The realist’s guide to effective team communication within your agency
Teams work better when they talk to each other and collaborate, but you don’t need us to tell you that.
Connecting the dots between effective team communication and high-performance teams or agencies is where things start to get interesting.
Poor team communication isn't just unproductive. It can create stress and waste a ton of valuable time—everything that top performers avoid.
A lot of teams may think they’ve got effective communication when it may not be that great. Although 75% of employers agree that teamwork, communication, and collaboration are very important for their business, 39% say that not enough communication happens in their workplace.
Better communication isn't only important for building trust within your team. While trust is important, team communication improves project efficiency, collaboration, and workloads.
This realist’s guide to team communication will break down why it's so important and five ways you can improve it across your agency. Let's get started.
Why effective team communication is so important
High-performing teams have something in common: they work interdependently and collaborate to get stuff done.
Their secret to success? Effective team communication. And getting everyone to exchange information and collaborate easily can achieve that.
However, there’s a lot that goes into making that happen. First of all, there are two ways your team is communicating:
🗣️ Verbally: Meetings, calls, video chats
👩💻 Virtually: Emails, @mentions, chat, document comments, task boards
To make your team communication effective, every channel your team is using needs to be working well. Ideally, you should be using a platform that links all of your channels up in one place.
But other factors come into play, like recognizing people working in different time zones or getting feedback about problems in your agency's communication strategy.
Here are five tips to help your team improve its communication:
1. Figure out your team’s unique communication style
Every team is different, and so are their communication styles.
Some teams may get the most out of group meetings, where ideas are tossed around, and people can collaborate freely. Others might prefer discussing project plans in chat channels or on a chat app within their project management software where they can attach links to ideas and documents to projects.
Either way, a key part of getting your team’s communication on the right track is figuring out how your team likes to talk to each other. And the easiest way to do it is to ask them:
What channels do they like using the most?
What type of communication makes it easiest to collaborate?
Do they get a lot out of regular team meetings? Or would a daily status meeting over chat be more productive?
Are there channels you currently use that they think are time wasters?
What type of communication do they feel brings the team together? Is there a channel they think brings in the most ideas and fuels connections with each other?
Now, you may think you know the answers to these questions, but the answers could surprise you.
For example, your Friday afternoon group call? Your team may think it's a time suck and that not enough direction is given post-call. Or they may say that although calls are great for team bonding, there isn't much transparency about what is said.
Plus, it could be more difficult if team members aren't taking meeting notes effectively, which leaves some members out of the loop if they miss the call. Once you know how your team prefers to communicate, it’s easier to pick a tool that fits.
2. Invest in a toolkit your team deserves
Making sure your team has the tools it needs to talk to each other effectively is arguably the most important part of any communication strategy.
It's essential to pick the team communication tools that fit your team's needs—not just the ones with the most features. And with more agencies moving to remote/hybrid work setups and hiring people in different timezones, the tools you choose should allow two types of communication: synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (non-concurrent schedule).
Several remote teams are already using tools like Slack and Zoom to make synchronous collaboration easier. But what about the day-to-day communication your team does to get stuff done?
We're talking about setting clear directions for tasks, laying down deadlines, and updating each other through features like project health reports to show progress. This is where picking the right tools takes a little more research.
The right type of project management tool can help agencies by giving teams a space to organize and collaborate with each other and clients – all without switching between tools.
Rather than waiting for emails or team meetings, ensure your team and clients have access to everything on a project with the correct user permissions. This simple task suddenly keeps everyone on the same page.
Our advice? Take your time and think about what tools will work best for your team (not just what everyone else is using). Start with a few test drives until you find a good fit that specifically addresses your own needs.
3. Help everyone adjust to different time zones
Remote and hybrid teams now have to think about a new challenge: how can we keep communication alive when our team lives in different time zones?
It's not just meetings and projects that take more planning—you also need to think about communication etiquette. Your team in Los Angeles shouldn't send out an urgent message at 3 pm to colleagues in London who are already preparing to go to sleep.
Your communication tools should also have features that account for time zone differences or display local times for each individual. Teamwork allows you to attach a timezone to your profile so other team members can see what time it is where you are before they message.
If you’re using Slack, ask your team to add a custom emoji to their name so their location is instantly recognizable. And if you want to keep your team’s communication really healthy—encourage people to log off when they’re not working.
Setting up "Do Not Disturb" hours can help your team detach and improve their work/life balance, which is more important than ever with so many living where we work.
4. Ask yourself—do we really need to schedule that meeting?
Meetings are unavoidable. But are all the meetings we have necessary?
Your team’s time is your company’s most important asset, and it needs to be spent wisely. And that’s not always the case.
A University of North Carolina study found that 65% of senior managers feel meetings keep them from completing their work. Additionally, 71% admitted in the same survey that meetings are unproductive and inefficient.
Instead of cutting meetings from your team’s communication strategy altogether, just get picky about whether a meeting is actually needed. In fact, the Harvard Business Review recommends teams use a decision tree to decide whether a meeting is best or if a problem can be solved through chat.
If a meeting is the best way for your team to talk about something, stick to some ground rules so that it’s worthwhile:
Write an agenda and send it out to everyone at least 24 hours before the meeting, so they have enough time to read it
Stick to the agenda once the meeting kicks off
Only invite people who need to be there
Have someone chair the meeting and work through the agenda
Choose a meeting leader and ask them to stick to the agenda
Keep it short—any meeting that is going to last longer than 50 minutes should be split into two sessions
5. Build a (two-way) feedback loop
Finally, create a feedback loop so your team can tell you which communication channels are working and which ones need to be improved.
Some tools—like Teamwork—have inbuilt forms to help gather and analyze feedback quickly. Using the form builder, you can create forms and then send them out to certain departments or the entire team.
Just ask your team which tools they think are working the best, what problems (if any) they’re having with your communication flow, and if they’ve got any suggestions to make it better.
Make sure that your team is following your communication strategy as well. If people are spending hours of their week in meetings or constantly messaging team members outside of normal “office” hours, pull them up on it.
If you don't stamp out bad communication behavior, it can derail your team's overall productivity and impact their work/life balance. Not to mention, it's your team culture that you’ve worked so hard to build and maintain.