In today’s day and age of remote working and fragmented teams, understanding how to communicate efficiently and effectively is integral to a team’s success. And with the right digital communication strategy, you can take your team from discombobulated to cohesive.
Embrace the Challenge
When you’re managing a team, and everyone works out of the same physical office space, you have every advantage. Physical proximity doesn’t necessarily mean your team will enjoy healthy communication, but the building blocks are in place. When you go remote, everything changes. Suddenly communication requires a new degree of focus – a higher level of intentionality. You need new collaboration skills.
“What’s missing from our texts, emails, conference calls, and other digital communications? Body language,” says Eric Dhawan, author of Get Big Things Done. “Even when we’re co-located, the tone of a text or the formality of an email is left wide open to interpretation, to the point that even our closest friends get confused. These misinterpretations create anxiety that can become costly, affecting morale, engagement, productivity, and innovation.”
Remote communication often distorts the traditional or “normal” pace of conversations. There’s a delay between messages, which allows people to postpone, hide, or alter emotional reactions. You wonder how someone will receive a particular statement. You contemplate whether to use an exclamation point or period. Is an emoji appropriate or not? Should you explain more, or keep it brief? Is email okay, or do you pick up the phone?
Remote communication can be a real challenge, but it’s something that needs to be addressed in a head-on capacity. To perform at the highest possible level, your team must embrace digital communication and engage one another in ways that build camaraderie, promote efficiency, and ultimately boost the bottom line.
4 Tips for Better Digital Communication
Digital communication isn’t anything new to us. Whether you’re new to managing remote teams or you’ve been doing it for years, you’re comfortable with email, SMS, and other forms of digital engagement. The challenge is getting your entire team on board with a process that eliminates points of friction and allows for seamless transmission of information and knowledge in a way that positively impacts the business as a whole.
Here are a few suggestions, tips, and tactics:
1. Find the Right Social Intranet
Engaged employees are employees who show up and are invested in the company. They not only invest their time – they also invest their emotional energy. They go above and beyond to ensure the company is in the best possible position to succeed.
In a remote setting, the key is to provide engaged employees with a platform to share ideas, consume information, and communicate with coworkers. A social intranet is the answer many leading companies turn to.
“They also help to stem the flow of email traffic, allowing employees to engage with company news on their terms and in their own time instead of interrupting their flow and productivity.”
There are a variety of intranet solutions to choose from, so make sure you’re selecting the one that’s both intuitive and functional. It should be something that naturally fits into the organization. Otherwise, it becomes “just another thing” that employees feel burdened to learn.”
2. Implement a Sound Feedback Loop
If your company doesn’t have internal feedback loops, you’ll find it nearly impossible to maintain healthy and smooth digital communication across the organization.
As Daneil Newman writes for Forbes.com, “Feedback loops are simple to understand: you produce something, measure information on the production, and use that information to improve production. Around it goes—a constant cycle of monitoring and improvement.”
To stay healthy, your teams need feedback loops that they can contribute to and be a part of. These loops should be able to detect internal issues and flaws, as well as problems with processes. They also need to be capable of collecting positive information and possible opportunities.
Starting a feedback loop might be as simple as implementing standard operating procedures and iterating over time. Or you might choose to introduce new software into your tech ecosystem to gather data and produce automated insights.
3. Initiate Team Bonding
Just because you’re separated physically doesn’t mean you can’t bond as a team. In fact, team bonding arguably becomes more important in a remote setting. The question is, how do you facilitate it?
There are more opportunities for virtual team bonding than you probably realize. There are events (like town hall meetings and morning coffee hangouts), icebreakers and games (like trivia or show and tell), and a variety of virtual communication apps and tools (including intranets, which are highlighted above).
4. Be Strategic With Meetings
We can all agree that meetings are the worst. They’re rarely productive, tend to run longer than expected, eat away at schedules, and disrupt the flow of the day. Yet there are times when meetings are necessary. And when it comes to virtual meetings, you need to optimize them to be as productive as possible.
A good virtual meeting starts on time, has a clear stopping point, and is focused on a clear set of rules. All attendees should be instructed to test their technology (audio, video, and internet connection) before the start of the meeting. If using a platform like Zoom, the meeting should be recorded so that it can be referenced later (if needed).
Someone should be instructed to take meeting notes, and the notes need to be distributed to all attendees within an hour of the meeting being adjourned.
Set Your Business Up for Success
A company’s success is never contingent on a single factor. There are always multiple variables in play. But if you study successful organizations, you’ll find that almost all of them have extremely efficient and healthy internal communications strategies. It doesn’t matter if they operate in a remote capacity or not – they have efficient processes that produce predictably positive results.
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