Business

50 Ways to Improve Team Communication at Work in 2017

This guest column is authored by Julia Samoilenko, Marketing Manager at Chanty

workplace communication

We have communication issues

How many times have you heard this as an explanation for unfinished tasks, depressed employees, or a lack of teamwork? Take a look at company and team. Ineffective communication always scores as one of the top concerns.

What does it mean for you? Projects don’t meet the deadlines. It is difficult to get started. Ideas are not discussed thoroughly. Employees don’t contribute as much time and efforts as you expect. Conflicts between team members happen every now and then. And so on.

Consider a dramatic case – imagine  a nurse doesn’t tell a doctor that he is about to operate on the wrong leg.

Or a co-pilot doesn’t tell the pilot that the fifth engine of the plane is damaged… Сommunication issues, you know. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Over-communication, under-communication and everything in between influence your team’s performance which eventually influences your income. We’ve done a massive research and came up with 50 ways on how to communicate better within a team . How many tips can you adopt today?

Onboarding new employees

You are a new employee. You dusted off and polished up your resume. Killed it in the interview. And congratulations, you were hired! Now you are excited and proud – as you should be! But no matter what your age is or how cool your skills are, the stress of the first day at a new job affects us all. Remember the butterflies in your stomach as you step over the office threshold and see your new team for the first time? The feeling is incredibly overwhelming.

All of us know how it feels being a new member of any group, whether it’s a school, work, sport club or whatever. It is always exciting to meet new people, but it may also cause stress and communication challenges.

69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding. (Source)

So, how can employers make the onboarding process a little bit easier for new employees? Here are a few ways to welcome the new guy or gal.

  1. It is a good idea to start with a proper introduction of a newcomer to his or her colleagues. A new hire should be announced to the company; don’t keep it a secret.
  2. Send an email to all employees or just gather everyone to introduce a new person and tell them a little bit about his or her previous accomplishments.
  3. Provide a name plate on the desk of a new hire to make him or her feel welcome and much anticipated. This will also help others remember the newcomer’s name!
  4. Make internal company knowledge and documents easily available. For newer employees, it can be difficult to learn how an organization truly operates since most companies work from a specific set of internal knowledge and rules. Making internal knowledge easily available is a great way to keep communication flowing.

Celebrating workplace diversity

Language misunderstandings are common even among people who speak the same language, so it is not surprising that people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds face communication barriers. For example, if a project manager in Boston asks a web developer in Brazil to do something soon, they may have a different interpretation of the word “soon.” Language is a reflection of culture, and different cultures have very different ways of assigning meanings to words.

Moreover, nowadays it is highly likely you will have employees working for you who don’t speak your language. Language barriers make it difficult to give directions, explain your expectations, or provide performance feedback. If coworkers fail to communicate effectively, they might not be able to achieve their full potential.

Language barriers were listed as a reason why 40 percent of global virtual teams were not successful. (Source)

How can you improve communication in a workplace with a cultural diversity? Managers need to take proactive steps to build good communication channels.

  1. Providing language learning classes is a really good way to help employees learn the language they need to use at work and overcome communication barriers.
  2. While communicating with non-native speakers, do not overuse idioms, slang or professional jargon. Speak in simple words and expressions.
  3. Ask a person who speaks both languages to interpret your conversation with a non-native speaker.
  4. People belonging to the same culture typically stick together and avoid mixing with the others. To help people interact effectively, mix them together, creating cross-cultural teams.

Using psychology: define who is who

You have probably taken one of those strange personality quizzes that tell you what type of burger or font or Pulp Fiction character you are. Admit it, there is some satisfaction in knowing you are more of a Vincent Vega than a Marsellus Wallace.

improving team communication

Part of these tests might be silly, but the reason we are interested in them isn’t. That knowledge can help you to know how to work better with your teammates— that is something crucial for building and working on successful, productive teams. There are some personality tests you can try out:

All employees have their own identity. Managers have to deal with a variety of different temperaments in the workplace. So, how can you benefit from having different personalities in your teams? Create the right mix of employees’ characters and help them interact the right way.

  1. To achieve a more stable environment and foster effective communication within the workplace, create teams comprised of mixed personalities.
  2. Some employees are dominant by nature, while others are reticent or mild, but everyone has something to contribute. So, make sure that everyone is participating and no one keeps silent during meetings and discussions.
  3. Recognize the value of all personality types, help your team members learn how to work together and how their teamwork can benefit from their diversity.

Use different approaches managing different employees. Learn more about types of temperaments and how to work with them effectively. It will help you, as a leader, better interact with each team member, and as a result it will increase your chance to succeed as a team.

