘old-school’ tricks but believe us: they haven’t lost their extreme importance nowadays.
1. Be an example to others.
Managers must be the champions of positive communication, transparency and work engagement if they want employees to follow their example. Or at least try to be.
2. Become a thoughtful and responsive listener.
To be honest, most of us are bad listeners. We interrupt. We prepare our response instead of listening to what the person is saying. We think we already know what the speaker is going to tell us. But it is hard to understand what someone needs if we don’t care to provide them with our attention. That’s why the key meaning is often missed.
So among the ways to improve team communication is the ability to listen. Yes, the rule is very simple... and very effective.
3. Watch employees’ body language carefully.
Communication is not just about talking. Body language would tell you even more than words do. Observe the way your colleagues act while discussing something: the expression on their faces, gestures they make, and so on. Non-verbal signs may help you to better picture the situation your employee is talking about.
4. Take into account personal preferences.
Not everyone likes to communicate in the same way. Respect the choice of communication channel your colleague seems to prefer while reaching them out.
5. Never personalize problems.
Perhaps one of the most effective team communication strategies is not to personalize the problems... cool down, don't rush into a decision.
Dealing with an issue having an emotional component use the ‘24 Hour Rule': don’t send any messages to others until you have had a day to reflect. Such a rule will help you to operate only with facts and be free in choosing a tone of communication.
6. What you also should never personalize is criticism.
Whether you are giving or receiving criticism, it should be based on facts, not emotions.
In other words, consider the feedback as something intended to get a different result, not a personal attack. Furthermore, provide positive feedback when a job is well-done, and find ways to manage around without being too bossy.
7. Manage individuals, not groups.
When a manager’s decision is directed to everyone, it is directed to no one. The lack of specificity allows each employee to avoid personal responsibility. As a consequence, this type of resolution fails to get the desired results. Use group communication to provide general information. However, it should not be used to criticize and, moreover, to humiliate.
8. Assign tasks clearly and (as we already know) directly.
The message sent and the message received may bear no similarity to each other. Everyone has their own mental ‘filter’, and not everything comes out the way we plan. Many negative situations might arise from making incorrect assumptions, especially in an email or a text message. Good managers follow up and give corrective comments to ensure each of their co-workers is on the same page and working toward the same goal.
Remember: by communicating with team members effectively, you're more likely to achieve what you want.
9. Never stop improving.
Like a muscle, effective communication is something you must constantly be working on. So never stop improving yourself!
By mastering these nine simple communication rules you have a real chance to significantly boost productivity in your office.
#2. Create a communication-friendly space
Sharing ideas and initiatives or speaking up about feelings should never be taboo. What you need to encourage your team to express themselves is creating a communication-friendly environment. You are working with humans, not robots.
1. Encourage open-door policies.
Start improving team communication workplace with an open-door policy. It means anyone in the company should be allowed to talk to anyone at any given time. It might sound a little bit obvious, but does it really happen in your organization? A good open-door policy implies everyone feels comfortable reaching out to anyone.
2. Set the example of friendly and proactive communication.
Ask questions, challenge ideas, communicate your feelings, etc. Communication in successful work teams is always based on trust, remember this.
3. Support social interactions.
Motivate employees to eat away from their desks during lunch. As a consequence, they have a chance to speak, discuss different things and therefore build relationships with each other. Free communication really matters for teamwork.
4. Make feedback feel natural.
By encouraging constant feedback, your organization sends a message, which is open to constructive criticism and values employees’ input. All you need is a medium to supply regular feedback. What tools does the market have to offer?
Surveys are probably the simplest way to get feedback from your team. Don’t hesitate to ask about everything you are interested in, from how a new brand of coffee tastes to what your employees think about you as a leader. For instance, SurveyMonkey and 15Five are handy tools aimed at helping to craft surveys. Moreover, you’re welcome to use software like OfficeVibe specially designed for improving team collaboration and communication. Among many features, it offers the opportunity to gather employees’ feedback seamlessly.
A recent study reveals that 80 percent of today’s workers favor instant and regular feedback over traditional annual reviews.
#3. Rethink your meetings
You may agree that regular meetings and discussing the agenda are part of team building to improve communication. Though, some consider such events a waste of time... which is true, but only in one case: if you haven't paid attention to the format of the meeting.
To be efficient, make sure you’re holding or attending a meeting where:
all stakeholders know what is being discussed,
a strict time limit was specified,
each participant was prepared to discuss the topic beforehand.
These golden rules can be enhanced by the other ones, namely…
1. Schedule regular meetings and keep them constant.
Scheduling meetings at the same time on the same weekday leads to creating a habit. Habits provide your employees with something they are familiar with. Eventually, it reduces stress.
Schedule one hour every month to chat with your employees instead of relying on annual reviews. You may be surprised by how much your team members have to say about where they are at right now, and what they might need from you to perform best.
