Communication is important in all aspects of life, but it’s even more essential—and challenging—as a team. Your employees could have stellar ideas on how to achieve a goal, but without proper team communication, you’re unlikely to capitalize on that ambition.
So much of your business, from revenue to client satisfaction, hinges upon the ability and willingness of team members to communicate clearly. When it’s effective, workplace communication can boost employee engagement, spark creativity, and supercharge team performance. The more you invest in team communication, the closer you get to your goals.
Learn how to improve team communication in this how-to.
What is effective team communication?
Effective team communication involves relaying the right information to the right people at the right time. Yet, doing so can be surprisingly difficult. Between the sheer volume of information exchanged at work, the number of people participating, and the various communication tools being used, miscommunication is bound to happen.
There are many nuances to effective group communication. Is information being conveyed to the right stakeholders? Does everyone feel empowered to share thoughts and information? Is the information delivered in the appropriate manner, method, and tone? Does everyone feel heard, understood, and valued?
Poor communication can have a significant impact on productivity and profitability. A breakdown in communication can lead to a broad range of issues, from interpersonal problems to difficulty achieving organizational objectives. If left unchecked, the negative impact on employee satisfaction may lead to a toxic workplace, as well as issues attracting and retaining top talent.
Why effective team communication is essential
Effective team communication is important because it helps build cohesion. Nowadays, teams must be comfortable working not just collectively, but independently—and communication enables both. By ensuring everyone is informed about team goals and understands their own responsibilities, you can build team autonomy while also building trust and encouraging candid ideas and feedback.
It’s easier to create a seamless workflow involving different moving pieces among various people when each member of the team is clear about what has been done, what needs to be done, who is responsible for necessary tasks, and when each task needs to be completed.
Communication is critical to successful project management. It’s also essential to creating and maintaining a positive work environment. Creating a company culture that values communication enables transparency, increases engagement, and reduces the prevalence of gossip or toxicity.
Teams with effective communication enjoy a ton of advantages, including a baseline of respect and trust, an understanding of different communication styles, and awareness of when and how to take risks in order to grow as a team.
In short: Communication is a valuable skill in general, but for teams, it’s imperative for success.
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Key elements of team communication
Much like a team, communication is composed of different pieces that work together to achieve the desired outcome.
Key elements of team communication include:
- Team communication tools, such as video conferencing, instant messaging, project management, email, and phone
- A workplace environment that models, encourages, and rewards honesty
- Recurring team-building activities and employee engagement efforts
- Team awareness, i.e., understanding each team member’s unique behavioral strengths and weaknesses
- Regular team meetings, staff meetings, and one-on-one check-ins with managers or team leaders
- Active listening skills and prompt responses from leadership and all levels of staff
- Shared information streams without silos between departments
- Clearly defined processes for low-stress conflict resolution
- Guidelines and boundaries on how and when to share information with the team
By implementing a team communication strategy that includes the above components, you can optimize and streamline the exchange of information between team members.
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Formal vs. informal team communication
Although there are certain occasions that call for formal professional communication, there’s a lot of power in communicating thoughts and information as plainly as possible. An informal conversational style is often easier to follow, understand, and respond to, which can encourage an open exchange of ideas and an honest assessment of potential obstacles.
Knowing whether a situation calls for formal or informal communication is a key element of effective team communication.
- Usually flows in one direction
- Involves more time or effort
- Doesn’t include casual language or slang
- Usually includes supporting documentation
- Follows a chain of command or hierarchical structure
- Fulfills a specific initiative or objective
Reports, speeches, presentations, memos and letters, and performance reviews are all examples of formal communication.
Informal communication, by contrast:
- Often occurs organically
- Takes less time and preparation
- Includes casual language or phrasing
- Moves freely; isn’t bound by channels or chain of command
- Encourages feedback or brainstorming
- Is less likely to include documentation
- Covers a more diverse range of topics
Team meetings, one-on-one discussions, phone calls, direct messages, and emails are all examples of potentially informal communication.
Informal communication is ideal for a team dynamic since it encourages collaboration and provides an equal opportunity to exchange information and ideas. Formality has a way of stifling the kind of communication that conveys nuance or sparks related discussions.
One of the primary benefits of working as a team is the abundance of input and expertise available when many minds are involved. Be careful not to choose a style or method of communication that limits conversation. Authenticity is an advantage, so create an atmosphere that supports and encourages it.
Improving team communication
As a business concept, communication usually takes a back seat to more obviously “necessary” strategies, such as marketing, hiring, and business development. Communication may seem like something that would occur naturally as you execute other strategies, but in reality, it’s the exact opposite. Communication is the fuel that powers your organizational strategy.
Even if you had the foresight to develop a communication plan and be intentional with your execution efforts, every team is different. Identifying areas of improvement is an ongoing and ever-changing process.
The first step in improving team communication is to identify and remedy any potential obstacles. Obstacles to effective communication tend to include:
- Too many forms of communication
- Incompatible team members
- Vague direction or feedback
- A lack of clarity around escalation
- Unhelpful language or tone
- Cultural or language differences
- Inflexible communication styles
- Exclusionary language or jargon
- Information overload
- Inconsistent enforcement of company protocols
- Poor systems or processes for information exchange
Once you’ve made communication easier by addressing existing barriers, consider the following options to improve team communication:
Make effective communication part of your company culture.
Establish an open-door policy with your team members. Discuss the importance of contributing ideas, engaging in healthy conflict, and holding each other accountable. Embrace authenticity as a leader, soliciting and providing feedback within your team. Most of all, ensure you’re modeling open, two-way communication from the top down.
Implement a social intranet or professional messaging platform.
As the world of work becomes increasingly distributed, digital workplace tools like Slack are only becoming more essential. Implementing a central communication platform serves two purposes:
- It helps forge a social connection between peers.
- It makes it easy to exchange information quickly.
If you have remote employees, use video conferencing platforms like Zoom for team meetings to help boost creativity and collaboration.
Break down communication barriers between departments.
Prevent information from falling into department silos. You can accomplish this by forming cross-functional teams with representatives from different teams. Another option is to schedule regular team-building activities or employee engagement activities to create social connections across business units. Even simple icebreakers in the kitchen at lunch can help improve company-wide communication.
Train your team to communicate.
Incorporate professional communications training into your employee development plan. This is particularly important for your leadership team, which can manage more effectively through better communication, as well as model it appropriately.
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How PI can help support team communication
As a talent optimization platform, The Predictive Index understands that people are the heart of your business—and that communication is the vascular system that helps keep it pumping.
Our tools are designed to help you gain a deeper understanding of each employee, how they communicate, and what management style and team profile will support them in meeting their full potential.
- PI Hire — Turn recruitment, hiring, and onboarding from art to science. Ditch the guess-and-check work of the past with behavioral assessments that use people-centered data to help you find the right people for the right roles.
- PI Design — Understand different styles of team communication and build powerful teams by striking the right balance of personalities you need to get work done.
- PI Diagnose — Improve employee engagement with science-based pulse surveys that give your team members a voice. Leverage AI-driven recommendations to strengthen your company culture and encourage transparency.
Effective communication is easy to squander, and challenging to perfect. With PI’s science-backed platform, you can remove uncertainty from the equation—and use tried-and-true techniques to improve the way your team works together.