Hybrid teams – the role and methods of effective communication

Short description

Effective communication is crucial for the success of a product team, especially when members have different levels of experience, positions, temperaments, and characters. Email and instant messaging are the most common communication methods within project teams, as they provide instant delivery, organization with unfamiliar colleagues, and the ability to ask difficult questions. However, these methods also have disadvantages such as incomplete task conveyance and difficulty discussing topics. Video/audio conferences increase the effectiveness of communication, provide live reactions, and save time. Establishing basic communication rules and adapting new employees through personal meetings and feedback can boost active participation in the team.

Hybrid teams – the role and methods of effective communication

“Correct communication” is one of the main factors in the success (or failure) of a product team on a project or in the process of supporting functionality. Such communication is not at all so obvious and simple at first glance, especially if specialists of different experience, position, temperament and character participate in the project.

The main methods of communication within the product team

Let’s compare the main methods of communication in hybrid work, based on the method and form of information transmission.

Most often we are talking about e-mails, chats, video/audio conferences, less often face-to-face meetings.

So, in order.

Emails and instant messaging

Widely used in today’s teams, the fastest and easiest way to communicate information.

Email is one of the best ways to communicate in an IT project. It allows:

  • Provide almost instantaneous delivery of information.

  • Organize communication with unfamiliar colleagues.

  • Asking “uncomfortable questions” and putting forward questionable propositions and hypotheses.

  • To ensure the delivery of the necessary information regardless of the employment of any recipient at the time of sending the message.

  • Fix the date and time of sending, save the history of correspondence.

  • Apply additional methods of tracking the message (delivery notification, reading).

  • Send the same original message text to all recipients.

  • and other.

The use of chats in project teams also shows its effectiveness.

You can:

  • quickly reach the majority of colleagues;

  • discuss issues that interest you in the moment;

  • or escalate a pressing problem.

In addition, the chat allows you to defuse the situation and give a feeling of “teamship” and participation, when you can simply say “Good morning”, say that you are going to lunch, or share your opinion about a movie, a game and just feel like a part of the team. And the chat has more opportunities to convey emotions – emoticons, stickers, gifs, pictures and much more.

The main disadvantages of e-mail and chats:

  • the impossibility of conveying the completeness of the task, when this or that information can be understood by each recipient in his own way depending on the level of expertise;

  • inability to convey live emotions;

  • the difficulty of discussing the topic, when the correspondence is delayed or turns into a channel for clarifying relationships.

I would like to note separately that electronic communication should not completely replace voice communication. Some particularly sensitive and important topics are not suitable for email or chat. Therefore, there are times when it is best to use a phone call.

In general, establishing the basic rules for exchanging information in a team is an important aspect of team interaction, which is often not taken into account when an employee does not understand how best to convey information and usually chooses the easiest and not always correct way – to write.

Video/audio conferences

An online conference or a regular audio call, in my opinion, significantly increases the effectiveness of communication, and as a result, the effectiveness of the team’s work.

Advantages of such communication:

  • More precise wording and live discussion.

  • The speed of the result based on the results of the negotiations is higher.

  • Ability to demonstrate developments and other materials.

  • Live reactions of interlocutors.

  • Saving time when solving issues.

Depending on the temperament/character of the participants, the situation at online conferences can vary from free conversation between everyone to long pauses after the end of the speech of one of the participants.

To prevent pointless conversation or awkward silence, you can directly address specific meeting participants. In this way, you will be able to use the meeting time as effectively as possible and solve the assigned tasks. At the same time, each participant has the opportunity to be heard.

To keep the interlocutor’s attention, you should show your individuality. Imagine the situation if you were communicating live, or even more if the circumstances require it. With such communication, your energy attracts the audience and sets them up for discussion of the proposed topics. Listeners do not lose the thread of the conversation, especially if you address them directly, asking for their opinion on the issues being discussed.

As a result, if all meeting participants are included in the active discussion, all issues will be resolved faster and you will be able to discuss more in less time.

An important aspect of this type of communication is employee control. When you can quickly request the status of solved tasks or discuss topics that concern you or him. The second, for example, is very relevant for beginners. When an employee joins the team and does not yet know and understand how the processes work, who it is better to call, he uses the simplest tool at this stage – an email. But it seems to me that correspondence at this stage will not help in any way to involve him in the work process and adapt him to work, to motivate the study of materials and the achievement of the team’s goals.

A person needs a person.

Interaction with team members

Adapting employees of hybrid teams is more difficult than face-to-face: it is more difficult to capture emotions and establish trust, it takes more time to immerse, you cannot approach a colleague and clarify something in the moment.

The first step to establishing contact is a welcome letter. In it, the employee is congratulated on a successful interview, describes his goals for the probationary period and provides contacts of specialists with whom he can discuss the issues that arise.

The next important stage of adaptation is a meeting with the team leader. Ideally, this is an audio or video call.

The most important thing at such a meeting is to talk sincerely with the person and get their feedback on the following issues:

  • Find out the mood, whether there are any problems that are not related to work. Offer to help if possible.

