How to Maintain Effective Communication in Busy Teams
In this guest post, the team at DistantJob explain how to work efficiently with remote teams.
At DistantJob, we spend our days working with remote teams around the world. Our job is to find the best remote developers to help them meet their goals. We understand the pressure that the fast pace of technological advancements puts on developers. And we know that in this economic client work needs to be delivered on time, and right first time.
One thing that we believe is fundamental to having an effective virtual team is great communication. It isn’t just that communicating well enhances productivity, but also that it helps avoid mistakes and builds cohesion. Here are some of our top tips for integrating communication into even the busiest of teams.
Keep this Channel Clear
The worst thing that can happen to messages between team members is that they don’t get seen. For example, if your Tech Support team work using a helpdesk system, that will take priority over email, or the #watercooler Slack channel. If your team don’t know how to use the helpdesk, that’s a problem.
Take some time to document the different channels that your team have available to them, and when they should be used. Once your team have clarity over how to reach you and each other, the whole thing gets a lot simpler.
We’re big fans of the Agile Development methodology. We believe that the very best of global talent in an Agile team is a foundation for success. In particular, the daily stand-up offers team members a chance to communicate their successes and any problems they might be experiencing.
This does two things: Firstly, it gives your team the chance to seek help with any issues they haven’t been able to resolve themselves. That means issues get identified early, and your whole team can brainstorm for a solution. Secondly, this knits your team together, letting them see each others competencies and integrity.
If you’d like to read more about why we love the combination of Agile and a remote team, you can download our free eBook.
Be Razor Sharp
You might have heard that 80% of communication is non-verbal. While the experts might disagree about the percentage, the fact remains that written messages are easier to misinterpret. Whilst emojis and gifs can help us convey some of the emotional content (who really gets through a day without wanting to send someone a Picard facepalm?) they’re no substitute for real-time conversation.
Encourage your team to use Hanlon’s razor; that’s a special case of Occam’s razor which goes something like this:
“Never attribute to malice, that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
Now, we’re not suggesting you encourage your team to call each other stupid. But if they receive a message that they perceive as rude or offensive? They should first take a deep breath, count to ten, and assume the writer didn’t intend it to be read that way. To ask for clarification.
In a physical office, there’s the old adage, ‘My door is always open.’ How do you translate that for the virtual team? Make sure that every team member has a way of getting in touch with you privately, so they can bring you their concerns. Really great managers go one step further. They make a point of touching base with their team members regularly.
Applications like Skype are great for this, giving you the option to leave a chat message for staff in different timezones, or to arrange for a video call when you need to be face-to-face.
This one might seem counter-intuitive, but if you want a virtual team that really communicates well then you need to make time for social chat. Much like the daily stand-up, ensuring that your team gets time for a bit of banter helps your team to bond. They get to know each other better, and that breeds trust. And trust? That’s the oxygen in the bloodstream of remote work.
The Right Hires
The single most fundamental thing you can do to ensure that your remote team communicates like the professionals you expect them to, is to make the right hire. When you have the whole world as your development oyster, it may seem a bit daunting to try and find a pearl. The trick is to ask slightly different questions so you can find out how suited to remote working a candidate is. Try things like:
- How do you schedule your day?
- What does working from home look like for you?
- How do you prefer to stay in touch with colleagues?
- How do you manage client information on your computer?
- What do you do, if you find you’re stuck on something?
Formulate the sorts of questions that will give you the information you need to make a remote hire that you’re happy with. It really isn’t rocket science, you just need to think a little differently.
Sharon Koifman believes every company, from the biggest enterprise to the newly-launched garage startup, should have access to world’s top talent. That’s why he used over 10 years of experience in tech industry recruitment & HR to create DistantJob. His unique recruitment model allows DistantJob’s clients to get high quality IT experts working remotely at a fraction of the usual cost – with no red tape and within two weeks.