Missed deadlines. Long, messy email threads. Disagreements and mistrust. No idea of who is doing what. We all know poor team interaction when we see it. However, when it comes to defining good team communication, we sometimes struggle to find the words. Yes, it’s about keeping team members informed, sharing progress, and achieving goals. But if you want to be a high-performing team, there’s a whole lot more to effective team communication.
Team interaction was flipped upside down in 2020, providing new challenges but also new opportunities. Rather than relying on the same old same old, businesses need to reassess both the quantity and quality of team communication. Here we share some best practice insights to help your team stay on track.
Team Communication Definition
A definition is always a good starting point. So, what is team communication, really? It’s the process of exchanging ideas and information between team members to achieve a common goal.
Sounds simple, right? However, dig a little deeper, and it soon becomes clear it’s a complex, dynamic process that can be hard to pin down.
You see, team communication takes various forms.
It can be verbal – phone calls, in-person meetings, one-on-one interactions, even casual conversations between colleagues. And team correspondence also takes place in writing – reports, emails, and team chat.
Furthermore, team correspondence can be visual – think videos, presentations, infographics, and flow charts.
And finally, don’t underestimate the importance of non-verbal team communication. Our body language, posture, and tone of voice often say more than words alone.
And just to complicate things even more, each team member will have their own communication style and preferences. Some will be extroverts who are always forthcoming with their ideas, while others prefer to avoid the limelight. Plus, certain team members like to communicate in person. In comparison, visual communication or hard data will be more important to others.
Team communication is a slippery concept, and today’s fluid working arrangements make it even more complex. It’s likely your team members are a mix of remote, office-based, or freelance staff. And they could be in different states, time zones, or even countries.
Before we can look at how to meet these challenges, it’s essential to understand why team interaction is so important.
Benefits Of Team Communication
Just about every business involves teamwork of some kind. According to research quoted by Forbes, 75 percent of employers say teamwork and collaboration are very important. However, 39 percent of employees think their organization doesn’t collaborate enough.
Strengthening team interaction is critical to the success of every business from clarity of purpose to enhanced execution and delivery. Here’s a quick run through the benefits of team communication:
- Improved agility
- Better decision-making
- Enhanced ability to troubleshoot problems
- More efficient team performance
- Decreased workload for team members
- Fewer misunderstandings
- Reduced potential for conflict
- Positive team relationships
And the cost of poor team communication soon adds up. All that mistrust, delay, misunderstanding, and increased stress significantly impact your bottom dollar. According to one comprehensive study, it could be as much as $62.4 million per year in lost productivity.
How To Improve Communication In A Team
If you think that improving team correspondence involves more of the same, then it’s time to think again. Content and quality are far more important than quantity. Sending out more team communication emails won’t cut it if the content and process are off the mark.
Here are some tips to ensure your content is fit for purpose.
Make sure your communication is directly related to the topic or issue at hand. Irrelevant communication just becomes white noise to team members. And with information overload and workplace distractions now a recognized problem, it’s vital to have purposeful team communication.
Does your communication cover everything the recipient needs to know? The full picture may be crystal clear to you, but for others, it could be murky. This isn’t rocket science, but it’s surprising how many teams fail to address this critical principle.
The purpose of the team communication should be clear. Your reader shouldn’t be left scratching their heads, or worse still, second-guessing what you mean. Be upfront about your goal, purpose, and any required actions so that the recipient doesn’t have to make assumptions.
And when it comes to the process of communicating, here are a few ideas to help you get it right.
Make sure everyone has access to the same information. Keep everyone in the loop and allow all team members an equal opportunity to contribute.
Free-flowing, two-way conversations are what’s required. Team correspondence has to be quick and easy for all, including those working from home.
Team communication needs to be timely to be effective. Imagine a team member that was slow to tell colleagues about a delay in hitting a deadline. It could have critical ramifications for the rest of the team. Plus, the frustration felt by colleagues might well impact team spirit.
Strategies For Effective Team Communication In The Workplace
Gallup’s State of the American Workforce revealed just what an uphill struggle team communication is for many businesses. Only 13 percent of the 31 million employees surveyed agreed their organization’s leaders practice and cultivate effective workplace communication.
If your company grapples with team communication, then these best practice insights should spark some ideas.
1. Assemble The Right Toolkit
Nowadays, there’s a wealth of software and tools available to enhance team communication and collaboration. Implementing some of these platforms in the workplace will go a long way to fulfilling team communication needs.
However, these tools should satisfy the team’s need for synchronous and asynchronous communication to be most effective.
Synchronous communication is real-time, with all parties engaged simultaneously. It’s great for when decisions are needed right away, or questions have to be answered. And it’s also useful when you need to brainstorm, problem-solve or generate innovations and ideas.
