Startups, by their very nature, are constantly changing as they try to gain traction and grow. For founders, establishing communication processes and building a company culture is an ongoing struggle.
The modern workplace is evolving as well. It’s becoming more virtual and distributed, and therefore the way you manage and communicate must adapt.
Working remotely makes keeping your employees informed and supported even more challenging. It requires consistent communication, clear goal setting, and ensuring employees feel like they have a voice.
The following communication strategies and tools can help keep your team motivated and focused in any workplace environment.
Let’s get started.
1. Hold A Weekly Standup Meeting With Zoom
Daily standup meetings can be a little logistically cumbersome in remote environments but they’re still super useful. We’ve found holding weekly standups instead keeps communication open and people happy.
What is a standup meeting?
A standup or standing meeting is a quick meeting a team holds to cover important goals, tasks, and information for the day. They’re called standup meetings because they’re typically held with a group gathered on their feet to ensure they’re quick and productive.
While the standup meetings are usually daily huddles, you can host weekly meetings instead and follow the same format. And if you’re doing them via Zoom, obviously you don’t have to worry about standing up.
Standups are a great way to build team unity and break down communication silos. Just make sure you follow some this important structure and tips, including:
- Start with a quick icebreaker to get your team engaged.
- Keep it short and to the point. The meeting should last no more than 30 minutes or less, depending on team size.
- If topics come up that deserve more attention, table them and schedule specific calls with the right people to discuss them.
- Have everyone on the team report on what they accomplished in the previous week, what they plan to accomplish this week, and what challenges or obstacles they’re facing.
How is it useful?
This type of meeting helps keep the entire team aligned and out of their silos. It also promotes teamwork, as employees can cheer each other on and celebrate accomplishments together.
At the same time, people are empowered to discuss challenges in an environment where they can get assistance from you or other team members.
Why use Zoom?
Zoom offers an easy way for everyone to teleconference “face-to-face”. All staff can see each other, which helps support the comradery and motivation that’s the purpose of these meetings.
Zoom calls up to 40 minutes long are included with a free account, so you might not even need to pay for the service for use with standup meetings.
2. Send Out A Monthly Focus With Loom
With everyone working in different locations, it can be easy for individual projects and concerns to veer off into their own directions. Keep people on the same page with a monthly focus message.
What is a focus?
A focus is a monthly update from you, the founder, that ensures everyone on your team is in the loop, that people aren’t constantly dealing with big-picture surprises, and that your staff is all working toward the right business goals. Unlike the weekly standup meeting, it’s a top-down communication designed to keep your team on track.
Some things to cover in a monthly focus include:
- An overview of what’s going on with the company, including what major goals were achieved last month, where growth is happening, and what challenges you’re facing.
- Introduction of any new hires and how they’ll be fitting into the team.
- General updates that are relevant to the work or lives of the team, including information about benefits, policies, technical improvements, or vacation schedules.
- Discussion of the major goals for the coming month and how those goals might relate to specific teams, individuals, or work.
How is it useful?
Informed employees are more motivated, focused, and able to get the right work done. How well informed employees are is directly related to how well a workplace or business performs.
In the top 10% of workplaces, for example, more than 80% of employees tend to say they’re well-informed. In average organizations, that number’s just under 50%.
Why use Loom?
Adding one more meeting to the calendar every month can reduce productivity and be difficult to include everyone at the same time, thereby diluting the full impact of your important message.
Instead of holding a meeting, make a quick recording. You can record your monthly focus with Loom and send the video message via a link. Each person on the team can view the message at their convenience and without distraction.
You can easily add slides to your video, and the team can see you and the slides at the same time, so you support learners of various types too.
3. Set Quarterly OKRs With Threads
Monthly updates help focus the team and ensure everyone is working toward the same ultimate big-picture goals. But OKRs help everyone know exactly how they fit into those goals.
What are OKRs?
OKR is short for objectives and key results. The objective is a goal statement and the key results are milestones or ways to measure progress toward that goal.
For example, if the objective is to bring the first product to market, key results might include defining and developing, marketing, and launching the product. Those are high-level, though, and you could have OKRs within each of those areas.
If the objective is to successfully market the product, key results might include defining features and benefits, developing target marketing personals, holding focus groups, testing marketing, and launching campaigns.
