Team communication is the lifeblood of any business. This is especially true when it comes to remote teams. Effective team communication is necessary so that team members feel connected, create a community, and collaborate well. Even further, communication is indispensable when it comes to producing great work, reaching business objectives, delivering products on time, and contributing to long-term business success.
Let's talk a little bit more about the different components of team communication, why it's so important, and how to harness its power to optimize your remote team's work.
The different types of information
In professional environments, there are two main categories of information: fast and slow.
It's important to know the difference between them because both kinds are important in their own way and are suitable for different contexts. Both categories also require you to use different parts of your brain to process information and communicate effectively.
When it comes to project management and remote work situations, you'll require different kinds of solutions, tools, and software to deal with different kinds of information.
Fast information is similar to a person's stream of consciousness. It's usually unfiltered, immediate, and brief. It's also associated with fast thinking, which is emotionally-driven, instinctive, and automatic.
Fast information is the kind of information that team members receive on a day-to-day basis. It's essential for regular decision making and workplace communication. It's information that's provided right away and doesn't come from a place of deep thought or reflection.
Think about an average workday for you. If you're receiving quick communications from team members in the form of emails, chats or forums, it's likely that a great deal of that information would be categorized as fast.
Slack is a perfect example of a software that helps team members with fast information. Slack is a communication tool that's perfect for the digital workplace. They aim to help virtual teams collaborate and communicate better.
Because Slack's entire platform is a series of communication channels, it provides remote teams with a solution for their fast information needs. Coworkers can stay organized while communicating on a singular platform when they have any kind of thought that needs to be shared. Slack has a wide range of communication features ranging from chats to video calls to audio calls that work well with fast information.
For all intents and purposes, slow information is the opposite of fast information. Slow information is usually longer, more detailed, and based on a high degree of reflection and consideration. Slow information isn't better communication, but it's a lot more in depth.
Slow information is associated with slow thinking, which is rational, intentional, and calculated. There's nothing quick about slow thinking, it takes valuable time and effort.
Slow information is often associated with documentation, reports, and in-depth communications.
Slow information is often used in important communications and decision making processes. It's often the accumulation of fast information. For example, if you're working on a new project, your ideas will start as fast information and eventually turn into slow information.
Basically, both slow and fast information are necessary team communication styles. You'll need both to communicate and exchange information well in any professional environment.
Slite is an excellent software to use for slow information. This is because it's a project management software that's all about team communication and collaboration in a documentation context. It makes working together easy for teams of all shapes and sizes, no matter where they are in the world.
Slite believes in the power of slow information. Because it’s such a useful tool for working remotely (and we have a remote work set-up for our own team as well), we’re huge proponents of the power of remote work. Some of our suggested remote work habits fit in perfectly with the concept of slow information:
- Provide updates in your own time
- Think separately and synthesize information together
- Have a central, written source of truth
- Allow for time and space to think through ideas
- Favour documentation over chatter
Different communication styles
There are several different communication styles that are important for remote teams to be aware of. Here are four of the biggest ones: public, private, asynchronous and synchronous.
Asynchronous communication is what happens when coworkers aren't in the same place and are collaborating across different time zones. They also might be working according to their own schedules at different times of day. Whatever the case, work and communication don't happen at the same time.
Asynchronous communication is one of Slite's 5 Remote Principles. We believe that harnessing its power is essential for any remote team. It can actually improve communication by decreasing its frequency and increasing its quality, thoughtfulness, and reflection.
Asynchronous communication is frequently associated with slow information.
Synchronous communication refers to communication that happens in real-time. Because of that, it's more typical of traditional office environments rather than remote work set-ups (or at least when the entire team works according to the same schedule in the same time zone).
Synchronous communication is often associated with fast information. Examples of it include text messages, phone calls or video conferencing tools that are being exchanged live.
Public communication, sometimes referred to as external communication, is when team members communicate but it can be accessed by the public.
There are several common examples of this. A big one would be any kind of external knowledge base that's accessed by both employees and external parties (these knowledge bases often act as customer service solutions or forums).
Many remote teams create documents with Slite that would be considered public communications. This is because they write documents that are available to their colleagues but can also be shared externally via link.
Private communication, sometimes referred to as internal communication, is when colleagues use team communication tools that can only be accessed internally. This is because their communications are private, confidential or otherwise shouldn't be accessible to the public. Depending on the information being exchanged, security features might be necessary to make sure that messages are extra secure.
This kind of group communication is usually professionally-focused and wouldn't be of any interest or use to external audiences.
Internal email chains or chats are examples of private communications. Although Slack has some features where channels can be shared with other parties, their software is built around the idea of private team communication.
Why is effective team communication so important?
There are several reasons why interpersonal communication is so important. Whether your team works in a digital workplace or together in the same building, improving team communication should be a priority. After all, it's closely related to how team members feel and company success overall.
Let's dive into the biggest reasons why team communication is so important a little bit further.
Excellent team communication...
Brings the team together
In our opinion, the biggest reason why team communication is important is because it brings people together. It strengthens relationships, creates community, contributes to team building, and increases a general sense of belonging.
It's been widely shown that close-knit teams with rich professional communities are happier in their work environments and perform better to boot. For instance, 54% of employees reported that a strong sense of community kept them working at a company for a longer period of time in a recent study. Another report found that good company culture increased revenue by 4x.
Basically, better communication leads to a richer community, which leads to achieving company goals and enjoying business success.
Makes hard conversations easier
If your team knows how to communicate well in good and bad situations, it will make your life easier. Every person goes through professional ups and downs. Therefore, if you develop a culture of healthy, effective community within your company, it'll be easier for team members to have hard conversations when it's necessary.
