Since early 2020, many engineering teams have been working remotely as much as possible, due to safety concerns surrounding COVID-19. Remote work has lots of benefits, especially during a pandemic. But it also comes with a lot of challenges that managers need to watch out for.
Many engineering teams get stuck in unhealthy work patterns due to poor communication. Although poor communication can occur in an office setting, it’s more likely to be a problem on remote teams, as there is little to no face-to-face interaction.
Managers need to step up and address communication issues head-on. They need to set clear communication expectations and help team members work together to stay productive and connected on a distributed team. This means being intentional about communication!
Ready to improve your engineering team’s communication and collaboration? Here are some key communication tips for remote engineering teams.
Identify the Problem
You have to start by working backward and pinpointing the problem before you can take steps to solve it. Engineers need clear expectations and a thorough understanding of what their tasks will be on any given project.
If those expectations are not being communicated well, team members are likely to underperform. Managers who are experiencing frequent misunderstandings or team members not meeting expectations should look for communication problems first.
Engineering projects are complex and may require the expertise of several people. This means that everyone needs to be on the same page with clear and defined project goals.
Communication is especially crucial at this stage. Engineers need to collaborate with others to develop technical plans and decide who is responsible for each responsibility. The team should create deadlines for their goals and work together to meet them.
Listen & Write Reports with the Nontechnical Individuals in Mind
Engineering managers need to have strong listening skills and be able to convert dense, technical material into a format that people without specialized training will be able to understand. They need to be able to listen to employees, clients, and supervisors to facilitate smooth communication between each group.
Many engineers have trouble communicating in non-technical language. The reports they write can be understood by others who have the same skillset, but they might be totally incomprehensible to an executive or another non-technical individual.
Reports might be read by any number of people involved in the process of bringing a project to completion. Engineers need to be reminded of this and be given support for writing with clarity and brevity. There are lots of tools to help with this, such as Grammarly. Making reports more readable can go a long way toward solving communication issues on engineering teams.
In engineering management, it is essential to have strong communication skills and to be able to adapt to different communication styles. Even though engineering managers are overseeing technical projects, they are still responsible for making sure the human side of things stays on track as well.
While working together as a team, personalities can clash, misunderstandings happen, and a good manager needs to be able to navigate these challenges and get everyone on the same page. Virtual communication with engineers can be even harder, meaning that managers need to touch base with team members consistently and frequently.
Provide Transparency and Build Trust
Virtual leadership can be very challenging because you can’t just walk down the hall and have a chat with someone. It’s harder to build trust virtually, but it’s not impossible.
You need to slowly build up trust with a virtual “open-door” policy and be as transparent as possible. Don’t leave people guessing or they will feel insecure and anxious at work—not what you want. You can gradually create a culture of trust, communication, and accountability.
Schedule Frequent Meetings To Check In
Obviously, your team members need a lot of uninterrupted time to work on their projects. But checking in with people individually is also important for staying on track toward meeting the team’s goals. These meetings will actually save time in the long run, as you’ll become aware of potential problems more quickly.
Schedule regular one-on-one sessions in addition to team meetings to ensure that each person has the support they need to succeed. This will help to prevent communication problems, reduce feelings of isolation, and keep projects running smoothly.
Remember to Have Empathy and Be Positive
As a leader, you need to be empathetic and realize that life gets in the way sometimes. Give people some flexibility whenever you can and understand that this can go a long way toward building respect, trust, and great communication culture. Be truthful and transparent, but positive, and you can’t go wrong.