How is it useful?
Quarterly company-wide OKRs help remote teams remain focused on the work that needs to get done to move the company forward. They keep your team productive and help them avoid working on tasks that don’t directly affect your business’s bottom line.
OKRs give everyone a measuring stick against which to evaluate their efforts.
But you shouldn’t just have one set of OKRs for everyone. You should work with your teams to develop individual OKRs to support the company’s overarching OKR.
For example, if you use the product OKR above, your web developer’s individual OKR may look something like this:
Objective: Launch new website
- Gather website needs from marketing and content staff
- Develop site architecture
- Install and test shopping carts and payment methods
- Get content and upload it
- Launch site
Why use Threads?
With everyone working on their own version of OKRs, it’s easy to lose track of things or for efforts to become siloed. With Threads, you can share your OKRs with your team asynchronously, allowing them to read, comment, and interact with your OKRs.
Threads is like a hybrid between Google Docs and Slack, so you can post documents and have interactive discussions around them.
That way, teams can work together, support each other, and ensure everyone’s activities are aligned with your startup’s key business goals.
4. Manage Projects Transparently With Asana
The more you communicate, and the more your team members know, the more productive your startup will be. And when it comes to managing to-dos, and collaborating on projects, there’s no better tool than Asana.
What are transparent projects?
Transparent projects are those where all team members know what work needs to be done, what’s being done right now, who is responsible for the work, when the deadlines are, and who is actually doing the work.
How is it useful?
When you work remotely, it can be easy to wonder if what you’re doing even matters. Remote workers can become less motivated and begin to think they’re the only ones actually working if they don’t see tangible results.
A digital tool that lets everyone see the big picture as well as breakdowns of various projects reduces this isolation and motivates people to work together as a team. It also reduces issues such as miscommunication and duplicate work where people are putting their efforts into the same thing.
Why use Asana?
Asana is a favorite for project teams because it lets you see big-picture overviews as well as details. View things on a list, timeline, or via Kanban boards for visuals that work with your personal style — all without dictating how other people have to view the same information.
Teams can also assign work, create workflows, and keep up with project milestones and communication in Asana.
5. Celebrate Wins Big & Small With Slack
It’s easy to get caught up in the must-dos and negative feedback in any workflow.
Everyone hears about a customer who complained, and when the company is short on revenue for the quarter, that’s a fact that often dominates each meeting.
Even with a remote workforce, it’s easy for negative feedback loops to stack up and create an unenjoyable work environment. And that’s never been truer than during a time when pandemics and news cycles are already providing daily negativity for many people.
Making it a point to celebrate big and small wins can help you make a difference and push the team culture to a more positive place.
What does celebrating your wins mean?
Celebrating means letting everyone know when something good happens, and you don’t have to wait until it’s a big thing.
Some things you might want to share with the team include:
- Projects successfully completed
- New websites launched
- Positive online reviews or happy customer feedback
- Meeting sales goals
- Winning industry awards
How Is It Useful?
Sharing small and big wins alike help continuously motivate employees. When you’re waiting days, weeks, or months for a win — such as the launch of a new project — it’s easy to get discouraged.
But when small wins are being celebrated constantly, teams can take joy in the process of the work without relying on the final finish line for a boost of energy and happiness.
You can also encourage team members to share their own celebrations. Maybe someone handled a difficult customer situation or a team member stepped in to assist another.
By sharing their own wins and the help of others, employees create a positive environment that keeps the team motivated.
Why Use Slack?
Teams can use Slack to create public and private channels for real-time discussion. It’s basically a delightful way to group chat.
You can set up a “Wins” channel where everyone can share their own wins and view the positive news of others with simple posts.
At our company, we use Zapier to connect our customer feedback forms and review sites directly to our Slack “Wins” channel for instant positive refinement. There’s nothing more motivating than celebrating wins as a team.
Over To You
As a startup founder, it’s your job to keep your team rowing in the same direction. And the best way to do that is with good communication, especially when you’re leading your team through uncertain times — like right now.
With these tools and strategies, you don’t have to invest a lot of time and effort to make a big impact. Following just one or two of these communication tips can help keep your remote team positive, motivated, and productive.