Effective communication can be tough — especially since good communication skills are considered soft skills that don’t always receive much attention during training. However, great communication offers a number of benefits within teams, and its ripple effect can lead to greater success for the business overall.
There are several ways to encourage effective communication with your team, even when everyone works remotely. Below we’ll explore the importance of great communication with your team, the types of communication, and eight communication techniques you can use to help elevate your remote teamwork.
First, it’s critical not to skimp on the importance of effective communication. It’s the foundation for everything that you do — and just like the foundation of a home, if there are cracks in your communication, the whole structure is liable to fall.
In fact, communication is cited as one of the largest problems at most modern workplaces. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 7% of U.S. workers strongly agree that their workplace communication is accurate, timely, and open.
When you have communication breakdowns, it leads to lower productivity, greater inefficiency, and higher turnover in extreme cases. Without effective communication, you set your team members up for failure — whether it’s because they can’t get crucial information about the projects they’re working on, can’t resolve problems efficiently, or because they fear the repercussions of saying the wrong thing.
Now that working remotely is rising in prominence, workplaces without solid communication strategies face even more issues as team members struggle to form new communication habits — all while learning to navigate things like Zoom meetings and instant messaging.
You can see how crucial it is that your team establishes effective communication. However, there are four different types of communication that you must understand in order to build a cohesive communication strategy in a busy workplace: verbal, written, visual, and non-verbal.
This is what first comes to mind when most people envision communication. While you usually picture face-to-face speech, verbal communication also happens during phone and video calls or when people speak aloud to each other.
Tips for verbal communication: During verbal communication, remember to pay attention to your tone of voice and speak in a clear, professional manner.
Written communication is somewhat the opposite of verbal communication in that it happens via written messages (emails, letters, memos, etc.), and there is no face-to-face element to add context. It’s a little harder to communicate with written words because of the missing visual context that facial expressions and body language can add.
Tips for written communication: Take care to keep your language clear and professional. A big part of that clarity and professionalism means using proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation, so be sure to use your word processor's spelling and grammar checker.
Here’s another type of communication that takes place without speaking. Visual communication includes things you can see — like images on social media posts, infographics, models, diagrams, and similar mediums. You can present them on their own (like an infographic that needs no further explanation), with text (like when you include graphs in a report), or as visual aids to help illustrate the things you’re speaking about.
Tips for visual communication: Be mindful of the color and design choices you make. Use a clear, easy-to-read font, and choose colors that contrast well — such as white text on a dark background, or primary colors for your charts.
We’ve already discussed written and visual communication, both of which are types of non-verbal communication — but there’s plenty left to cover in the non-verbal category. Think of how you can get a message across without speaking, writing, or including imagery. This includes things like body language, eye contact, and facial expressions.
Tips for non-verbal communication: Posture is important, so avoid slouching, and be careful to avoid fidgeting or letting your eyes glaze over while “listening.” Even though they’re subtle, these things have a major impact on the impression that you leave.
You might think that we covered all the bases, but not quite! Remote communication includes a variety of things, and in fact, it can include all of the things listed above: Emails are remote written communication, video calls are remote verbal communication that includes non-verbal communication through body language, and images, graphs, or other visuals that you send electronically are all forms of remote visual communication.
But some other channels haven’t been covered — like instant messaging or boards where you can leave messages for teammates rather than hosting a team meeting. These are also forms of remote communication, and much like email, they’re asynchronous. This means that there is a delay between the time you send the message and the time the recipient reads it.
Tips for remote communication: With this method of communication, it’s important to follow the same rules that you would for other categories — like paying attention to your tone during a virtual meeting, or being mindful of facial expressions if you’re creating a Loom video for someone to watch later.
It’s also important to maintain clear expectations among the people using a remote form of communication, especially if the communication is asynchronous. This means that your team should be clear on how frequently to check messages. While there’s no need to micromanage message checking, it’s also not good for people to fall into the habit of waiting days to respond.
Often, remote communication proves more difficult than face-to-face interactions simply because you miss out on things like watercooler conversations to help lighten the mood and build camaraderie. In addition to setting clear expectations, it’s also smart to equip your teams with tools to make communication easier and more flexible, which will help build stronger relationships.
