When team members communicate remotely, words and their meanings can be lost in long phrases, extended stories or worse yet not understood at all resulting in communication breakdown and a lack of trust.
As a manager, you might think communication skills aren’t as important for a virtual worker since they’re not at the weekly meeting. Wrong! – When they’re not there in person, communication needs to be clearer than ever.
Communication is an integral part of the workplace and a fundamental determinant of the success of your team, no matter where you are. Among the benefits of effective communication is the ability to create synergy, which is a unity of purpose among the employees.
The amount of time you spend talking to your virtual employees and how they understand the communication affects employee engagement. At the core of all virtual teams is successful communication – yours and theirs, without which teams cannot exist.
E-mail, video messaging and Gmail-chat are critical tools, but are also one of the ways that employees can get mired in wasting time. It’s important to create a culture of effectiveness around the use of these tools. Try establishing rules for using IM for anything that needs a yes or no answer
When you communicate with employees remotely, make sure that you take the time to craft clear, easy-to-understand emails. Your employees won’t have a chance to stop you if they get lost or ask you to repeat what you said when you are communicating through email, so think about what you want to get across. Use the subject line to tell them what you need.
It’s very important that you schedule time for reporting both progress, as well as potential pitfalls, even if it’s only a 30-minute conference call or Skype call. When you set expectations and let employees know what needs to be accomplished in the limited time that you have together, you help keep people on track and ensure the continued discipline of your team.
If an e-mail chain is getting confusing, which inevitably ends up wasting time, pick up the phone and call. This is especially important when not getting the immediate response that you hoped for through email.
As a manager of a remote team, it’s important that you define what your rules of responsiveness are. How quickly are people expected to return e-mail, messages or phone calls? What is the established protocol when people are out of the office?
Two of the main challenges affecting any working environment are isolation and confusion among the team members, so remember to step away from the keyboard when you are angry. Nothing is more disruptive or upsetting to your employee then getting negativity and anger in their inbox.
Well-developed communication skills are actually a necessity for your virtual employees. You need employees who will be able to clearly and consistently communicate with you and your team, so that collaboration is seamless and you must always stay updated on progress.
Being aware of your own communication skills is also vital. It affects listening, hearing, effectively conveying messages and directly affects the success of your virtual team.