2. Use video communication tools.
Video conferencing belongs to the most efficient collaborative communication online tools, especially for distributed teams. Why? Because it is really affordable.
Instead of wasting your time and money on traveling or phone bills, take advantage of video meetings to allow your workers to see each other digitally. Although face-to-face meetings are important, group video calls are one of the best ways to maximize performance (especially when it is about non-office employees).
But don’t forget to implement the golden ‘old school’ meeting rules.
#4. Key Tools to Ensure Good Team Communication
Okay… how can you use collaboration tools to improve team communication? Let’s discuss it!
A monthly newsletter used to be a standard of corporate communication. Nowadays such an approach is probably not enough (even when it comes to the most conservative companies). On the other hand, the daily social feed might be too much in some cases. It all depends on the particular company.
You have to find your own perfect solution; consider the situation and pick a few basic offline and online tools for communication and collaboration to support internal communication:
1. Synchronous communication.
Instant messaging is changing the game for digital teams, and there are plenty of options to choose from. Start by setting up an asynchronous communication tool to give team members immediate access to discuss ideas and get answers to multiple questions in a timely manner.
Setting up an employee online communication with business messengers would provide a centralized place to conduct productive work conversations. This will encourage staff to become more engaged with the business goals and share their thoughts and updates, which won’t get lost in a messy email box. And distributed employees would have a chance to stay informed and feel part of a wider team.
Take time to choose a communication platform meeting your team’s needs perfectly. Compare the tools by their affordability and features. These days Slack is the most popular one however you can use various Slack alternatives to cut your expenses and receive pretty much the same value.
A good tip. If you decide to integrate digital technologies and communication tools into your workflow, it could be useful to utilize platforms working with mobile applications. If your team members download tools on their work devices (such as mobile or tablet), they’ll be able to stay connected on the go. Acting this way, you're providing a higher level of accessibility, connectivity, and communication.
Businesses generally make better decisions when they're based on conversations or discussions between many people. Mobile devices open up participation because they allow those who aren't sitting at a computer to join the dialogue. (Forrester Research)
1.1. Extra tip: don’t over-communicate.
When thinking over how collaboration tools can improve team communication, bear in mind one more tip. We mean the danger of overdoing.
After work hours, keep a number of emails you send to your colleagues to a minimum. Your messages might be very important, but they’re likely to be able to wait until the following workday.
2. Make your workflow accessible.
Teamwork may become messy and disorganized without a centralized space to manage all the individual components of a project, especially if co-workers are located in different offices or work remotely. It can be easy to become confused about who is doing what, how far along they are in the process, where information is located and how much work is left.
Without a roadmap or planning tool, managers get sucked into hours of meetings that could be eliminated by having an updated overview that’s accessible at any time. Project management tools such as Basecamp or droptask can help you coordinate all the activity in one easy-to-manage tool.
3. Design guidelines to use said tools.
All strategies for effective team communication in the workplace advise taking this step into account.
Once your team has selected its toolset, it's time you discussed the proper way to use it. Having a written guide on the issue empowers team members to act confidently, knowing they all operate within the same framework of understanding the company's work.
4. Keep the communication process dynamic.
Okay, you’ve now defined your toolset, set guidelines for using the tools, and wrapped process around meetings. What next? Teams are constantly evolving and changing, whether it’s because of strategy decisions, product launches, or hiring changes, so it’s important to make sure your team infrastructure is also dynamic. Check-in regularly to make sure guidelines are still relevant. Updating processes is key to keep team members engaged.
#5. Measuring the effectiveness of chosen activities
You might think you have chosen effective group communication strategies... but is it really so? You should check it from time to time.
The above actions on improving internal communication cannot but bring results. Your employees will become more loyal to you and to the company as a whole, they'll more clearly see business goals and more. The team will work with greater efficiency, which means the company's profits will have increased. However, all of this is going to happen in the future, and you should see intermediate results either. Here are some ways to evaluate the effectiveness of your chosen strategy:
Conduct ongoing employee surveys to be informed of their job satisfaction.
Make sure employees are less likely to quit (we're talking about the so-called 'staff retention rate').
Analyze whether the company's sales have increased.
Do you like what you see? Well, keep up the good work; you're clearly on the right track. Is something still bothering you? Then you should choose other tactics on improving team communication.
We’ve told you many things about how to improve communication in a team. Let’s briefly summarize:
Be patient, take your time.
Pay attention to self-improvement (it’s about your communication skills, of course).
Don’t forget to create a communication-friendly space, which implies a healthy open-door policy.
Little by little, optimize your meetings with the using of video conference tools.
Improve your team’s productivity with communication and collaboration platforms.
Eventually, measure the effectiveness of your efforts and try to find their clear-cut practical value.
The use of these simple strategies, combined with the right communication and collaboration tools, will lead to creating positive and effective relationships in your team.