In a perfect world, team members across every department would share information, communicate well, and make the business better.
But when you’re managing a team of people who work in different locations, it can be hard to keep everyone on the same page. I have openly written about difficulties my company had keeping our customer service, marketing and sales teams on the same page, which resulted in high churn rate for our customers.
A 2022 study showed that 30% of frontline workers feel internal communication gets in the way of doing their job.
Here are some tips for improving internal communications in your organization so that everyone—including remote employees—can help break down information silos and overcome communication issues.
1. Improve communication technology for remote teams
Technology will often decide how well your team communicates, and it’s even more important for remote teams. The right platforms will make communication seamless and improve the flow of information, while the wrong ones will add extra barriers that build up silos.
One key component is a cloud-based VoIP business phone system. The right system integrates all communication channels, like voice, text, instant message, video call, and more. And it keeps them in the cloud where they’re easy for remote teams to use.
There is a great article on CustomerThink titled 3 Ways VoIP Can Improve Your Customer Service This Holiday Season which is a good read on how a central workhub where data from your calls, emails, chats, SMS messages, and CRM are integrated can help your teams stay on the same page.
If you have team members across the globe, consider asynchronous solutions, too. For example, you can explain processes and changes in video recordings instead of during live meetings. If you’re used to synchronous communication, where everyone needs to be in the same place at the same time, start with a gradual adjustment.
That doesn’t mean you need to eliminate meetings, though. Depending on how your team operates, they can be helpful—if you do them well.
2. Schedule regular meetings
Meetings get a bad rap, but when used correctly, they can help your team sync up and build the kind of camaraderie that improves communication everywhere.
Generally speaking, smaller meetings are faster and more productive. For larger teams, consider meeting once a week to connect everyone and make sure projects are running smoothly. Smaller teams working on a specific project might benefit from more frequent meetings, even as often as once per day.
And perhaps the most important factor for good meetings is a well-defined structure. Always prepare an agenda in advance, or work off a format that’s the same every time you get together.
There is a great article on CustomerThink titled: The Great Re-onboading: How to Bring Back Your Employees talking about how to reignite employee passion and build stronger relationships with meetings even if all your employees are remote.
The daily standup meetings used in agile development are a good model. They happen once a day at the same time, last for 15 minutes or less (while everyone is standing), and follow a specific agenda: each team member reports what they’ve done, what they’re working on, and asks for help if they’re stuck with anything.
But if the biggest issue is that team members aren’t keeping consistent data, the solution might lie with the system you use.
3. Create a single source of truth for customer data
We’ve entered the data age, but we’re quickly seeing its limitations. Most businesses collect information from software platforms, analytics programs, and even manual entry.
Traditional systems store everything in separate places, each set of data in its own repository. But few choices can build up data silos like keeping customer data separated across platforms. And the more sources of data you have, the worse the problem gets.
Instead, create a single source of truth for customer data. Store all information in one place where every team can access it. All-in-one tools, like unified communication platforms, can help keep things together. And for external data that are not already in that platform, pull it into the same sandbox with automated tools.
Having a single source of truth means teams are always working with the same information and changes will immediately show up for everyone. It’s an upgrade for every part of your business.
4. Collect more feedback from your team
If you’re not asking your team on their thoughts to resolve internal communication issues, you’re going to struggle. Instead, get feedback directly from your team about where you can improve.
Share surveys with your employees on a regular basis. Understand where they’re struggling and what fixes they recommend. One of the most important areas for feedback should be employees’ stress levels. Recent research suggests that employees with manageable stress levels are 3.7 times more likely to be engaged at work.
The best way to do this is with a short questionnaire asking for employees’ perspectives on the highlights and low points of the current communication policy.
And most importantly, be sure to act on the feedback you get. Moving quickly shows your employees you’re serious about improvement.
5. Establish clear channels
It’s easy to lose information across the different tools you use, like those for project management, instant message, email, and more. And if channels aren’t clear, people will make assumptions about where to post information.
With a small team or just a few projects, that might not be a problem. But as your business scales, employees will lose more and more time searching for information across tools. Looking for customer data across email, archived tasks, CRM entries, and Slack can slow down even the fastest teams.
To avoid those problems, establish clear channels of communication. Work with your employees to brainstorm guidelines for different tools, like:
- What should be communicated on project management software?
- How should the team use email?
- Where do personal messages belong, and where don’t they?
- Should long-term resources be stored in tools, or somewhere else?
Another common issue, especially for small businesses, is separating business calls from personal calls. Many small business owners tend to have just one number that they use for everything, but this can get to be too much for most employees.
These days close to 40% of remote employees use virtual phone numbers a technology which provides you with a separate business number you can use on your cell phone, computer, or other device without needing to buy separate hardware.
6. Plan a file organization strategy
One of the most common problems for teams is finding and accessing information. You might have a file system that makes sense to you, but your team members don’t use it or know what’s where.
But messy files aren’t only a hassle. Just like unclear communication channels, they can lead to mistakes and delays in getting projects done as well as lead to identity information being stolen. To fix this, create guidelines on where and how to store documents and files.
For example, you could create a shared folder in Google Drive. When you add documents related to your business processes or customer requirements, they’ll always be accessible to everyone in the organization. This can also prevent duplicate documents and extra work since everyone has access to the same files at all times—even if they aren’t physically located in the same place.
7. Get everyone on board with company-wide goals
Teams on a mission have better communication than those that aren’t. Make sure everyone is on the same page. If you have multiple teams or departments, ensure they all know what they’re working toward. It’s not enough to say, “we’re working towards a goal.” Each team needs to understand how their type of work fits into that larger picture.
Use the same terminology for achievements and milestones across teams so that every member of your organization understands how each group contributes to the overall mission and why their individual contributions matter.
This can be more difficult than it sounds if many of your employees are remote workers who don’t get together often enough for in-person meetings—but it’s well worth making an effort.
It’s also not enough to just come up with company goals, it’s important to make sure these company goals are directly connected to your customers goals. In a CustomerThink interview with Guy Nirpaz CEO of Totango, Guy mentioned the following about setting goals:
“Customer success is about starting with your customers’ goals. Incorporate the achievement of their goals to your Key Performance Indicators.”
Management should set company-wide objectives with clear deadlines and expectations and keep everyone accountable for them. Give teams the flexibility to decide what they need to achieve in order to contribute towards those objectives in a meaningful way.
This doesn’t mean everyone has to agree on everything at once (some things will change over time). But having everyone on board will help keep communication flowing smoothly as plans evolve.
Your team may not always see eye to eye, but it’s important to remember that everyone has the same goal: making your business succeed. With good communication and organizational skills, you can bring people together for a common purpose—even if they have different ideas about how best to achieve it.
It’s important to have a clear vision of what you want your team to do and how they should go about doing it. Once you do, communicate this vision clearly and often throughout the implementation phase. By setting clear expectations up front, you can solve communication issues, break down silos, avoid confusion, and help everyone work toward the same objectives.