By: Leanne Armstrong
Team communication is all about the exchange of information. But if you’ve ever relayed directions or instructions to someone through a third party (or played the enormously entertaining game known as Broken Telephone), you’ll know how easy it is for information to be miscommunicated and ideas to be misunderstood.
Now magnify those one-on-one communication issues to the level of messaging across an entire group, and it’s not hard to understand why proficient team communication plays a prominent role in every successful organization.
Your ability to communicate clearly and consistently with team members (and vice versa) is largely responsible for the level of performance you reliably pull off.
Not only does effective team communication pave the way to goal achievement, it:
- Drives engagement
- Strengthens work relationships, and
- Helps foster a sense of belonging
Most business leaders agree that ongoing peer feedback and check-ins are key for successful outcomes. But research also suggests that employees who feel their individual voices are being heard are almost 5 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
With more employees working remotely than ever before, the focus on staying connected and working collaboratively toward shared objectives will only continue to grow. So let’s dig a little deeper into the importance of team communication and how it can help you harness the power of pulling together.
Breaking down team communication
Daily interactions form the foundation of great teamwork – and all the synergistic benefits that come with it. Regardless of the industry you work in, cooperating and pooling resources with others makes it easier to share workloads, gather valuable feedback, and churn out superior results.
That said, good communication doesn’t usually just happen – especially if there are multiple attitudes, workstyles, and personalities at play. It takes the right tools, an improvement-focused environment, and a decent understanding of what effective team communication actually looks like.
Here’s what it is:
When two or more people are able to consistently express what they mean – and have their words interpreted correctly – they can be said to be communicating effectively.
Here’s what it isn’t:
Teams that sometimes (or often) encounter communication barriers and:
- Lose track of shared documentation or their understanding of who’s responsible for what
- Fail to respond to queries or provide feedback in a timely manner, missing deadlines as a result
- Engage in conflict, or struggle to manage poorly planned projects
To put that in perspective in terms of hard numbers, consider the following findings:
- The collective annual cost attached to productivity losses arising from communication barriers is about $26,000 per worker
- Businesses with 100 workers spend an average of 17 hours each week (or $530,000 in downtime each year) clarifying communications
- Poor communication in the workplace can result in failed or overdue projects (in about 44% of cases), low morale (31%), missed goals (25%), and lost sales (18%)
The bottom line here is that organizing and improving interactions among your team members is the best way to trade in common workplace communication problems for some outstanding benefits.
3 Big benefits of effective team communication
The more intentional you are about your communication, the more enthusiastic and productive the people you work with are likely to be.
Here are 3 benefits you, your team, and your business can expect to experience when everyone learns to make effective communication a habit.
1. Improved productivity
When communication and purpose are clear, increased productivity naturally follows. Keeping everyone on the same page:
- Frees individual team members to focus on and manage their own tasks and workflow
- Allows the team as a whole to rally quickly when there are problems to be solved, or when output falls behind in one area
Communicating effectively gives you a better shot at pre-empting looming or escalating issues before work processes break down, sales are lost, and customers jump ship and run off to the competition.
2. Clearer, more attainable objectives
One of the biggest perks of pulling together as a team is that no one person has to excel at everything or shoulder the entire burden of responsibility for meeting shared goals.
You’ll find that short-term and long-term objectives are far more achievable, for example, when everyone involved:
- Is kept in the loop as to what’s expected from them, both in their daily work and joint initiatives
- Has access to the same information and a mutual channel for offering feedback and suggestions
- Receives regular updates regarding timelines and due dates
Team communication plays an important role in divvying up work and responsibility in a way that’s not only clear, but that takes advantage of individual strengths, experience, and knowledge to set and achieve realistic goals.
3. Fewer conflicts
Communication skills and tools help to divert professional skirmishes by ensuring everyone gets heard, understands the bigger picture, and can see where and how they fit in.
In group settings especially, conflict may arise for various reasons, including:
- Unreasonable expectations around individual results or responsibilities
- Flawed perceptions in terms of who’s pulling their weight and who isn’t
- Misunderstandings about work processes or the role that feedback is meant to play
You’ll know you’re on route to achieving effective team communication when the people you count on for everyday solutions feel secure enough to share their thoughts, ideas, and comments honestly and diplomatically.
Why good communication improves performance
One of the most significant rewards you can look forward to as a result of striving for better team communication is better overall performance.
Here’s how that works.
Teammates who’ve learned they can rely on one another to be fair and supportive in their communications are more likely to enjoy positive interactions. Open, authentic interactions help increase the level of trust in a physical or virtual workplace. Employees in high-trust organizations are naturally more productive, have more energy at work, and collaborate better with colleagues.
Teams that communicate well:
- Build a better appreciation for individual strengths, weaknesses, and ways of working
- Develop a greater capacity to plan and work successfully toward common goals
- Experience increased job satisfaction
Effective team communication goes beyond just sharing out work and solving problems efficiently. It also includes vocally celebrating one another’s achievements.
When we make a point of noticing, encouraging, and reaching out to our peers for challenges met or hurdles crossed, we improve the quality of our interactions – and by extension, our performance as a team.
Importance of team communication during COVID-19 and beyond
Good communication is especially important for dispersed teams that interact virtually as part of a flexible work environment. While surveys show that 88% of companies encouraged or required their employees to work remotely during COVID-19, 74% of businesses plan to keep at least some of their employees working permanently from home, post-pandemic.
Here are some of the communication challenges that have come to light as a result of new remote working measures:
- The need to collaborate across time zones
- Ensuring sufficient communication to prevent misdirection and misunderstandings
- Mitigating information overload caused by excessive meetings or messaging
- Various technology shortcomings (including training deficiencies and using the wrong tools)
The importance of team communication during COVID-19 and beyond can’t be overstated.
Without the ability to physically drop by a coworker’s office for support or clarification, collaborating remotely increases the risk that individual team members will:
- Miss or misinterpret the context of daily communications
- Feel disconnected from colleagues and the goals that they share
- Contribute less to planning or project performance
If you’re responsible for bringing and keeping a team together online, you should be prepared to manage a brand-new set of communication expectations and skills.
Getting the most from your virtual team communications
Think about the traditional ways we communicate with one another at work. We write and share memos, instructions, and checklists. We schedule meetings, make phone calls, and hold conversations in offices and hallways.
Written or verbal, however, all of these communication tactics can be duplicated digitally within a virtual setting.
The key is to carefully consider and choose team communication channels that:
- Accommodate work hours for employees in different regions
- Support a variety of communication and work styles
- Make group and one-on-one interactions as easy and convenient as possible
Striking the right balance in your virtual communications is crucial.
Ideally, you should aim to keep omni-channel communications open and active by endeavoring to be a good listener, encouraging interaction and information exchange among all your team members – and by offering enough communication autonomy that individuals aren’t constantly inundated with input, or unable to achieve the alone time needed to get their work done.
Remember: The way you reach out, keep in touch, and converse with your team can affect individual productivity and make all the difference when it comes to performance.
Now that you have a better understanding of what successful interactions are all about, you can start working toward improving your team communication and searching out tools that will allow everyone to put forth their best effort.