Brace yourselves, feedback is coming

“You’re cold! Now you’re getting warmer! You’re HOT!” Even children playing this popular game know that people need feedback to perform well . Without it you are walking (or, as in our case, working) blind. At best, you will accidentally reach your goal. At worst, you will wander aimlessly for awhile. Here are the main rules of creating an effective feedback mechanism at work:

  1. Have an “open door” policy

One of the biggest obstacles that employees face is how they can communicate with managers and CEOs. They may not feel comfortable approaching the boss, and as a result, many employees may choose to avoid highlighting important points. Having an “open door” policy where your employees feel comfortable bringing anything to your attention, at any time, can be advantageous for your business.

  1. Offer a platform for anonymous feedback (“suggestion box”)

This concept of anonymity in communication is worth to consider in work environment. Often employees don’t share feedback with their managers because they are uncertain about consequences of sharing their feelings openly. You can direct your employees to a virtual suggestion box or a cartoon one, which serves the same purpose. It helps the manager identify if there are any issues that need to be solved or worked on.

Become a meeting sensei

Endless and aimless meetings have become a running joke probably among all offices. Why do these unproductive meetings appear from time to time? Because not everyone understands the actual cost of a usual meeting. There is a statement of Jason Fried and Davin Heinemeier, the authors of the wonderful book called “ReWork:”

Let’s say you’re going to schedule a meeting that lasts one hour, and you invite ten people to attend. That’s actually a ten-hour meeting, not a one-hour meeting. You’re trading ten hours of productivity for a one hour of meeting time.

Impressive?

On the other hand, meetings are the method of creating a collaborative environment. It is unlikely you will be able to give them up. What should you do to improve productivity during your meetings?

  1. Meet only when there is a clear agenda.
  2. Set a timer. End the meeting when the time is up. Personally, I am a fan of the 30 minute meetings. And I love the 15 minute meeting even more.
  3. Invite as few people as possible.
  4. Invite only the relevant players.
  5. End with a clear result and make someone responsible for implementing it.
  6. A good idea is to ensure better understanding between employees and management is to hold regular conversations or one-on-ones. They are important to share the project details and to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
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You can also invest in a communication tool, which will allow you to create plans, discuss ideas, assign work, all from a single “command center” that integrates with applications you might be using. And forget about counterproductive meetings for every little update from each team member. Read more about this issue in the next section

Tool your communication up

A company communication culture largely depends on the tools you use to improve your team communication.

  1. First, stop using emails

All right, maybe you don’t want to quit emailing entirely. But if you are using email as your primary method of communication with your team, you should give a try to another communication channel. The reason? Employees are less likely to read emails. Emails are easily missed, ignored or even deleted.

  1. Get a team communication app

We are big fans of team communication apps at Chanty. You can tell from the tool we build. 😉 We are not alone — communication tools for teams are quite popular today. What is the reason for their popularity? And more importantly, which communication app is right for your business?

Imagine this scenario… you were chatting with Tom one day and he posted a link to a really great resource that you need to finish your task. But you can’t quite remember the name of the website and where was it sent (Skype? Facebook Messenger? Viber? Email?), and whether it was actually Tom…

One of the main pain points for our team was the huge number of chats and messengers our communication took place. It quickly became difficult and time-consuming to keep track of emails, Facebook and Skype conversations, text messages, and other places in which we were chatted with each other. Have you ever searched your email inbox to find that one piece of information you needed? Probably, yes.

team messaging

Team communication software makes it dead simple to find the document that someone uploaded 3 weeks ago that you want to have a look at right now. Moreover, it is accessible anywhere. Furthermore, communication tools for teams are fast and easy-to-use (almost of them). Also, they have plenty of workflow-focused features that will boost your team’s productivity.

  1. Make a room for emotional conversations

Informal conversations are more difficult and important than you might think when it comes to colleagues communication. Most teams use communication apps for water-cooler conversation, where off-topic jokes, banter, and chatter can take place in addition to work-related discussion. This type of team communication is especially important for remote teams.

  1. Get an online project management tool

Collaboration is a crucial part of team communication. There are many types of online tools that can be used to improve team communication. These tools can help keep track of a project’s progress so that everyone knows what is left to be done. While face-to-face communication is always important, online tools can aid in this process by saving time and helping to document the work.

Every obstacle in the project lifecycle is a potential for chaos. A survey found, that when organizations become better at project management, the KPIs increase significantly, and productivity can improve by over 60 percent.

