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 get interesting.
Poor team communication isn't just unproductive. It can create stress and waste valuable time — everything top performers avoid.
Many teams may think they’ve got effective communication when it may not be that great.
Better communication isn't only important for building trust within your team. While trust is crucial, team communication improves project efficiency, collaboration, and workloads.
This realist’s guide to team communication will break down why it's so important and give you five actionable ways to improve it across your agency. Let's dive in.
Why effective team communication is so important
High-performing teams have something in common: They work interdependently and collaborate to get more 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. There are two ways your team communicates:
Verbally: Meetings, calls, video chats
Virtually: Emails, @mentions, chat, document comments, task boards
Every channel your team uses needs to work well to make your team communication effective. Ideally, you should use a single platform that links all your channels.
5 tips to help your team improve its communication
Examining your current teams, their processes, and the individual personalities that make up your teams is a good best practice. After all, there are no cookie-cutter teams out there. By understanding your team members and their needs, you’ll make better decisions that make your communication strategy that much more effective.
Use these five tips to give your team’s communication a pick-me-up.
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 they can toss ideas around and 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?
You may think you know the answers to these questions, but the answers could surprise you.
For example, consider your Friday afternoon group call (if you have one). Your team may think it's a time suck, and that there's not enough direction post-call. Or they may say that although calls are great for team bonding, there isn't much transparency regarding company operations.
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. Knowing how your team prefers to communicate makes it easier to pick a tool that fits.
Pro tip: Conduct individual personality tests to gain insight into your team members’ personalities
The Myers-Briggs test offers valuable information about how teammates communicate and how they process information. Share the results with your team to help them understand their teammates better.
2. Invest in a toolkit to improve team communication skills
Making sure your team has the tools to talk to each other effectively is arguably the most integral 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 time zones, 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 needs 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. These situations require a little more research to help pick the right tools.
The right project management tool can help agencies by giving teams a space to organize and collaborate with each other and clients without switching between tools.
Rather than waiting for emails or team meetings, ensure your team and clients can access everything on a project with the correct user permissions.
Our advice? Take your time and think about what tools will work best for your team (not just what everyone else uses). Start with a few test drives until you find a good fit that addresses your specific needs.
Powerful tools to consider
Teamwork: Our intuitive platform works well for fast-paced teams needing to communicate in real time and asynchronously. It’s a flexible tool with multiple ways to communicate with on-site, hybrid, and remote team members. Your teams will be able to communicate clearly, concisely, and considerately.
Slack: This powerful app makes it easy to keep communication organized and on point. By using channels, team members can discuss topics in a single location, get notifications, and easily refer to discussions, plans, and other conversations to stay on top of tasks. Plus, it helps build camaraderie and strengthen the team bond.
Zoom: A staple for video conferencing since the start of the pandemic, Zoom is a must-have for all your virtual meeting needs. Clear audio and video, an easy-to-navigate dashboard, and a group messaging feature are a few reasons it tops the list of communication-improving mobile apps.
3. Help everyone adjust to different time zones
Remote and hybrid teams must address 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 an urgent, late-afternoon request to colleagues in London who are already preparing for bed.
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 time zone to your profile, so other team members can see what time it is where you are before they message you.
If you use 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 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 of us living where we work.
Pro-Tip: Consider trying an asynchronous workflow
Working asynchronously means team members complete their tasks on their own schedules and send communication to the team when it’s convenient for them. Instead of a real-timeworkflow, an asynchronous workflow gives teammates power over their schedules, which makes them more productive. No more interruptions with messages and notifications that require immediate attention, making team members lose focus on what they were doing before.
Asynchronous communication is priceless for remote employees who work in different time zones. It fosters inclusivity by ensuring everyone has access to the same information, whether your team works in the office or scattered across the world.
In addition, asynchronous communication reduces stress — which is great, since 44% of workers report being stressed out often. Instead of feeling like they have to be on and available 24/7, asynchronous workflows let team members respond at a convenient time that doesn’t break their focus.
4. Ask yourself: Do we 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. Spend it wisely. The State of Video Conferencing Report finds that 32.7% of respondents complained meetings wasted their time the most at work, and over 50% felt overwhelmed by the number of meetings they attended.
Instead of cutting all meetings from your team’s communication strategy, get picky about whether a meeting is actually needed
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 will last longer than 50 minutes should be split into two sessions.
Pro-tip: Use best practices for more effective meetings
Don’t invite the entire team to every meeting. One of the easiest ways to run a meeting off the rails into unproductive oblivion is to invite too many people. Follow Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos's “two pizza rule” to promote positive group communication. Don’t invite more people to the meeting than two pizzas can feed. If the attendee list is bigger than that, either remove some invitees or break it up into more than one meeting. This way, everyone can contribute without getting overlooked, which is a common problem for more introverted team members.
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 built-in forms to help gather and analyze feedback quickly. Using the form builder, you can create forms and send them to departments or the entire team.
Just ask your team which tools they think are working the best, what problems or miscommunications (if any) they’re having with your communication flow, and if they’ve got any suggestions to improve it.
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, ask them about 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 affects the positive team culture that you’ve worked so hard to build and maintain.
Pro tip: Encourage “bottom-up” communication
By giving team members multiple ways to share their feedback (polls, surveys, one-on-one meetings, etc.), you’ll be able to address issues before they become real problems. Plus, you can add and change communication tools based on the feedback of those using them the most.
Team communication strategies to implement today
Improving workplace communication offers some far-reaching advantages. It makes everyone more productive, fosters inclusivity and team collaboration, and even strengthens the fabric of the company culture. These actionable strategies will provide your team with ways to avoid communication issues and control their schedules and be more productive.
Schedule daily meet-ups or quick stand-ups
Not every meeting needs to be an hour long. They don’t even have to be 20 minutes to be effective. Stand-ups are snappy, hyper-focused meetings that cover a portion of the team’s task management. They help team leaders stay informed, head off bottlenecks, and manage project timelines efficiently.
But for stand-ups to work as they should, you need to stick to a predetermined list of discussion points.
Create meeting agendas for more effective use of time
Preparation is one of the main ingredients of efficiency. If teams hem and haw around trying to decide what they should discuss first, they're wasting time that they could spend on important projects and other tasks. Avoid this with detailed meeting agendas.
Before the meeting, send out an agenda that lists the meeting's main talking points and the time set aside to discuss each of them. During the meeting, have the agenda on the conference room whiteboard or prominently displayed on the video conferencing screen to keep everyone on track.
Commit to following the agenda and redirect any rabbit holes attendees try to introduce. If it’s a valid topic, address it offline or in a future meeting.