By: Leanne Armstrong
Since you can’t collaborate effectively without strong, efficient communication, working with the right team communication tools is a must. After all, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI), 1 in 5 projects fails as a result of ineffective communication!
Fortunately, the modern workplace has given rise to thousands of tools that drive team communication activities and ramp up engagement. Unfortunately, there are so many ways to improve virtual team communication that the choices can feel overwhelming.
Whether you’re selecting foundational team communication tools – or you want to enhance the platforms you currently work with – taking time to evaluate your needs and generate a team communication plan will help you move forward.
Ready to identify the team communication methods and tools most likely to boost collaboration in your work environment?
Check out this combination of popular tech platforms and techniques you can use to streamline your team communication activities.
A quick word about in-person team communication methods
Before we jump into the remote side of things, it’s worth remembering that not all work interactions are virtual. Team communication is alive and well in many physically-shared offices, shops, warehouses, and manufacturing facilities.
To get the most from individual employees and improve group dynamics, accounting for the different personalities and communication styles within teams is important.
You might, for example:
- Ask team members to complete and share a communication styles assessment
- Remain super-cognizant of the roles and pairings assigned in group work
- Take advantage of team communication tools with a full suite of sharing options to bring clarity to everyone’s goals
Platforms that allow teams to collaborate visually can smooth out communication differences that are common in groups.
Trading unproductive meetings and unreliable message threads for a comprehensive visual map, for example, can clarify objectives, expectations, and priorities all around.
Examples of team communication tools (and how to get the most from them)
For each of the team communication tools described here, we’ve included some ways you can use them to boost discussion and team interactions.
1. Instant messaging
Instant messaging (IM) tools like Slack, Google Chat, and Microsoft Teams are the fastest way for two or more individuals to stay connected in real time via their computer or mobile device.
Handy for both business and social exchanges, the biggest advantage of IM is that it makes quick work of sharing:
- Text messages
- Audio and video communications
- Files and other content
Because team members can choose to see, join, or ignore conversations, IM mitigates unnecessary interruptions. And many apps integrate with other valuable team communication tools.
Getting the most from IM
- Make instant messaging part of your team communication plan to increase connectivity. For example, while assigning a pair of team members to collaborate on work that doesn’t necessarily require two people may seem counterproductive, it often leads to unexpectedly creative results.
- IM is also a great way to perform regular team member pulse checks.
2. Video conferencing
Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts make it easy for teams to schedule live, face-to-face meetings – one-on-one or in groups.
Coworkers in different locations, for example, can use video communication to:
- Participate in brainstorming sessions
- Discuss projects or business deals
- Interview job candidates and onboard new hires
While not always ideal, video face-time can go a long way toward replacing in-person interactions.
Getting the most from video meetings
- Some teams make a point of allotting time at the beginning of each regular video meeting to communicate on a non-business level. Staying connected is easier when team members have the option of sharing events from their personal lives.
- Take advantage of the whiteboarding feature included in many video platforms to help your team talk over new plans or ideas. Alternatively, you can use MindManager’s interactive maps, charts, and diagrams to explore any topic on-screen.
3. Personalized video rooms
Your team can use tools like GoToMeetings or Cisco Webex to create personalized video meeting rooms.
Video room sessions are easy to host, easy to join, and are ideal for:
- Conducting webinars
- Leading training or instructional classes
- Holding sales or support conversations
One of the best things about personalized video rooms is that they’re packed with communication-enhancing features like noise removal, speech enhancement, and HD viewing options.
Getting the most from your video room
- Consider using a virtual room to host open office hours by designating a set time each week for teammates to drop by, ask non-urgent questions, and bat around valuable “water-cooler” thoughts and ideas.
- Remote employees can stave off feelings of loneliness or isolation by inviting one another to online work sessions in their personalized rooms. This is a great way to replicate working and chatting from adjacent desks in a shared physical space.
4. Group chat
Much like instant messaging, group chat relies on short messages, sent and read in real time, to streamline team communication.
Typically used when everyone in your group is online, group chat apps like HipChat, Flowdock, and Slack are faster than email, phone calls, and video meetings – making team interactions more efficient.
Some chat tools even feature a team inbox where notifications from other communication channels (like Asana or Twitter, for example) can be collected and dealt with.
Getting the most from group chat
- If you’re looking for a way to spread the word about team building or micro-events (rejuvenating, 15 to 30-minute pop-in activities), group chat may prove ideal.
- As a manager or team lead, choosing a group chat tool with a status button that signals when you’re open or free will help you focus on making yourself available as often as possible.
5. File sharing
File sharing services and software are powerful team communication tools that give authorized individuals access to important digital documents.
Popular file-sharing platforms include:
- Box and Dropbox
- Hightail and Egnyte
- Google Drive and OneDrive
The beauty of dedicated file sharing tools is that they allow multiple people to use the same records – often at the same time. That means everyone on your team can read, edit, copy, or print the information they need any time, from any location.
Getting the most from shared files
- When you pair file sharing capabilities with mapping software like MindManager, your group can connect and correlate files, links, media, and meeting notes to create comprehensive, shareable plans and knowledge repositories. MindManager makes it easy to import and export supported file types like Microsoft Word, Excel, and Project to and from places like Google Drive, OneDrive, and SharePoint.
6. All-in-one communications
By adopting a multi-purpose communication platform like Microsoft Teams, you can equip your team for seamless collaboration.
Teams brings all the best team communication tools under one roof with:
- Group and private text and voice chat
- Email integration through Outlook
- File storage and document sharing
Microsoft enforces security through team-wide, two-factor authentication. Teams also offers plenty of integration with other team-friendly software.
Getting the most from your all-in-one platform
- As the ultimate hub for teamwork and intelligent communications, Microsoft Teams gives you the perfect opportunity to experiment with hundreds of teamwork-based tools, including Zoom, Box, GoToMeeting, Cisco Webex, Asana, HubSpot, Salesforce, and MindManager.
- Take advantage of MindManager for Microsoft Teams to Co-edit maps, manage team dashboards, create flowcharts, and keep all your joint projects in view. Your team can engage in dynamic planning, brainstorming, whiteboarding, and more without ever leaving the app.
7. Mind mapping and visualization
Mind mapping software like MindManager is a great choice when you need to share large amounts of information in one comprehensive, reliable communication.
Communicating visually with the help of concept maps, flowcharts, and other work diagrams mitigates endless email chains, inefficient meetings, and misalignment that can slow down or derail collaboration.
With MindManager, your team can:
- Go from brainstorming to an executable plan within a single session.
- Run more effective meetings by following a sequence of mapped talking points.
- Capture and present information in a logical flow that keeps everyone on the same page.
MindManager’s advanced project management tools can even help you avoid the miscommunication pitfalls that cause so many team projects to fail. Coupled with MindManager for Microsoft Teams, users can collaborate in real time with their team members directly within their teleconferencing platform of choice.
Getting the most from your visualization software
Use MindManager’s built-in organizational chart template to create a snapshot overview of everyone on your team, then choose from other drag & drop templates to visually plan projects, design and manage strategies, and analyze or document work processes.
The easiest way to empower team members to work efficiently on their own – and to collaborate more effectively with one other – is by optimizing the team communication tools available to them.
No matter which team communication tools you ultimately reach for, however, make sure they create alignment across your group, enable ongoing conversations and transparency, and boost collaboration around projects and work tasks.