  • Find out about relations with colleagues: whether they respond promptly, whether there is no tension with someone.

  • Find out the opinion about the tasks, as well as about the load in general: whether there are enough tasks, whether you like doing them, whether there are no problems with understanding what exactly needs to be done, whether there is no overload.

  • Find out about the general attitude to the work process: whether the approaches of the team are suitable, whether they listen to the opinion of colleagues.

  • Ask what you would like to change in the work process.

Here it is important to listen to the employee, to understand what worries him, and to act not always according to the regulations, but to find a human approach, without illusions that he will gradually get involved. After all, if you find the key to a new team member, his return and involvement in the processes will be greater.

And, finally, you must organize a meeting with the team to communicate in an informal, light environment. Do not rush with questions, because not everyone is ready to talk about themselves in public right away or introduce themselves according to the established order.

Yes – it is necessary to demand, but not immediately. Give the employee time to get used to it.

The last stage of adaptation is feedback from the employee. Most often, this is filling out a questionnaire with a number of questions, but I would advise you to ask these questions personally over the phone. So that it was not a formality, but a clear understanding of how the adaptation went and what should be paid attention to.

Here’s what you can ask:

  • Have you managed to solve all the issues necessary to start work?

  • Were the expectations from the work, the company fulfilled?

  • What caused difficulties during adaptation, why?

  • Can you confidently say that you know everyone on your team?

  • Are there any difficulties in communication within and outside the team?

  • Are there any recommendations or wishes to improve the onboarding process?

This is important so that the new employee sees your involvement and does not feel like he is just another specialist who can be pestered on occasion. And also so that he is not afraid to ask uncomfortable questions and feel silly when addressing the manager or another coordinator.

Transformation of the passive role of the novice to active enthusiasm

Sometimes new employees take a passive, leading role in the team without showing any initiative. This is not always connected with the usual reluctance to work and spend time just to get paid. Often, an employee is passive because he considers himself not competent enough, is ashamed to ask stupid questions, or is afraid of receiving a hat for this or that initiative, etc.

The problems here are different, but all of them are somehow related, in my opinion, to the lack of normal, “correct” communication between the employee and the manager and other team members.

For a passive person, the best way of communication is e-mail. It is easier for him to write a letter, and it is desirable that this letter is not answered for a longer time. And ideally, they would not answer at all, in order to delay the resolution of this or that issue. At the same time, he will always have a tough argument in front of the manager – “I wrote…”. And it is not so important whether this letter reached the addressee or not, he did his part of the job (in his opinion).

The manager does not need to follow the lead of such an employee, encouraging lengthy correspondence, it is better to bring him to personal contact, personal communication by phone or video call. As I already wrote above, it is worth starting with establishing trusting, human relations. For the employee to open up and clearly talk to the manager about all the worrying issues.

When adapting such an employee to work and involving him in the performance of tasks, it is necessary:

  • Mark the importance for the company of the tasks he will perform.

  • Show the impact of the results of his work on a specific goal of the company.

  • In the end, to mark all the value of his work and him as a specialist.

An important aspect of employee adaptation gratitude. You need to thank the employee for a job well done. He must feel that he is needed by the company, that without him all processes will become and will not function.

At work meetings (or events following the results of work), I advise you to designate specific people who allow the company to achieve successful results. And do it not somewhere in small print in another letter, but clearly at a big level for big bosses. Great uncles may not find this information useful, but the employee you introduced, whom you mentioned, will feel a certain euphoria from his significance, from the significance of his work and his results.

After all, with this understanding, a new specialist will move mountains and do even more than is necessary.

In addition, an important component here is various bonuses for the good work of the team – even small, but to each member who helped you achieve the result. All those “Thank you to my team” stories don’t work when you get a reward and the team just says “thank you”, it doesn’t make them feel any better. There should be elementary justice. It is on the principles of this justice that you should lead your team and adapt newcomers.

The impact of communication on team performance

The role of communications in hybrid IT teams is difficult to overestimate, the correct choice of remote communication method affects the team’s performance.

Different projects have a place for different methods of communication, the most common ones are already described in the post: e-mail and phone calls with video or audio transmission of information. Each of them has its pros and cons. And in each individual case, you need to choose the method of information transmission that is most suitable for a specific situation. Correctly evaluate information and broadcast it to others.

After all, the final result and mood of the team members for work depends on how we agreed, how we understood each other, how we managed to convey information to the interlocutor or addressee, with what mood we chose words and drew conclusions.

In the circulation, you can write a letter, requesting the main indicators, or you can request a letter and discuss the contents of the letter over the phone. One does not cancel the other.

“Correct” communication will allow you to get a quick and high-quality result of the team’s work, as well as to quickly adapt new team members.

Communicate more often, gentlemen.

We are human beings, we are endowed with free speech, and we must explain ourselves clearly and honestly to each other.

Senior business analyst of Beeline Michurin Yu.V.

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