Mastering the art of tricky conversations also has other benefits for companies, such as higher levels of employee retention. For example, imagine that one of your team members is distracted in the workplace and isn't performing well. However, you still believe that they have potential and want to keep them on the team.
If you know how to have a difficult conversation in a healthy way, you'll be able to share constructive criticism that's actually helpful and will likely yield positive results.
Builds a consistent communication style
Fostering effective team communication within your company also builds a consistent communication style within your workplace. This is important because it allows team members to understand each other better and know what to expect in terms of how information is exchanged in their professional environment.
For example, the way people communicate in one on one interactions versus group communication varies considerably. Consistent communication style can help team members feel more comfortable in both those environments, especially if they're introverted, shy or haven't been on the team for a long time.
Over time, you might even come up with communication guidelines for correspondence and written communication to help keep everyone on the same page.
Consistent communication style is especially important for remote teams because they can't rely on subtle and non verbal communication the same way that in-person teams can.
The relationship between communication and performance
The biggest reason why team communication is so important is because it's directly related to team performance. Essentially, when a team communicates better, they're on the same page and collaborate better. In turn, this means that they perform better and produce better results.
In order to illustrate the importance of effective team communication and its relationship with performance, take a look at the following statistics:
- 86% of employees and executives cite lack of communication or collaboration for workplace failures.
- Companies and organizations that communicate effectively are 4.5x more likely to retain the best employees.
- Employee productivity increases by 20 to 25% in organizations where employees feel connected.
- Organizations with effective change and communication programs are 3.5x more likely to outperform their peers.
How to improve team communication
There are several ways you can improve team communication in your workplace. Here are some of our favourite ways to do so here at Slite:
Focus on collaboration
Communication and collaboration are inextricably linked. The more teams bring their minds together, collaborate meaningfully, and exchange ideas, the more their communication issues evaporate and their working relationships improve.
Slite has helped millions of teams collaborate because we're so passionate about helping people share and organize written knowledge. We've seen too many teams lose valuable work in messaging threads or get off track due to repeated interruptions.
We truly believe that communication and collaboration go hand-in-hand and are the key to helping teams thrive and reach their full potential together.
Send less emails & hold less meetings
Many people might hear "improving team communication," and think that sending more emails and holding more team meetings would be a good solution to that. That couldn't be farther from the case.
Although emails and meetings are handy forms of communication in the right situations, they probably aren't going to help your team's communication skills overall. We believe in a "less is more" approach when it comes to high performance teams. Basically, you communicate less often with richer, higher quality information.
Slite has a variety of features that allow you to cut down on overall communication while prioritizing what's absolutely essential. For instance, it's easy to create meeting minutes. This can provide a bit of quality face to face time without having to take the time to organize a meeting unless it's really important.
Develop excellent process documentation
If you want your team to communicate and function properly, you'll need to have excellent process documentation.
Slite is all about high-quality documentation, and a big reason for that is because we believe that documentation allows communication to flow more easily.
First of all, when employees know that their high functioning team has great documentation, they'll save a lot of time. They won't have to worry about asking repetitive questions or information sharing because they'll know that everything they need can be found in a central repository.
We also believe that excellent documentation can improve communication because it encourages the whole team to develop and exchange slow information.
This quote from our article on slow information says it all:
"Collaboration is an endless topic that many people claim to solve but one thing is for sure: encouraging your team to write the slow, important stuff, organize it and share it is the best place to start."
Cultivate a sense of calm
We truly believe that effective team communication stems from a calm work environment. As we've mentioned, communicating more isn't necessarily communicating better. Communication overload can lead to team members getting overwhelmed with notifications, alerts, live chats, and more. This kind of setting feels like an uphill battle and doesn't allow workers to work, reflect, and share meaningful communications.
In order to improve team communication and avoid communication challenges, ensure that your employees feel calm and focused during their workday. Give them the time and space they need to come up with their best work and share it when they're ready.
This won't only produce better results overall, but will also foster productive and joyful attitudes, better employee retention, innovative ideas, and access to desirable global talent. It's just common sense.
How to tell if your team members are suffering from poor communication
If you want to determine whether your professional team is suffering from poor communication, look out for the following red flags and consider their effect on how your team interacts with each other:
- Are team members subjected to a lot of unexpected daily meetings, notifications, calls, and interruptions?
- Are team members hovered over and micromanaged, or are they given the time and space to think, reflect, and produce their best work?
- Do team members rely on body language and implicit communication to share their thoughts, or are they explicit and intentional with their language?
- Do team members work exclusively with fast information, or is there a balance between fast and slow?
- Is it easy for team members to access the information they need at all times?
- Are other team members accessible? Is it easy to get in touch with others?
How to make effective communication part of your remote team's culture
In order to make effective communication part of your organization's culture, it's important that you implement different channels and tools that will help team interaction and allow their collaboration to flourish.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, different tools and software will be appropriate for different kinds of communication and information (remember the distinction between fast vs. slow).
Not to toot our own horn, but Slite is a communication tool that specializes in improving team communication and company culture overall. We're passionate about helping remote teams collaborate better. We achieve this by giving them an intuitive platform where they can share ideas, save knowledge, and work together at any time.
For example, Muxu.Muxu used Slite to create a transparent communication culture. They wanted a communication solution that would allow their employees to find the information they need with ease at any time. Now, all their data is easily searchable, retrievable, and discoverable for all their team members. If you want to learn more about Muxu.Muxu's best practices on Slite, click here for the full story.
If you're interested in trying Slite out as a communication solution for your team, click here to give it a go. We've got a free plan you can use with no strings attached.