If you are trying to manage a project of any size, spreadsheets won’t be sufficient. There is a limit to how much you can do with coloured boxes on a grid. There will come a time when you have to switch to more professional tools – tools that will save your time and help you collaborate effectively with your team.

team communication strategies

Online project management software tools are one option for teams looking to adopt feature-rich applications that will help you manage the project successfully. But why make the switch if you’ve managed so far with spreadsheets and documents? Here are some benefits of using online project management tools:

  • Planning and forecasting
  • Progress tracking
  • Access anything anywhere in a real time
  • Security

If you are struggling to manage your projects effectively with spreadsheets and email, I see no reason why you shouldn’t try using project management software after everything I have mentioned above.

Don’t forget about motivation

There are companies that fail to understand the importance of employee motivation.

According to Gallup’s most recent survey on this topic, “State of the American Workplace,

70 percent of employees lack engagement on some level.  That’s estimated to cost the U.S. a whopping $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year.

On the contrary, motivating employees can lead to increased productivity and allow an organization to achieve higher levels of output.

  1. Identify a common goal

Within every company there are common goals, which can depend heavily upon the focus of the business. Identifying and clarifying common goals can come along with a number of benefits. After all, there is nothing more important for a team than for each of its members to have a similar mindset.

  1. Make the mission and vision clear

Take the time to explain the company values and mission, whether as part of corporate training or as a regular reminder to employees. When employees are consolidated in their understanding of the company goals, they will be able to communicate with one another more effectively in order to reach them.

Take inventory of your own communication skills

Every employer wants their workers to communicate, but what about your own communication skills? If you want to serve as a model leader, the only way to do so is self-development.

effective team communication

  1. Ask questions

Regardless of the type of company you run, every employee perceives information in their own way. Asking your employees how they like to receive information can help you create a more effective plan for regular communication. In addition, your staff will appreciate the fact that you are willing to meet them halfway.

  1. Give your undivided attention

How often have you been in a conversation with someone who kept looking at their smartphone or elsewhere while talking or listening to you? Lack of focus devalues the conversation. Maintain eye contact during meetings, and put all other things aside to visually convey your attention and encourage each participant to stay present.

  1. Take time to listen

Don’t monopolize the conversation. After a while, people will start tuning you out and your message will be lost. Pause after important points to take questions or check understanding. This will help your employers feel they play an active role in the conversation.

  1. Be mindful of how you are communicating

Your words are only a fraction of the message you relay to your employees. Maintain a relaxed stance and facial expression while speaking. Rest your arms by your sides rather than crossing them over your chest as this is a defensive sign. Make eye contact, smile when it is appropriate and nod your head affirmatively while listening.

Our body language and other non-verbals, like clothing, contribute about 55 percent of information to our prospects. (Source)

  1. Follow up in writing

No matter how dramatic your meeting was, chances are the audience won’t remember everything that was shared. Short, concise notes will keep important information fresh in people’s minds.

  1. Inform and inspire

It is crucial for your business having your communication efforts both inspiring and educational. If this is particularly challenging for you, the support of a mentor or coach can be helpful.

  1. Make it two-way

Communication should never be one-way. Ask your employees to provide their feedback on your performance as a manager. Maybe, it can be somewhat scary.

  1. Keep it face to face

Using team communication tools are often the most efficient, however, it is important to remember that face to face communication has a great value in terms of sincerity and authenticity.

  1. Don’t over-communicate

After work hours, keep the number of emails you send to your workers to a minimum. While your communication is likely very important, it can also most probably wait until the following day.

  1. Never personalize criticism

Whether you’re giving or receiving criticism, it should be based upon observed actions and results, not intent. It is impossible to know the motivations behind any activity, only the physical actions and outcome of the activity. As a consequence, criticism should be given and accepted unemotionally, considered for its validity and pertinence, and implemented when action is justified.

  1. Offer compliments in a thoughtful way

If you tell an employee she did a great job, she may be left thinking, “But what exactly did I do great? How can I replicate it again?” Be specific instead — ”You did a great job explaining how inbound marketing is important for our promotion in that presentation. The visuals were amazing and really helped the audience understand the process.”

  1. Take suggestions in earnest, and explain why when you can’t

Even if everyone isn’t happy with your resolutions, feeling listened to and considered is the most important part. Sincerity is one of the best pillars for effective communication in the workplace.

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Team building is a big deal

Team building is essential if you want to improve team relations, because it is all about the most important asset of your business – your employees. There are many indoor and outdoor team building activities to choose from – including culinary classes, music events and trips to adventure parks. Let’s look at a few of them.

