Team communication is one of the biggest contributors to overall team productivity when done right, or reversely, one of the most serious inhibitors when done wrong. In fact, a Mckinsey study found that workplace connectivity can increase overall employee productivity by up to 25%. This shows that whether your team will function as a productive unit largely depends on how well team members communicate between each other. This sounds like a relatively simple process, but in practice it can be tricky, often complicated by team structures, organizational culture, a lack of team alignment, and a lack of a clear system of communication.
Luckily there are good practices in each of the above categories that can put you on the right path to improved communication, and thus a better functioning and more productive team. While there’s no one ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to team communication, the right combination of different best practices can begin the process of improving team communication. In this regard, below you will find 5 hacks for better team communication. Try them out and adjust them to your individual needs, and you’ll certainly see benefits.
Focus on team culture
Communication styles and functionality largely stem from team culture. Teams that value employee contributions and encourage team members to freely speak their minds often find that communication naturally flows between team members without strict structures or procedures. In contrast, in teams with strict hierarchies and unspoken rules of not ‘speaking out of turn,’ communication can be dampened, if not outright halted. By focusing on the right team values, such as collaboration, continuous learning, and mutual respect, and truly living those values, you can build a culture of open communication.
Structure your team to meet your needs
While culture is an important underlying aspect to team communication and collaboration, if at times difficult to define and quantify, team structure can also go a long way to improving team communication. Whether you’re arranged in sub teams based on shared work streams, or temporary working groups for specific projects, ensuring that team members have the chance to continuously interact with colleagues with whom they share responsibilities can help catalyze communication and collaboration. This structure should also be present in your choice of team communication tool. Private team communication networks are a great option in this regard, allowing you to integrate your team structure into your IM network, thus further encouraging team communication and collaboration.
Get everyone onboard
Implementing any changes to team communication without taking the time to ensure that all team members are on board can easily become counterproductive. Unless all team members are aligned on the need for structural or cultural changes within the team, the likelihood of these changes leading to the desired result is greatly reduced. Ultimately, the goal is for these changes to be meaningful and embraced by all team members, and this can only happen when team members have a shared understanding of 1) the need for these changes, and 2) the desired result these changes are aiming for. By taking the time to align on these points you will go a long way to guaranteeing your ultimate outcome.
Create the appropriate communications structure
Who shares with whom, and in what frequency, is a crucial question for any team looking to improve their communication. While there’s no one size fits all approach to communication structures, and even within a team structures need to be revisited, your team should at the very least aim for clear owners of every meeting event (team meetings, one on ones, etc.). These owners’ have the responsibility to make a case as to the frequency and focus of the event. This owner should also solicit periodic feedback from team members as to the structure and efficacy of the events. This more fluid approach will allow your team to continuously improve your communications structures.
Feedback, feedback, feedback
Your best source of information as to how your team communication approach is going, and what needs to be improved, lies directly within your team. No one approach will work forever, as the modern workplace is dynamic with new team members and projects, technological developments, and changing market trends. By continuously seeking out feedback from your team members as to the efficacy of team communications, you can ensure that you are well positioned to adapt to these changes. This is also a great way to demonstrate the value of open communication within your team!
Improving your team communication is one of the best ways to increase team productivity and overall satisfaction. This goal starts with developing a team culture of openness, respect and shared understanding of the importance of collaboration, and is solidified with team structures and communication tools. While there’s no one approach to this issue, and some of these hacks will work better for certain teams, this holistic view will go a long way to creating a team that values the importance of open communication, and thus reaps the numerous benefits that it leads to.