In the past couple of years, we have witnessed the agility of most businesses in accommodating the drastic changes that the pandemic has brought. One of which is the shift to remote work. All of a sudden, all communication was done online. Teams are huddled together via Zoom meetings, even team-building activities are done through online meeting platforms.
Now, if you are in the process of setting up a toolkit, here are a few tips on selecting and using online communication tools effectively.
Criteria for Selecting an Online Communication Tool
Today, there are quite a number of available online communication tools and platforms to choose from. What is important is to know the most basic criteria when selecting the right tool for your business or team.
- User Interface. A tool’s UI is a very critical factor to consider. The platform should have clear displays and everyone in the team should be able to navigate it with ease.
- User-friendliness. Is the tool easy to learn and use? Communication software must come with comprehensive manuals and/or supplementary training for employees.
Features and functionality. Your tool of choice must have at least the key business communication features, namely:
- Video Conferencing
- Screen Sharing
- Integrations. Can basic business software and applications such as emails, calendars, and CRMs be easily integrated into the communication tool?
- Value for money. Is the price appropriate for the functionality, features, and capability of the software?
- Security. What are their security features in place? Secure tools like Slack allow integration with third-party tools for data loss prevention.
Factors to Consider when Choosing an Online Communication Tool
The online communication tool for your business is the one that serves your purpose. Is this going to be an upgrade from your old tool? Are you looking to import existing data? Or is this a fresh start? It’s also important to identify whether this communication tool is for internal correspondence, or for communicating with clients.
Integration into the Existing Workflow
List down all the tools and platforms that you currently use for your projects. If you already have tools such as time-tracking apps and other tech tools crucial to the growth of your business, it would be best to opt for online communication tools that have pre-built integrations.
Size of Your Team
If you have a large and distributed team, it is best to choose an online communication tool that allows for different levels of access and user permissions, as getting each employee the same app can be hard to do in such cases.
It is a good idea to invest in an effective online communication tool, but also keep in mind that there are platforms available that offer “free forever” versions. If the functionalities available in the free version would work fine with your current needs, then you can save your money for the rainy day.
Best Practices in Using Online Communication Tools
Designate a channel for every purpose
Online communication can be overwhelming. You are dealing with quick chats and questions, meetings, and project management, just to name a few. From the get-go, have a communications plan in place and stick to it. For example, Instant Messaging is for quick chats and questions, emails are for in-depth communication regardless of topic or project, project management platforms are specifically for comments and questions related to tasks under the project, and so on.
Streamline your meetings
Make sure to only schedule meetings when you require immediate and direct engagement from the participants. Otherwise, you risk taking away productive time from your team’s workday. Avoid unproductive meetings and have frequent and short check-ins, instead. You can do this by scheduling 15-minute “stand-up” meetings before the start of the shift, or a 1-hour video call every week. Instead of meetings, you can also schedule workshops, especially before project deadlines, to keep everyone on track.
Provide easy access to information
With remote work, it is harder for teams to communicate, or simply ask questions among themselves. Ensure that the answers they need are easily accessible by utilizing file organization tools, such as Google Drive (including Google Docs and Google Sheets), Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and the like. Streamline naming conventions and designate specific folders for every project or task. The idea is for every employee to not need the help of a coworker to find the answer to their query.
Trust Your Team
Monitoring your team’s daily activities like a jail warden might not be received well, especially in these uncertain and stressful times. Measure results, rather than activity. When employees are performing well and meeting deadlines, the details of their workday should not be much of a big deal. Allow your teams to work when they are most productive, and check-in with them at a reasonable frequency to assess if everything is on track. After all, a culture of trust is conducive to effective communication.