Many businesses find instant messaging (IM) and intranet forums make for a powerful combination in this space.
Available via your intranet, business IM, or team chat has a modern, social feel that employees love with @mentions and #channels. Discussions can be public or private, and most IM platforms also have file-sharing capabilities. Plus, it connects employees regardless of where they are working. So, even remote workers have the opportunity for water-cooler conversations and casual chats with teammates.
Also available on the intranet are forums or project spaces. Again, these can be public or private. You can use them for brainstorming, problem-solving, and sharing ideas or insights. And to make real-time collaboration even easier, why not embed Google Workspace apps directly in the intranet? You can provide relevant context and explanation for the team as they work simultaneously on co-authored documents.
Your intranet also comes in pretty handy when it comes to asynchronous team communication.
As you might have guessed, asynchronous communication doesn’t happen in real-time. And not everyone needs to participate at the same time for it to be effective. Blogs, newsfeeds, podcasts, explainer videos, company policies, and information are available 24/7 on the intranet. Team members dive in when it suits their schedule. And the range of options available means you easily satisfy differing communication preferences all in one platform.
Improving team communication starts with having the right tools. And there’s no better place to start than the company intranet.
2. Develop Team Communication Guidelines
While it can feel like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, clear communication guidelines help prevent misunderstandings from the get-go.
The guidelines should cover how you expect the team to communicate. Make it clear what communication channels the team should use and when. For example, if IM is your primary communication channel, then say so. Otherwise, you may find some team members become frustrated when their email disappears in a colleague’s over-loaded in-box.
Likewise, it’s worth setting out your expectations around content and process. As we explored earlier, team communication should be timely, relevant, complete, and inclusive.
In addition, use the guidelines as an opportunity to establish a time zone etiquette. This is critical for colleagues working in different states or countries. After all, there’s nothing more annoying than a non-urgent notification ping when you are relaxing at home after hours!
Also use the guidelines to reinforce the need for respectful communication. Things can get heated when the pressure is on. To avoid a complete derailment, every team member should be professional and respectful in their communications.
3. Make Time For Team Communication
Sometimes, especially when deadlines are tight, teams can get carried away with doing. However, team communication needs time and space. So, prioritizing team communication will help to improve its effectiveness.
Be sure to set aside time for regular team communication. It could be stand-ups, in-person or virtual team meetings, or quick synchs. Whatever works for you, the vital thing here is to make it happen.
4. Be Open To Feedback
Every project team is different. Unique personalities, varied tasks, and responsibilities make every team special. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so what worked in your last team may not work this time.
Check in on team members and ask for feedback on team communication. They are likely to have valuable insights on how things could be improved. And it can help you deal with any minor niggles before they become big problems.
Some team leaders like to use anonymous employee pulse surveys. It’s not always possible to be honest in a team environment. And so, you are far more likely to receive constructive feedback in an anonymous survey.
Furthermore, an open-door policy – whether virtual or real – builds trust and reinforces the importance of open team communication.
5. Tackle Any Issues Head-On
And if the pulse survey or one-to-one with a colleague throws up an issue, then be sure to take early action. Team conflict often starts as a simple misunderstanding. And it only becomes a problem when it’s not dealt with early enough.
Perhaps a team member is struggling with a lack of information or vague requests from a colleague. The colleague may not even be aware that their communication is lacking the clarity the team needs. It’s a relatively easy fix to sort out now rather than when a crucial milestone is missed.
6. Do Fun Stuff As A Team
When it comes to effective team communication, doing fun stuff together is just as important as hitting milestones. Bonding time over a shared activity, coffee break, or pizza lunch helps build personal relationships between team members.
Doing fun stuff as a team is definitely more of a challenge when some are remote. It just requires a bit more effort. Online quizzes or Friday drinks over Zoom are one option. Simply setting aside time in Monday’s stand-up to chat about the weekend or discuss the latest movie can make all the difference.
When teammates know each other well, then communicating and working towards a common goal becomes much easier. So, it’s well worth making an effort.
Team Communication: Main Takeaways
Ready to get started on improving team communication in your business? Here’s a quick recap of what we covered.
- Select the right toolkit. And your company intranet is a great place to start.
- Develop clear guidelines on when and how to use the tools and your expectations around team correspondence.
- Prioritize team communication by giving staff the time and space to communicate.
- Check in with the team regularly and be open to feedback.
- Take early action on any problems and issues.
- Make time for team bonding.
Get in touch with the expert team at MyHub to explore how an intranet can enhance your team communication. Packed with valuable tools that make communication easy, our simple-to-learn and launch intranet could be just what you need. Sign up for a free demo or 14-day trial today.