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Hybrid Team Communication: New Tools, Rules, and Norms

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Communicating with a distributed team is a unique challenge. When everyone logs on or off at different times, how can you make sure your entire company is on the same page?

Take action by using new tools, refining your internal communications policies, and planning like crazy. After all, the more consistent you can be, the easier it is to rally your entire team and make progress.

“In the midst of change, it's really important to have consistent channels where people know what to expect,” said Laney Erokan, Director of Internal Communications & Employer Branding at Patreon.

With clear and consistent communication policies, you’ll boost employee engagement and foster trust among remote colleagues. 

After all, many of our team members are no longer just “down the hall” — they’re on a Slack channel or in our inboxes. And this reality fundamentally changes the way we communicate at work.

5 Best Practices for Effective Team Communication

In our recent event, Hybrid Team Communication: New Tools, Rules, and Norms, Erokan joined Laura Clyburn, Head of Internal Communications at ServiceTitan, and Welcome’s Co-Founder and CEO, Roberto Ortiz, to discuss how to incorporate more empathy into your leadership style.

Here are 5 event take-aways that offer best practices for communicating with your hybrid team effectively:

  1. Clarity and consistency boosts internal communication and makes hybrid work more equitable.
  2. The shift to hybrid work takes sustained change management efforts. Be prepared to get buy-in across the board!
  3. Share and develop clear policies for your internal communications tools, from Slack to GSuite.
  4. Be intentional about making employee events hybrid. No one should feel bad about opting to attend virtually.
  5. Lean on employee resource groups (ERGs) as ways to communicate effectively with your teams. ERGs are also a great way to develop leaders within the company!

Watch the full event here for more ideas and internal communication best practices.

Clarity is Key with Hybrid Team Communication

Above all, it’s important to let your people know what to expect by keeping internal communications to designated channels on a consistent schedule. At Patreon, for example, they hold an all-hands meeting every Thursday, whether or not the CEO can attend.

Clarity and consistency is especially important as you continue to grow and onboard new employees. 

“We're growing really fast,” said Clyburn of ServiceTitan. “We're hiring new folks, and so making it really easy for them to understand what the meeting cadence is, what the schedule is, and where they can plug in right off the bat in those initial weeks” helps new hires ramp up quickly.

At Patreon, part of the onboarding experience also includes reviewing virtual and hybrid meeting expectations. 

“We teach meeting etiquette in a virtual state or hybrid state, and the woman who runs it has a slide that says ‘No agenda, no attendance,’” said Erokan. 

Setting these expectations early ensures that your entire team is working from the same communications handbook.

Hybrid Work Policies and Change Management

The shift to hybrid work policies affects everyone in your company, so you can expect that it will take a real change management effort to get buy-in.

According to Clyburn, this means being very clear about your hybrid work policies and being able to address employee feedback or pushback as you go. 

“If there is an exception [to returning to office], here's what the exception process is, or here's your avenue for next steps,” said Clyburn. “There's very unique scenarios [with a distributed team] where people need to have clear information and a path to discuss them.”

For Erokan, the shift to hybrid also means not over-determining how people spend their flex time, including company-wide ‘no meeting days.’ 

“Some of our team recruiters, our creator-facing teams, are on meetings all day with creators and candidates,” said Erokan of Patreon’s work cadence. 

“A ‘no meeting day’ doesn't work for them. So we encourage people to find time where they can in their own schedule. We can't over-complicate or over-orchestrate this.”

Tools for Effective Team Communication

Thanks to improvements in technology for distributed teams, it’s easier than ever to connect your company and improve workflow. Here are the tools that rose to the top of our conversation:

  1. Slack 
    We all know Slack is an incredible team communication tool, but there’s more you can do to make it work for your distributed team. By improving the names of your channels, you’ll make it easier for team members to search and access important information and conversations. You may also wish to limit posting permissions on some internal channels. This will keep the channel clear, while allowing for questions and emoji reactions.
  1. GSuite 
    Google products make online collaboration easy. Just make sure you’ve clearly outlined processes for collaboration and document sharing, so your entire company is using GSuite the same way.
  1. Glean 
    Looking for omni-search software that links all of your collaboration tools together? Glean might be the tool for you. It’s the platform Erokan is most looking forward to implementing in the near future.
  1. Welcome
    As an employee event platform, Welcome is the perfect way to facilitate hybrid all-hands meetings or experiential events that improve relationships.

    As Clyburn suggests, it’s important to be intentional as you plan events for a hybrid audience, “making sure that the option is there to join virtually, and that it's not a big deal.”

Crisis Management, Leading with Empathy, and Employee Resource Groups

Employee resource groups, or ERGs, are an internal communications director’s secret weapon. ERGs help boost internal comms and provide pathways to leadership for employees—a real win-win for the entire company.

In times of crisis or external conflict, ERGs can also be an important channel for localizing outreach and leading with empathy, says Erokan. “ERG leaders or leaders for a reason,” she said. They are leaders in your company; bring them into your communications process.”

Erokan also recommends developing a crisis playbook to determine how you will respond to external events as a company, whether through internal communication or externally made statements and positioning.

Ultimately, “let bad news be bad news,” said Erokan. “Don’t try to spin it.” Even if external events add pressure to your work-days, know that you can count on your ERG leaders for extra support.

Final Thoughts

Improve internal communications and keep your entire team engaged with Welcome’s employee event platform. Live chat connects team members who are far apart, and even your event producers can easily join in the conversation and build new relationships.

As part of your remote work tech stack, Welcome injects energy and engagement into many types of work events, from onboarding to sales kickoffs to experiential events. In a quickly changing world, we make it easier than ever to gather your team together and ensure that everyone stays on the same page.

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