It would be easy to open a guide to improving team communication by talking about how the "new normal" of remote working means we now do things differently. Yet, most businesses could probably improve their team communication even if they have already returned to the office or plan to throughout 2021.
Why is team communication important?
I appreciate this question is a little like asking someone why they breathe, and to answer it, I am going to turn specifically to remote working.
When you are in the office, all together as a team, it is easy to create a culture and speak to people. Of course, there are many businesses where people in the office do not talk to each other face to face and use communication apps instead. That is a story for another day!
Creating a culture and making everyone feel part of the team is more challenging in the remote working era but not impossible. And yes, I would absolutely put your company culture and values as the top reason why communication is vital. If you are more concerned about staying in touch with your people because you want to send tasks and keep tabs on their workload, you need to revisit your objectives.
A happy and engaged team bought into your values, and culture is a productive team. For an example of how we adapted our communication for the remote age here at Contractbook, read this about how we digitised our sales gong.
What is Slack?
Slack is one of the world’s most popular team communication software platforms. While there are various other platforms available, Slack is popular thanks to its range of integrations and the different ways in which you can communicate with your teams. If you clicked the link above, you will already know that you can automate your communication with Slack, too.
As well as doing the cool stuff, Slack also helps you nail the basics of communication, allowing you to:
- Message people one-on-one.
- Create public and private channels for specific departments or teams.
- Make phone calls or host teleconferences.
- Make video calls or host video conferences.
Everything you need in the remote age, but also great for when you are back in the office if you still need to follow social distancing guidelines. You can invite people from any company into your main Slack workspace, too, which means you can easily host meetings with clients if travelling to each other’s offices will be off the agenda for the foreseeable future.
How does Slack work?
Another factor that makes Slack such a good team communication tool is its simplicity.
Once you have signed up to Slack, you can send personalised invites to everyone you want to join your workspace. Once signed up, people can start or follow channels or perform all the actions listed in the bullet points above.
Slack is very flexible in how it lets users deal with communication. For example, if you want to receive a notification for every message posted into a channel, you can. If like me, you appreciate the fine line between needing to communicate and over communication, you have a wealth of notification settings you can use to customise what you get a notification for. The Slack app is also brilliant and means you can get notifications on your smartphone or watch rather than having Slack open on your desktop all day.
It's easy to follow conversations, too, even in channels, with features like "Threads" that enable you to reply to specific messages in a channel and start a private discussion dovetailing from that.
Whatever your approach to communication, you can make it happen with Slack!
How to improve your team communication with Slack
Using a team communication tool is the same as using any tech in your business. You need to be passionate about getting value out of it and ensuring it makes a real, tangible difference to your business. If you are using it because it feels like you should, you might as well take the cash you spend on your Slack subscription and set fire to it!
Here are some of the ways you can improve your team communication with Slack.
1. Encourage everyone to add a profile photo
Sometimes, it really is the small things that make a difference! No-one likes communicating with a silhouette on Slack anymore than they used to do with the old Twitter eggs.
Encourage all your team members to upload a photo. Cropping faces from the last office party is a great way to add a touch of fun to Slack and remind people of your culture and values while communicating.
2. Encourage everyone to post on the “Welcome” channel
Whenever anyone joins your Slack workspace (even an external person like a client!), encourage them to post a little about themselves in the “Welcome” channel. You could even create a fun “ice breaker” of things you want them to say or ask them to provide two truths and a lie for the team to work out which is which!
3. Have at least one other channel that anyone can contribute to
If you are only using Slack as a “command and control” tool, you will not get the most out of it. Have a channel that anyone can contribute to and share ideas with the group to spark discussion and innovation. If you have a flat working structure as we do at Contractbook, using Slack in this way can be a gamechanger for your business!
4. Ensure company-wide communication goes to everyone in the same place
Have a specific channel that you only use for vital internal communications, and ensure that all questions and queries also go through there.
This ensures a few things:
- Everyone gets the same communication from the same person, so everyone feels involved.
- You can gauge reactions to the communication in one place – encourage team members to leave at least an emoji reaction, which is also great for conducting quick internal polls!
- You answer questions once, so people with similar questions can get the answer by reading through or searching the channel.
- You avoid people missing vital communications by having a dedicated channel.
5. Provide channels for people to talk about non-work stuff
Have a channel that people can use on their lunch break to chat about non-work stuff with their colleagues. Not everyone who works at home will have a partner or kids they can talk to, so encourage people to have a video chat during lunch to maintain a human connection.
6. Take advantage of videoconferencing!
Speaking of maintaining a human connection, ensure you take full advantage of the videoconferencing capabilities on Slack. That is not to say you need to have video calls all the time – it is very easy to get “Zoom fatigue!”
However, from a communication perspective, it is a good idea to ensure every team member gets at least some face-to-face time once a week. Struggling to do this? On Monday morning, get everyone together to talk about the week ahead and the team's objectives. Done!
It is also a great idea to use video calls to announce and celebrate success alongside automated messages.
7. Let people control how they manage their communications
Communication within a team is only ever as good as the level to which people engage with it. You probably do not need me to tell you that people can quickly get sick of notifications and an expectation of being available to reply whenever someone pings them on Slack.
Give your teams the autonomy to manage how they deal with your communications. Outside of times when you need them to be available on Slack for whatever reason, encourage them to log off or silence notifications if it helps them focus and work. As much as you want to use Slack to maintain your culture and communication, you do not want it to become a morale and productivity killer!
Are you using Slack to improve your team communications?
Are you using Slack or another team communication tool in your business? While we use Slack at Contractbook – even as a customer service tool! – you can apply these tips and tricks to whatever tool you use.
Ensure your communication tools make a difference and help you maintain your culture and values rather than just being a way to dole out tasks. Manage how you use them and take full advantage of their features and potential. You can revolutionise your internal and external communications for people in the office, remote team members, and your clients!