  1. Get outside of the office

Being stuck in the office for a long time can have negative psychological effects on you and your employees. It is just boring too. 🙂 Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to cheer people up. Getting outside of the office doesn’t necessarily mean wasting valuable work time. You can simply relocate your team to a different location where you can collaborate on a project. Personally, I love our marketing team’s weekly meetings that take place in the nearest cozy cafe.

  1. Schedule a work retreat

Staying with the concept of getting outside the office, there are moments when you should stop work-related activity, and instead, allow your employees to get to know each other better. A work retreat is an excellent way to do this.

  1. Attend conferences as a team

Just about every industry has its own set of conferences throughout the year. Attending conferences as a team is an excellent way of team-building. They don’t have to be expensive or difficult to attend if you plan things out ahead of time.

  1. Allow water cooler chat

For many employers, water cooler chat can seems like a waste of valuable time. It is completely natural for employees to talk about their home life or what they did over the weekend. Instead of being forbidden, it should be encouraged. Employee chit-chat is essential for building positive relationships within a team.

  1. Celebrate your employees’ achievements

With the hard schedules that most executives have, it can be difficult to set time aside to recognize your employees and their teams for all the hard work they do. It is very important to take a moment and celebrate what your employees have achieved and do it in public.

Ignoring employee achievements is the biggest communication issue that prevent effective leadership. (Source)

  1. Identify and reach out to shy employees

Some people simply tend to be shy. Identifying and reaching out to shy employees can help break down the barriers of workplace communication they may have created for themselves, especially if you show a genuine interest in them. Don’t forget, however, that this can be a lengthy process — shyness doesn’t disappear overnight, after all.

  1. Focus on company culture

Focus on company culture and integrate it into your workday. This can be a great way to make employees feel more connected to each other and the company. You can do this by incorporating your branding into office decor, for example. If there are any core philosophies that your business embodies, don’t hesitate to broadcast them on a regular basis.

  1. Encourage cross-departmental education

The entire team will become educated about their colleagues’ roles and responsibilities. As each representative recounts their portion of the workflow, the idiosyncrasies of the staff as well as the reasons behind each piece of the process are revealed. This education process helps people understand why one group behaves or works in a certain way, and it demystifies the process itself. It promotes a better understanding and respect for colleagues’ roles, which prompts groups to work harder to help others achieve their goals.

Thinking outside the box when it comes to office space

Thinking ahead and identifying creative approaches to office space can be a great way to improve your team’s communication and collaboration. Give your team the physical and mental space to create and collaborate in peace.

 Investment in ergonomic furniture and effective use of space could increase productivity by up to 64% – Research in New Zealand

Image Source – Imgur
  1. Rearrange your office

If you’re working within a physical office, one of the best steps you can take to improve workplace communication is to rearrange the way it is designed. Many offices make use of cubicles and partitions, for example, which can isolate employees and put a damper on communication.

One third of office workers believe they would be more productive in an “open room”, as opposed to a cubicle environment. (Source)

Rearranging your office to make it more “open” in design will help open up the floodgates for communication and collaboration, not to mention the space becoming a more enjoyable place to work in.

  1. Respect the need for silence

There are always limits of working space, but employers can help their workers to become more flexible. You should at least try to create a “silence room” or a “silence corner” where people don’t talk at all, but just work in silence.

  1. “Hot desking” experiment

Try out a trick called “hot desking”. It means that there are no assigned seats in office. So working space can easily be reconfigured for different tasks and evolving teams. Ultimately, “hot desking” transforms real estate into a communication tool.

  1. Use a single coffee machine

One big company created a large cafeteria with one coffee station for all employees in place of a much smaller one that few employees had used. In a fer months after the coffee-and-cafeteria switch, sales rose by 20%, or $200 million, quickly justifying the capital investment in the redesign. This is a great example of the value of communication in the workplace.

  1. “White-wall-room” technique

A white-wall room is a place where you have free usable walls and whiteboards to discuss problems together. This space should be reached easily by anyone from the teams (developers, product managers, designers etc.) A white-wall room can become a collaborative place, where people from any background are able to communicate openly and solve problems together.

One bonus tip:  Tables that fold into walls

Our projects and tasks are constantly changing day to day and our workspaces should be flexible enough to change with them. If you need more space to break away or host a gathering, the space can adapt to what a team needs from it. Tables that fold up into the walls are the great decision.

team chat

And remember — this is your space. Arrange it however you believe will keep your creativity flowing.

Phew! The 50 stage marathon of improving your team’s communication is over. Hope you found some tips useful and applicable for your employees. Which advice appeared the most worthy of your attention? Is there something you would like to add? Don’t hesitate to share in the comments below. 😉


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