Google Study Says Informal Communication Boosts Team Productivity

Apr 04, 2016

The modern workplace is increasingly team-oriented, especially in the tech sphere. Software developers are encouraged to collaborate with one another, in large part because numerous studies have revealed that groups tend to spot mistakes faster, find better solutions to problems, and are generally more satisfied with their jobs.

Teams have become the fundamental unit of many organizations, and now managers are asking themselves, “What is it that makes some teams soar while others stumble?

In 2012, Google engaged its best statisticians, psychologists, engineers, and researchers in Project Aristotle, a research program tasked with figuring out what made a team perfect.

Initially, the researchers scrutinized personality types, hobbies, interests, educational backgrounds, and many other individual aspects of the members of 180 teams only to find out that the “who” component wasn’t part of the equation.

What turned out to be key in distinguishing highly-effective teams from the rest, as the recently published research findings suggest, was how people felt in them. Google’s Project Aristotle revealed that in the best teams, people speak roughly the same amount and are good at intuiting how other members feel. To use a concept already recognized in psychology, these are the two crucial aspects of a “psychologically safe group.”

Now that we know what makes a team great, the next question becomes, “How do you implement psychological safety in your team?” Here at Daxx, we’ve figured out how to make the offshore software development teams we set up and maintain for our clients feel friendly and safe, and therefore ensure their high productivity.

Here are some of the things that we recommend to our clients to encourage informal communication and promote psychological safety when managing remote teams.

1. Set the Example

Never forget that your team take cues from you. That means it’s important to show that you’re psychologically secure enough to admit mistakes, recognize your own weaknesses, and be vulnerable in a contained way.

Grab every opportunity to show your team what kind of behavior you expect from them, especially at the very start of your cooperation. Set some ground rules and common practices that you want everyone to follow, and don’t question your team’s commitment. Invest trust in your employees first, and rest assured they’ll follow your lead.

2. Meet in Person

The first 90 days of employment are pivotal in establishing rapport with coworkers, management, and the company as a whole. That’s why we always recommend that our clients meet their teams in person during the setup stage.

Sometimes our partners travel to one of our offices in Ukraine to meet the team, other times they fly their new hires over to their headquarters and spend a week or so side by side. These meetings are quite easy to arrange since we have our own department that provides travel support, and there’s an airport in every city where the Daxx offices are located.

Meeting your team face-to-face right from the start is a great way to build trust and form stronger bonds between geographically distributed teams.

3. Know Each Other as People, Not Just Professionals

Seeing beyond the professional image of your coworkers isn’t easy even when you share the same office space. That means that when managing an offshore team you need to make an extra effort to get to know its members.

Every time our partners bring their offshore developers to their office, which usually happens a few times a year, we recommend that they seize the opportunity to arrange team activities like dinner after work, a party, a bowling night, or something else that would create the setting for informal chitchat among the in-house team and their offshore counterparts.

You, as a leader, could start the conversation by sharing your hobby or details about your favorite football team, talking about your family or other things that make you interesting and unique.

While business conversations are all about solving problems quickly and efficiently, business relationships form when people learn more about each other, and that happens more naturally when you’re outside of the meeting room.

4. Use a Set of Tools and Activities to Encourage Personal Interactions

One of our partners, for instance, has an internal social networking site that brings together all their employees worldwide and improves the visibility of individual and team roles within the company. Apart from telling its users what everybody does professionally, the profiles show photos of the staff and list their hobbies and interests.

A tool like that fosters openness as part of the company culture and reinforces the understanding that your colleagues are – first and foremost – people.

Another client of ours, Stafford Summer, founder and CEO of the UK digital marketing agency Jarrang (read the case study), uses a game called Quiz, in which participants have to answer general knowledge questions, to help everyone socialize.

“We also add topical questions about countries where our employees and clients live and work to broaden everyone’s understanding of each other,” says Stafford. “It’s a simple thing a team can do together to build rapport and working relationships without physically being in the same office.”

In addition to giving these recommendations to our clients, there are some things we do for their teams when they’re working from our local offices. These things include pizza Fridays, breakfasts at the office, parties, sports competitions, and other teambuilding events that help everyone get to know each other better.

And, of course, the fact that the software engineers we hire for our partners are full-time and are 100% dedicated to their business makes a huge contribution to establishing trust within teams and between teams and their management.

Helping our clients build effective work relationships with their offshore software development teams is only one of the many services we provide.

Want to find out more? Read about what we offer or contact us using the form below.

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