Not all teams huddle up before every play. If you have a mobile workforce—with a remote team across multiple time zones and contractors handling remote work—the idea of executing a singular strategy can seem like a pipe dream. But it’s possible to improve communications with your mobile workforce in such a way that you all operate as a single team—no matter where you are.
If there’s something lost in the remote work experience, it’s the face-to-face interaction that comes with daily work. Being unable to read someone’s body language can sometimes mean that certain aspects of your operation get lost in translation. How do you bring together a mobile team in a way that looks and feels like in-person interaction? We have a few ideas.
Strategies for Improving Communication with Your Mobile Workforce
These days, technology has made us more mobile than ever—the global mobile workforce has been over 39.3% for the past few years, which means you’re not the only one struggling to handle distributed team communication. But rather than guess your way forward, it’s important to have some proven strategies for bringing this distributed team communication to one central place. Here are a few ideas:
- Use video conferencing to your advantage.Video conferencing technology is agile, effective, and adds that face-to-face layer that can change the context of your communication strategies. For distributed teams, it’s important to have that kind of face-to-face time through video calls in real-time. Whether you decide to schedule regular conferences or simply want additional tools at your disposal, add video conferencing to your communication channels.
- Install at least one team-building activity. Team-building gets a bad rap. Many of us associate it with team-building exercises in traditional office settings, where the entire process seems redundant. But improving distributed team communication requires it. If there are ways for you to “gamify” the mobile workforce experience and turn activities into team builders, try them out. Toggl has a lengthy list of team-building activities you can try, including mobile apps.
- Get everyone on the same page. One of the fastest ways to destroy communication within a distributed team is to have people running different apps and following independent structures. Make sure that you create a singular method of communication that all mobile remote workers are to use, and don’t be flexible here. It’s not only important to have an infrastructure in place, but to enforce that structure at the organizational level. For new remote workers, create an “onboarding document” that instructs them as to which apps they’ll need, how to communicate with other distributed workers, and where to send their communications. This will have a unifying effect on the entire team.
- Listen to feedback. It’s not enough to build a system—you should be flexible enough to listen to your remote team when they provide feedback as to its effectiveness. Make sure to reach out to your mobile workforce on a regular basis and discover what they’re most concerned about. What do they think are the right tools? What would they do differently? When you start noticing common themes, you’ll know it’s time to adjust your strategy.
- Build a culture. Before you start, you should decide what you want the culture of your agile teams to be. Do you want a highly independent company culture of self-motivated individuals? Then most of your priority should be in being able to identify them and train them for independence. Do you want a unified team despite the remote working schedule? Then invest in a culture that rewards communication and features regular standup meetings and team communication. If you’re in the position of leadership, the culture of your team is ultimately up to you.
Communicating with Customers
Bringing your mobile workforce together with an effective system will have the added benefit of making things easier on your customers. Here’s how:
- Give customers the chance to reach you. Your customers should be able to dial a company number and reach the person best suited to handle their problem. When you connect a mobile workforce to the same phone system, you make it far more convenient for a customer to dial the appropriate extension.
- Make your contact information freely available. Don’t just post your contact information on your website. Include a company number on any social media profiles and email signatures.
Tools to Leverage: How to Incorporate These Strategies into Your Mobile Workforce
It’s all well and good to talk about what you should do. But how do you pull it off? Here are some of the communication tools you should consider when building a better culture for your remote team.
Skype: Skype is one of the most popular work-life communication tools for remote teams thanks to its robust chatting and web conferencing features. Skype also has the advantage of being one of the most popular apps in remote working and web conferencing there is, so you won’t find it difficult to build a team with Skype capabilities.
Trello: Trello is a straight-forward project management app that makes it easy for teams to interact in a unified platform. The advantage here is that Trello makes it easy for everyone to get on the same page: they can see their current assignments and where these assignments fall within the pipeline. Of all the project management tools, Trello is one that’s going to be one of the best suited for teams with plenty of remote workers.
Zapier: Bringing a virtual team together can sometimes mean bringing in different apps and tools and making sure they function as one. That’s where a tool like Zapier comes in, automating some of the more repetitive tasks that your remote team shouldn’t have to handle themselves. For example, you can have Google docs automatically created based on the feedback of other apps, making it easy for the appropriate person in your team to access information—without adding an extra step of work for someone else on your remote team.
Google Hangouts: An easy way to get a team to talk to each other, Google Hangouts is a convenient service that will have your team feeling like an “office” team even if it’s only ever been remote. This is the kind of service that provides the feel of face-to-face meetings no matter where everyone might be.
Grasshopper: Call us biased, but one of the best ways to create the feel of a brick-and-mortar office setting—even if you have a team of remote workers—is to utilize a phone system that automatically forwards its calls to the appropriate team members. It doesn’t matter if one team member is in Australia and another is in New York—Grasshopper creates a professional portal for your clients and customers and ensures the appropriate team member gets their calls without a hitch.