Market musings

7 Team Building Ideas for Improving Communication

by Nina Quasebarth
May 30, 2017

Employee interaction and trust are foundational to a successful organization. While water-cooler conversations and birthday cakes may seem to be a waste of time, they actually are an important part of team building. Almost as much so as scheduled, strategic team building activities. In fact, many successful organizations hold a daily meeting for group check-ins and to promote social interaction as well as align business activities.

It has been shown that team building boosts engagement, which in turn increases productivity.

Eighty-nine percent of employers believe that employees leave for more money, when the truth is that 70 percent of U.S. employees are simply not engaged at work. In addition, 70 percent of Forbes Global 2000 companies use techniques such as gamification to increase employee engagement, which in turns increases worker retention and revenue. Companies that can promote employee engagement actually show a 2.5 times increase in revenue over their competition, and employees tend to earn double their net income.

6 Team Building Activities That Boost Communication In The Workplace

When you have a remote team that works outside the office, you need to find new mechanisms to promote engagement and team interaction. Applying structured team-building activities as part of conference calls and group projects is a good way to help employees connect so they can work together more closely. Here are seven ideas to consider:

1. Don’t eliminate the chitchat

Set aside time at the start of each call or group call for social catch-up time: “How are the kids?”, “Did you see the game last night?”, etc. Chitchat helps put everyone at ease and sets a lighter tone for the call.

2. Try an icebreaker question

Using icebreaker questions can help team members get to know one another better and establish a greater level of comfort. You can use different kinds of questions, such as asking each team member to associate a color with a day of the week, or asking everyone to share something personal about a favorite hobby or their dream vacation.

3. Set time for a “coffee break”

Set up a virtual coffee break with coworkers. If you are in the same area, set a time and place to meet in person at the local coffee shop. If that’s impractical, schedule a virtual coffee break by phone or video conference and spend a few minutes in casual conversation.

4. Make introductions interesting

When introducing participants in a group call, have fun with it. For example, ask each person to share two true and one false statement about themselves when they are introduced and then have the others guess the false statement.

5. Use virtual brainstorming sessions

Bringing team members together to work through an idea is always productive, but it’s more productive if you have the right rules in place. Set up a virtual brainstorming session to take apart a problem or work through a new idea. Be sure to set ground rules in advance, designate a moderator, and control response time. Also, be sure to capture the ideas for later analysis.

6. Use a shared calendar system

If you need to check in on a project or even just want to get together for a quick chat, shared calendars can be very useful. Use a calendaring application that shows availability so you can find suitable times to discuss a project, or even share the latest office gossip.

7. Rotate the call facilitator

In order to build a team, everyone has to be a stakeholder. One way to promote engagement is to rotate the responsibility of meeting facilitator. With a well-thought-out agenda, any member of the team should be able to moderate the meeting and address each agenda item in turn.

Better, together

The ultimate goal, of course, is to promote engagement and improve communications, especially among remote workers. You want to promote a feeling of comfort so employees will pick up the phone rather than send an email. A short telephone call can resolve more than a dozen emails and it promotes greater understanding as well as more intimate communications.

Of course, the better your telephone tools, the easier it is to connect by phone. We developed Spoke as a simple smartphone app to facilitate interoffice (and intraoffice) communications. Spoke not only converts employees’ smartphones into a virtual office phone system, it also includes a variety of features designed for collaboration and virtual team building. Spoke includes features such as a live calling directory and presence to see if the other party is online. It also supports calendars and scheduling, as well as lookup calling, call transfer, and group calling so you can set up an impromptu conference call. There is even a feature to display call context and importance so you can alert the recipient as to why you are calling.

Technology is breaking down communications barriers, and it’s up to the organization to determine the best way to harness that new technology to promote virtual team building.

If you can’t gather everyone in the same room, the next best thing is to try to emulate some of the intimacy of a conference setting by telephone. The more you can do to connect the people behind the job roles, the better the collaborative outcome.

The Productivity Hacker's Guide to Integrating Remote Teams
The Productivity Hacker's Guide to Integrating Remote Teams