Now that you understand the different types of communication, it’s time to look at ways to improve communication. The tips below are designed to help you develop more effective communication skills, and help manage team comms for clear communication all around.
One of the places where communication breaks down the fastest is within the goals and expectations set forth for your team. Goals and expectations should be set clearly right from the start to prevent miscommunications down the road. It helps your team complete their projects more effectively, for one thing.
For another, clear communication expectations give everyone a timeframe to work with. You’ll know when to expect responses, when meetings are likely to occur, and when the best times are to send out emails and messages.
Have you ever been part of a conversation where you were certain that the other person wasn’t really listening to you? What were some of the clues? A glazed-over look in the eyes, fidgeting, pacing, or edging toward the door are common signs of inactive listening, and these interactions are far from comforting. Make sure that you don’t do this to the people you’re talking to by practicing active listening.
There are many benefits of active listening — from building trust with your team to increasing your understanding of the topics discussed. It’s easy to do: Focus completely on the speaker, and as you do so, work to understand their message and respond in thoughtful ways. In doing so, you send plenty of non-verbal cues to the speaker that you’re paying attention to them.
In some workplaces, one-on-one meetings rarely happen — or only happen during annual performance reviews. Lots of managers consider them to be time-wasters. But actually, one-on-one meetings on a weekly or even daily basis are a fantastic tool for increasing transparency and fostering better communication.
Look at these meetings as an opportunity to build strong relationships with team members. Everyone will get to know everyone else’s individual communication styles, and you all gain insights into the daily tasks and challenges that everyone faces.
Feedback is one of the best ways to improve just about anything, from how a product works to social media marketing campaigns. So it’s no surprise that feedback is also a great way to improve communication skills. The problem is that lots of people are shy about asking for it.
You can set a precedent with your team, however. Ask for feedback on your various communication lines, and when they ask for feedback, be sure to reciprocate. Do it in a constructive way that doesn’t come across as criticism so that everyone can polish communication skills together.
Public speaking can have life-changing benefits, whether you do it in the workplace or take a public speaking course in your spare time. First and foremost, it’s a great way to help you overcome nerves to become a more confident speaker. You’ll also become a better verbal communicator, whether you’re in front of an audience or on a phone call. It’s one of the best ways to improve overall verbal skills, so be sure to practice whenever you get the chance — whether in public, private, or among your team members.
This is an easy tip to abide by when things are going well — but what about when they’re not? Looming deadlines, costly mistakes, and even simple disagreements can all lead to flaring tempers, and it can be tempting to express yourself aggressively — raising your voice, sharpening your tone, or even using excessive (or worst of all, inappropriate) hand gestures.
However, this is rarely a good idea. When discussions become heated, take some time to consider how to respond (even during face-to-face conversations) and be sure to keep your tone positive. Remaining as positive as possible is often the best way to keep things appropriate and professional.
Taking notes is one way to practice active listening because it forces you to focus closely on what is being said so that you can jot down the main points. It’s also an excellent way to prevent future miscommunications — or repetition, which can be frustrating for everyone involved.
Notes don’t have to be super detailed. If you try to keep tabs of too many details, you slow the conversation down which can be frustrating for the speaker. All you need to do is write down the main points of the discussion and make sure that you’re paraphrasing conclusions formed relating to each of these points. Taking notes in a digital format makes it easier to send them out to everyone involved in the conversation for later reference.
It can be tough to foster a sense of unity through asynchronous communication, especially with most people used to real-time communication and in-person social skills — but with the right tools, it’s perfectly possible. Here, you’ll need a platform like Range to help you out.
For example, you can use Range to build culture and create a comfortable work environment by creating a board for everyone to list their mood or a spot for people to list their successes or vent their frustrations.
You can also use it to create asynchronous standups. Think of it like show and tell, but for remote team members who need to share their progress with the rest of the team despite differences in working hours or time zones.
Effective communication helps build stronger relationships among team members. While it can seem daunting to implement communication strategies within remote teams, asynchronous communication tools like Range make it easier than ever. Range keeps your team communications fluid, flexible, and convenient, so it’s easier for everyone to engage — no matter where they are.
Our platform is ideal for remote teams that need better tools to stay connected. Try Range for free to see how it can improve the way your team exchanges ideas.