Missed deadlines. Long, messy email threads. Disagreements and mistrust. We all know poor communication when we see it. However, when it comes to defining effective communication, we sometimes struggle to find the words. Yes, it’s about ensuring team members feel informed, share progress, and achieve goals. But if you want to be a high-performing organization, there’s a whole lot more to effective team communication.
Team communications were 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 group communication. Here we share some best practice insights to help your team communicate effectively.
What Is Good Team Communication?
A definition is always a good starting point. So, what is workplace communication, really? It’s the process of exchanging ideas and information between team members to achieve a common goal. Healthy communication is key to ensuring the entire team is on the same page. And it impacts everything from work performance and company goals to project quality and work relationships.
Sounds simple, right? However, dig a little deeper, and it becomes clear it’s a complex, dynamic process that is hard to pin down.
What Are Some Forms Of Team Communication?
Communication in the workplace takes various forms. And in the quest for more effective comms, it’s vital to be aware of all communication styles.
Examples here include phone calls, in-person meetings, one-on-one interactions, and even casual conversations during coffee breaks. Of course, nowadays, verbal communication can be in-person or virtual.
Written communication is still the backbone of workplaces worldwide. Options under this category include reports, emails, text messages, and team chat.
Think videos, presentations, infographics, and flow charts. This channel is sometimes overlooked, but it’s a valuable option to help you communicate effectively.
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of non-verbal communication. Body language, eye contact, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice often say more than words alone.
And 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 other team members prefer to avoid the limelight. And there will be staff who like to communicate in person. In comparison, visual communication or hard data will be more important to other team members.
As you can see, team communication is a slippery concept. And today’s fluid working arrangements make it even more complex. Your team members are likely 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 effective communication is so important.
What Are The Benefits Of Team Communication?
Just about every business involves team collaboration of some kind. According to research quoted by Forbes, 75 percent of employers say teamwork is 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:
- 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
- Better employee engagement
And the cost of poor communication soon adds up. All that mistrust, delay, misunderstanding, and increased stress significantly impact your bottom dollar. According to one study, it could be as much as $12,506 per employee per year in lost team productivity.
Ways To Improve How Your Team Communicates
If you think the way to improve is more of the same, then it’s time to think again. Content and quality are far more important than quantity. Sending more 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 and strikes a chord with team members.
Make It Relevant
Make sure your messages are 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, open communication.
Ensure It’s Complete
Does your message cover everything the recipient needs to know? The full picture may be crystal clear to you, but it could be murky for others. This isn’t rocket science, but it’s surprising how many teams fail to address this critical principle.
Keep It Clear And Concise
The purpose of the interaction should be clear. Your team members shouldn’t be left scratching their heads or, worse still, second-guessing what you mean. Be upfront about your goal, purpose, and required actions, so the recipient doesn’t have to make assumptions. Good communication ensures that employees understand what’s needed.
And when it comes to communicating effectively, less is more. Concise, jargon-free messages are the order of the day.
Teams work in different ways. Some team members will be remote, and others hybrid or on the go. Ensure everyone has access to the same information, even if it’s offered in various channels to suit different communication styles. The message in a podcast on employee benefits should be the same as the one delivered in a blog post. Keep everyone in the loop and allow all team members an equal opportunity to contribute.
Additionally, in our increasingly globalized world, the ability to communicate beyond language barriers is essential in promoting inclusivity. By encouraging employees to learn Italian, Spanish, or other languages that are often used in the workplace, we not only foster personal development but also empower our teams to engage more effectively with diverse colleagues and clients. Investing in language skills can be the bridge that strengthens workplace communication, making it more inclusive and comprehensive.
Provide Two-Way Feedback Communication
Free-flowing, two-way conversations are what’s required. Effective communication is quick and easy for all, including those working from home. And it shouldn’t just be top-down messages. Every effective team communication strategy should include bottom-up communication and two-way feedback channels.
Communicate Timely Messages
Strong team communication needs to be timely. Imagine a team member who was slow to tell co-workers about a delay in hitting a deadline. It could have critical consequences for other staff. Plus, the frustration felt by colleagues might well derail team dynamics, making for a tense work environment.
6 Strategies For Effective Team Communication In The Workplace
Research from Gallup has revealed just what an uphill struggle team communication is for many businesses. Only 7 percent of US workers strongly agree that workplace communication is very accurate, open, and timely.
If your company grapples with effective communication, then these best practice insights should spark some ideas.
1. Assemble The Right Team Communication Tools
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 help improve communication.
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 ideas, solve problems or generate breakthrough 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 to build relationships with water-cooler conversations and casual chats.
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 team collaboration even easier, why not embed Google Workspace apps directly in the intranet? You can provide relevant context and explanation for the whole team as they work simultaneously on co-authored documents. Intranet forums are an excellent all-round project management tool.
Your intranet also comes in pretty handy when it comes to asynchronous team communication. As you might have guessed, the asynchronous variety 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 schedules. And the range of options available means you easily satisfy differing communication styles 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 Good Communication Guidelines
While it can feel like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, clear communication guidelines help prevent misunderstandings from the get-go.
The guidance should cover how you expect the team to communicate in your work environment. Make it clear what communication channels should be used and when. For example, if IM is your primary channel, then say so. Otherwise, some team members may become frustrated when their email disappears in a colleague’s over-loaded inbox.
Likewise, it’s worth setting out your expectations around content and process. As we explored earlier, good communication is 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.
Guidelines make the job of communicating more effortless. All parties involved know the deal. And it goes a long way to stopping communication issues from taking root in the first place.
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 your team’s communication will help to improve its effectiveness.
Be sure to set aside time for regular communication. It could be stand-ups, in-person or virtual team meetings, quick synchs, or one-on-one meetings. 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 and constructive criticism on improving things. And it can help you deal with minor niggles before they become big problems.
Some team leaders like to use anonymous employee pulse surveys. It’s not always possible to be open in a team environment. And so, you are far more likely to receive honest opinions from anonymous surveys.
Furthermore, an open-door policy – whether virtual or real – builds trust and reinforces the importance of open team communication.
5. Tackle Any Communication Issues Head-On
Actively listen to any detailed feedback. And if the pulse survey or one-to-one with a colleague throws up an issue, then be sure to take early action. After all, acting on feedback is part and parcel of a positive workplace culture. Moreover, 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 co-worker may be unaware that their messages lack the clarity the team needs. It’s a relatively easy fix to sort out now rather than once a crucial milestone is missed.
6. Do Fun Stuff As A Team
When it comes to effective 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 is definitely more of a challenge when some team members are remote. It just requires a bit more effort. Online quizzes or Friday drinks over Zoom are great options. However, simply setting aside time in weekly stand-ups to chat about weekend plans or discuss the latest movie makes a big difference.
When teammates know each other well, then communicating and working towards common goals becomes much easier. So, it’s well worth making an effort. You will also find that work relationships benefit from some shared fun and relaxation.
Improve Employee Engagement With Effective Communication
And if you want to improve employee engagement in your workplace, knowing how to communicate effectively is critical.
Disengagement sets in when team members are unsure of company goals and their contributions. They may feel undervalued by management. And they may believe that they have no internal voice and that their feedback isn’t valued.
Employee engagement starts with strong communication. Improve team communication, and you will also hit the mark for engagement. If managers have an open dialogue with their team, it makes for a stable work environment. Employees understand the big picture and are more invested in company success.
Team Communication: Main Takeaways
Ready to get started improving team communication? 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 comms. Packed with valuable tools that simplify communication, our easy-to-learn and launch intranet could be just what you need. Sign up for a free demo or 14-day trial today.