The effectiveness of team communication includes the modalities, frequency and efficiency of communication, alongside team member relationships and overriding company culture.
Following the fundamental principles isn’t actually too challenging. Nevertheless, 86% of employees and executives cite the lack of effective communication as the main cause for workplace failures, according to Salesforce.
Good communication is an absolute prerequisite of successful collaboration, so to neglect the former is to seriously compromise the latter. Unfortunately, the mere presence of email chains and daily standups isn’t nearly enough, with many leaders now recognizing that quality is far more valuable than quantity.
Team communication is essentially the sharing of information and exchanging of ideas related to their goals, which doesn’t just mean assigning tasks and tracking progress. When you consider that teams, by definition, work interdependently, communication is the bonding agent which ensures cohesion.
This applies to various areas:
The quality of team communication affects practically all other facets of teamwork, so the ramifications of poor execution are plentiful: disrupting the flow of information, delaying progress and ultimately destroying the success of a project.
Effective workplace communication begins with the acknowledgment of two key components: content and modality.
The content (information) shared must be clear, relevant and whole, so that recipients are able to understand your intentions, see how they relate, and have all the information they need to take further action.
The modality (means) of communication should be intuitive, efficient and inclusive, so that the content is easily expressed, time is not wasted, and all relevant members can access the information now and in future. With that in mind, here are some ways you can take a step towards more effective team communication.
Team members need to know what is expected of them, which relates to social norms, communication guidelines, and technical aspects like file sharing. Managers may be reluctant to tell their employees how to talk to one another, yet in doing so everyone is made aware of the benchmark for communications.
Whether the rules are to do with centralized message boards, frequency of status updates, or preferred meeting structures, having clear parameters reduces misunderstanding, which in turn will minimize inefficiencies and any resulting conflicts.
According to one 2019 survey, 67% of employees said that meetings distracted them from their work, with just 11% saying that they thought meetings were productive. Climb the corporate ladder and you’ll have a similar problem, with a recent Harvard Business Review survey finding that 71% of senior managers considered the majority of their meetings to be unproductive and inefficient.
Considering that team gatherings are invaluable for aligning project goals and increasing motivation, it’s important to make meetings matter:
A well-known email written by Elon Musk advised his Tesla employees to “walk out of a meeting, or drop off a call, as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value,” arguing that “excessive meetings are the blight of big companies.”
Only invite relevant team members to meetings, and allow them to leave when they are no longer needed.
Clear intentions and expectations are the foundation of any effective team communication.
In words attributed to former Intel CEO Andy Grove, “How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things but how well we are understood.”
Leaders must ensure their team is clear on issues raised. Avoid confusion by having team members quickly summarize the meeting, relaying the key decisions and next steps required.
Most projects in the business world are achieved through teamwork, which we already know relies on effective communication. Thus the extent to which teams succeed depends largely on their environment, as we communicate best when we feel comfortable, supported and appreciated.
As the Greek philosopher Epictetus once quipped, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
Effective communication should be measured by how much is collectively understood, rather than said. Accordingly, a 2021 UKG study saw 74% of employees report they are more effective at work when they feel heard.
Despite this, 34% of employees said they’d rather quit or switch teams than voice their true concerns with management, implying that psychological safety is immensely important effective team communication. Employees reluctant to express their feelings will experience increased stress, so they should be encouraged to communicate without fear of judgment.
Certain modalities of team communication are more susceptible to problems. For example, an email chain is only as strong as its weakest recipient. One 2022 report shared that 62% of respondents had lost a file in their inbox, while 63% had missed a piece of information because it went to an inaccessible (‘siloed’) destination.
Forgetting to forward information, share a file, or even read the message is human, sure, but it will still slash the effectiveness of team comms. It’s not just email. Many organizations inexplicably depend on suboptimal communication platforms, unaware of how much grief a poorly-suited app causes their workers.
Certain scenarios benefit from specific tools. For example, an operationalized remote team will typically rely on video conferencing, async tools, and a centralized digital HQ, which integrates with their existing communication tools and automates notifications.
Other the other hand, in-house teams are able to utilize non-verbal communication and face-to-face meetings, as well as said messaging interfaces.
It’s true that completely changing your system for communication is intimidating. You’ll probably be wondering whether people will embrace it, or whether it will actually improve work output. Nonetheless, revising your modalities can be one of the most significant improvements for effective team communication.
One of the greatest quotes on miscommunication comes from Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, who said “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” It’s the misassumption that a longer meeting is empirically more productive as more has been said, or that your colleagues will understand your words exactly as you expect.
Communication challenges aren’t rare, so don’t panic when your team comes across them. Instead of chalking it up to office politics, look for the actual origins of miscommunication.
Assess whether your team is making common errors that are damaging team communications and morale:
Over-reliance on email and inappropriate messaging platforms will cause a team’s transmission of information to bottleneck, so it’s vital to find the perfect communication tools for your specific needs and then perfect those communication skills.
Friday check-ins can help your team stay connected without calling yet another Zoom or in-person meeting. Friday provides async updates for weekly check-ins, daily stand-ups or your own customized meeting cadence. In Friday, your team will get an idea of what everyone is working on while also providing points of connection (like finding out who they work with via the employee directory, icebreaker questions to learn more about each other, and kudos to say thanks).
As would be expected, remote teams have greater communication difficulties. Consequently, they need to get smart with how they connect with each other, more specifically the tools that they employ to do so.
While a global pandemic has made us all a little more familiar with video conferencing, remote teams rely on more team communication tools for their day to day.
There are innumerable examples, so the best combination will depend on the varying needs of the team.
Asynchronous tools are king for remote collaboration, giving teams the freedom to communicate and access information conveniently. Examples include email, intranets, messaging apps, video communications, and team management software otherwise.
It’s crucial to find the best tools, based on the team work style, to create a communication strategy that actually enables the team, rather than disabling.
Friday is a team collaboration tool that helps keep teams on track and connected even when working remotely. It can also create cohesion across your whole company, serving like a modern intranet and hub for important announcements and policies.
With Friday, you can:
Think of Friday as your digital HQ for your most important things at work.
Communication is a reflection of company culture, which is to say that how we speak with one another is reflective of our underlying relationships. Each and every team member should understand their collective achievement of shared goals depends predominantly on these elements.
The teams that find productive methods for passing their information, sharing their ideas and expressing their feelings are able to collaborate more successfully. Such an ability is a consequence of investing not only in decent tools, but also the core principles of team communication.