How do you manage communication in a virtual team?

Qualitative and Predictable Communication Best Practices

contentBy the year 2020, 62% of employees are expected to work in virtual teams, so it is essential that managers start adapting themselves and their companies to this new reality. We are an evidence-based company, so for our latest Habit Magazine we asked Louis Jonckheere (CPO & Co-founder of Showpad) if he could share some of Showpad’s best practices regarding communication in virtual teams.

Quick question: Just out of curiosity… Do you work in virtual team? Let us know in the comment section below!

How do you give sensitive feedback when you are working in a virtual team?

When working in a virtual team, communication is everything! It’s just so easy to misinterpret each other, especially through e-mail. I’ve experienced in working together with Americans, that they have a very different communication style than we Europeans. Often they appear to be short in their mails, even when they are happy with the work you are doing. That’s why we have communication guidelines for our team. When it comes to giving feedback, we don’t want them to send it through mail. They have to give feedback by using conference calls, with their camera on. It is just really important that people can actually see each other when they give or receive feedback. Otherwise a lot of informal communication and body language gets lost. When you are spread throughout the world, and are working in various time-zones misunderstandings are a common thing. That’s why we ask our team to: 1) Keep their mails concise, and factual. Don’t give an opinion when you are sending a mail, stick to the facts! 2) Always assume positive intentions when you are communicating with somebody.

How do you make sure that virtual team meetings are effective?

We have also clear guidelines when it comes to virtual meetings. The “why” of every meeting has to be transparent: an agenda, and a clear outcome of every meeting is required. That’s also something that we will monitor. From time to time I will just log in to a random meeting to check how they are doing, and if the meeting is actually useful or not. Another thing that we find really important is the technology: it just has to work seamlessly to have a proper meeting! That’s why we have made the investment of high quality screens and software, so when we meet, it’s almost like a face to face interaction. We also have these robots in every office, that can be operated from a distance, and have a screen on it. On the screen they can see you, and you can drive your robot around like you would be actually “walking” in their office. Some of our teams use these robots during their stand-up meetings! When they are meeting in America, the Belgium team can literally go to their meeting room by using this robot, and have a stand-up meeting together with them.

What tools do you use to communicate virtually with your team?

We use “Zoom” for video conference calls, and have a lot of meeting rooms with big screens and great functioning hardware, so technological glitches are very rare. Another tool we use a lot is “Facebook For Work“. This is actually used as a “replacement” for emails. Every team has his own group and makes announcements on it on a daily basis. This works very well. It’s a combination of “fun” and “work”. We also have “product discussions” on this platform in which we brainstorm on questions regarding the functionalities of Showpad. Facebook for Work is also used for big company-wide announcements! The other tools we use are very job specific: tools like Sales Force, and Atlassian (with Hipchat and Confluence). So next to “Facebook for Work”, every team has their own platforms, depending on the kind of work they are doing.

Cutesolutions

And to finish off we would like to send out a special thanks to Louis Joncheere for sharing these valuable tips and best practices!

Good luck with those new habits!

The CUTESolutions Team

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