Cultivating Collaboration in Hybrid and Remote Teams

April 2024
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Over the past 18 months, businesses transitioning to remote and hybrid work have faced challenges with engagement, effective collaboration, and maintaining or building community within their workforce. 

Leadership and staff are increasingly concerned that the loss of physical proximity negatively impacts efficiency, innovation and morale. 

Furthermore, these obstacles manifest in low productivity and low organizational awareness and contribute to poor customer service and high production time or, worse, rework.

The following are common tactical mistakes businesses make and the reasons why they don’t work:

Challenge: Engagement

Tactical mistake: Repeating messages that don’t create engagement and instead create apathy

Why it falls short: More is not always better. If communications don’t have a feedback mechanism or don’t allow recipients to self-select for additional details, then messaging becomes “noise”

Challenge: Collaboration, community and culture

Tactical mistake: Engaging in “forced fun” and social activities

Why it falls short: Collaboration is built on trust and requires greater organizational awareness

Challenge: Informing teams

Tactical mistake: Pumping out information about operations and processes in a style that doesn’t align with team communications needs

Why it falls short: Without understanding the organizational culture type, the needs of the communication recipient are not met

Challenge: Direct communication

Tactical Mistake: Relying on communications channels that don’t work for the workforce

Why it falls short: Not all workers have access to email or are not “text first” learners

Why this matters

Engagement plays an important role in productivity, retention, stress and burnout. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023 found that “when employees are engaged at work, 70% report feeling significantly lower stress in their lives,” positively impacting retention and preventing “quiet quitting.”

To encourage engagement, successful communications are also the simplest. People have limited time to absorb a multitude of messages, and intentionally or unintentionally, they prioritize what is easiest to process.

If you develop consistent, easy-to-access, brief internal communications, then you will improve engagement and collaboration, increase organizational awareness, reduce time spent answering questions and break down silos. 

Overcoming these challenges results in better efficiency, increased retention and higher job satisfaction.

The least expensive and most effective ways to address engagement, collaboration and community with measurable success are:

  • Build highly effective, well-informed teams that understand the big picture. 
  • Leverage institutional knowledge rather than spending money on additional tools and technology. 
  • Spend time creating a strategic communications plan.

5 effective tactical solutions

1. Increase organizational awareness.

To improve collaboration, your staff must understand what your organization’s various groups do and what defines success for each. Additionally, understanding the key contacts within each department will help individuals reach out to the right people.

  • Create a “Staff Spotlight” and distribute it at a regular cadence. Interview team members and ask questions that delve into what interests them, what work they have expertise in and what projects they focus on. Publish their photo and give their contact information. Your audience will learn who they should connect with and under what circumstances.
  • Build portals or sections within your intranet or employee resources documents that describe the type of work each department or team focuses on. Make clear how each team supports the organization’s overall success and what other departments/teams it works closely with. Also, provide contact information for key personnel within each group.

2. Understand organizational culture types.

To increase engagement, it’s vital to understand how information needs to be distributed, what style of writing/communication is preferred and how the end user assimilates it. 

For example, suppose your communications are highly detailed with a lot of explanation and dot-connecting, but your workforce is composed of “big picture” thinkers. They will not absorb detailed information on a regular basis. This style will cause your workforce to disregard messages that may be important. 

Conversely, if your team wants more information and detailed plans, then it’s important to know that when crafting communication. 

If you get the TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) or the analysis paralysis response, then that’s an indication your communication is ineffective for your overall culture type.

  • Identify chaos/order tolerance and drivers for your workforce and departments. We recommend using a tool such as the Helix Assessment or obtaining professional guidance to craft your survey.
  • Conduct a focus group with a statistically significant sample size to gain deeper insight into how communication needs to be crafted.

3. Prepare a content calendar.

In addition to preventing information overload by designing a healthy cadence, a content calendar helps ensure proper resource use and organizes information for a logical flow throughout the year.

  • Content calendars, or editorial calendars, can be as simple as a spreadsheet or as complex as a workflow with dependencies. Use the tool that makes sense for your organization and the skill level of your content creators.
  • Keep space in your calendar for unanticipated messaging that will inevitably arise throughout the year.
  • Assign resources to your messaging campaigns, such as graphics design, intranet page development, photos, interviews, etc.

4. Get creative with channels and multimedia.

You may have a deskless workforce or a distributed team, so consider a layered communications approach. Don’t depend on one channel, such as email or intranet, and don’t rely exclusively on text. Deliver your messages, especially if you have deskless workers, in a variety of formats.

  • Utilize infographics for workflows and processes.
  • Engage in short podcasts to capture your deskless workers.
  • Use video messages for evergreen content.
  • Share the annual goals and year-end celebrations with your team in pre-populated digital picture frames. 

5. Update the intranet or single source of truth (SSOT) to reflect the user. 

  • Conduct a focus group with your workforce to find out what they want to see on the intranet/SSOT.
  • Develop a great user experience (UX).
  • Assign specific people to manage and update the portal/pages/tool.

Whether they are a dedicated internal communications team, HR or influencers such as management or team leads, developing a strategic communications plan with feedback mechanisms is a critical problem-solving step that saves time, money and talent. 

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