Only about half of employees understand what is expected of them, according to a Gallup poll.

Let that sink in. That’s 50% of employees who don’t understand what they need to do to excel at the job. 50% of employees who have no idea how to meet the expectations of their supervisor or the organization. That means 50% of employees make too many mistakes and waste too much time. And you know what? Their managers are to blame.

Why? Because that is a clear sign that managers aren’t communicating effectively enough.

For leaders of remote employees, the communication struggle compounds. If communicating your expectations to employees’ in person leaves half of them unsure about what to do next, imagine the confusion remote employees feel when the majority of the communication happens via email, text or collaboration tool. That percentage likely jumps up a bit, and your team’s productivity could be taking a serious hit. To improve communication on your remote team, follow these steps:

Talk about it

Talk to employees about how they like to communicate. Ask what is helpful to them, what times of the day work best for them and more. Then do your best to match people’s preferences. If someone outright tells you they prefer to hear instructions, don’t detail instructions in an email.

Additionally, as a team, come to some agreement on the best way to communicate as a group. For example, perhaps you schedule daily online “huddles” using chat functions in your collaboration software, and then plan more in-depth brain-storming conference calls every other week.

Pick your tools wisely

You have sooooo many choices. Are you going to call or email? Are you going to Skype, Facetime or Hangout? Text, IM, Yammer or Slack? The conference line or GotoMeeting? Are you going to use video or not? Is a voicemail helpful or not? Business line or cell phone? Whew!

Think about the tools you have at your disposal, and talk about which ones you are going to use. Then, whichever ones you select, make sure employees are comfortable using them by providing plenty of training. Tools are worthless if people don’t actually use them.

Use the right tools at the right time

Not every tool works for every situation. Sometimes a text message will meet the communication need. Other times (like when your message is long or requires discussion) it’s the last tool you should use. Email works for many tasks, but you shouldn’t be conducting a full on conversation through emails; you have to pick up the phone. And when discussing a truly complex or challenging issue, you may need to jump on video chat so that you can read people’s body language.

Commit to improving communication

Because virtual communication is more complex, you can’t just take it for granted or just “let it happen.” You won’t see people as you pass in the hallway or in the break room, so you have to create opportunities for conversation. Casual conversation won’t just happen, so you must work to build relationships and connections with employees.

That leads to the fifth point …

Plan time to communicate 

Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with employees. Face it, you get busy and time slips away from you. You must put those meetings on the schedule to ensure that they happen. Plus, you’ll improve your relationships with employees because they know you care enough to block out time for them. Don’t underestimate the emotional value of that.

Looping back to the first point above, make sure you schedule those appointments when it is most convenient for employees. Making time for employees can be a big moral booster, but if you schedule those meetings during the worst possible time for them, it will feel more like a punishment.

For more resources…

Download our free Team Tech Assessment to see how well your team is using technology and communicating.


Photo Credit: Aaron Landry, Bo Hakala, Talula and I via photopin

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  1. Above mentioned tips helps one to effectively communicate with virtual teams. Tools like webex, gomeetnow, gotomeeting, R-HUB web conferencing servers etc. can be used for effective virtual team communication.

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