With modern technology providing so many different ways to communicate these days, you may be wondering how effective virtual communication can still be an issue. The reality is, even with so many new and improved communication tools at our disposal, the risk of virtual teams still finding themselves feeling disconnected is high.
So what can be done to improve virtual communication? Having worked with a variety of clients who make use of virtual teams, we’ve come up with our top 5 tips that have shown to make the biggest impact:
Make face-to-face connections a priority
We know it may seem counter-intuitive to start a list of virtual communication tips by saying you should bring people together, but a face-to-face connection is important not only to build that initial connection, but also to ensure an ongoing one. We would suggest budgeting for at least one face-to-face team building style session per year.
Select the right communication tool for the task
There is no be-all and end-all communication tool that trumps all others. Let’s use email as an example – many people rely on email as their tool of choice, but how many times have you gotten stuck in a mail trail 10 – 20 messages deep that you know could’ve been resolved with a quick telephone call instead? Where email is great for sharing information, or confirming tasks, it’s not that great for more complex applications. For problem solving, a video or teleconference is far more effective. For collaborative development or design, an instant chat facility or online collaboration tool like Slack is be the easiest (and quickest) way to share ideas and divvy up work.
Create opportunities for regular communication
As with co-located teams, it’s important to understand that different people have different communication styles. Some will speak up immediately if they need something, others may sit with an issue for quite some time before asking for help. You need to create opportunities for virtual teams to connect on a regular basis. Be it a virtual daily stand-up, or a weekly issues forum, you can assess what works best for your team members and their respective time zones.
Leave no room for interpretation or misunderstanding
When sending out any communication, be clear about what you expect in return. If you need acknowledgment of receipt, say so. If you need an answer by a certain date or time, say so. If you require specific actions to be carried out, list them out in bullet form, ranking them from most critical to least critical. The more detailed you are in your communication, the better the response you’ll get.
Make important project details easily accessible
Leave schedules, freeze periods, schedule updates, priorities for the week, release notes, requirements and design documentation, latest code versions, etc. should all be kept in one central location that is easily accessible by all. If it’s a piece of information you think will be useful to all or most of the team, upload it, share the links and ensure that it’s kept up to date at all times.
Have any virtual communication tips of your own you can share? Using a particular tool which your team loves? Please share your thoughts and suggestions with us in the comments section below. Or, if you’d like to get in touch, contact us at 021 447 5696 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.