Communication tools are an integral part of effective team collaboration. In this article, we take a look at the five most important features of communication tools, then review the four must-have types of communication tools your team needs.
Effective communication is one of the most important parts of any business. By enabling easy communication, you unlock collaboration and make it easier for team members to focus on the work that matters. But there are lots of communication tools out there, and they each offer something slightly different.
What you don’t want is to use too many tools. Research shows that knowledge workers switch between an average of 10 tools up to 25 times per day. Switching between apps reduces productivity and impacts efficiency. In fact, over one-quarter (27%) of workers say they miss actions and messages when switching apps and 26% say app overload makes them less efficient.
What you need are effective business tools that empower communication without getting in the way of high-impact work. In this article, we’ll take a look at what makes an effective communication tool, then review four communication tools to unlock effective collaboration on your team.Improve team communication with Asana
A communication tool is built to help your team members communicate with one another. These include internal communication tools to communicate with your team and external communication tools to communicate with vendors, clients, and agencies. Both are important tools for effective workplace communication.
All communication tools are also split in two styles:
Synchronous communication like face-to-face conversations, instant messages, and any other communication that happens in real time.
Asynchronous communication like email, project reports, or recorded messages—in other words, any type of communication where you don’t need an immediate response.
There are a variety of business tools out there designed to improve collaboration—but that doesn’t mean they’re optimized for effective team communication. Today, teams are using business tools like Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Docs, and Salesforce as communication tools.
The problem is, these tools aren’t built for communication. Rather, these specialized systems are amazing ways to get high-impact work done, but they aren’t built to help teams clearly communicate information.
To unlock effective communication on your team, you need a flexible tool—or streamlined set of tools—that offer:
None of us work in a vacuum. In order for a communication tool to be effective, it has to be accessible and centralized. This tool should be something everyone on your team—or as close to everyone as possible—is using.
Look for a tool that has a good user guide, setup, and customer support option, so everyone can learn how to use it effectively. It’s not enough to select a tool that’s good for you. Rather, look for a tool that everyone on your team can use.
When you have a central source of truth, your team knows exactly where to go and has clear insight on who’s doing what by when. Collaboration and teamwork are the foundation of any effective team, but these interpersonal relationships begin with—and depend on—effective communication. Below, we’ll talk about the importance of integrations with communication tools, but for now it’s enough to say that this tool should be one of the cornerstones of the way your team interacts.
Your communication tool is the cornerstone of your team’s communication—but there are a whole host of tools out there that are helpful for your team’s work. Whether these are file sharing tools or tools specific to your team’s work, you probably already have several tools in your team’s toolbox.
The problem is, app switching reduces productivity, increases duplicative work, and makes it more likely that information is lost. To avoid that, look for a communication tool that integrates with your favorite business tools. That way, you’re always communicating about work in the same place while still benefiting from other, more specialized tools.Connect Asana to your favorite apps
The best communication tools are effective for small businesses as well as enterprise corporations. Make sure the tool you select scales well and is flexible enough for all of your team’s workflows.
This includes a variety of ways to use the tool itself, including web apps, desktop applications, and mobile apps. Having mobile options is critical for team members to engage with the tool when they want—where they want.
Finally, no communication tool is complete without a review of its security. Review the tool’s security practices to ensure it’s a trustworthy option. Part of that is scalability, too—make sure the tool you select offers a way for you to control permissions and users as your team scales.Read: How Asana protects your data
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to communication tools. Ideally, look for tools that offer synchronous, asynchronous, and external ways to communicate. With synchronous tools, you can communicate with stakeholders in real time. Asynchronous tools are a centralized information system that team members can access while still maintaining flow state. And external tools enable communication with clients, partners, contractors, agencies, and more.
Synchronous, or live communication, is a valuable way to interface with your team in real time. These chat tools are an effective way to communicate with a single team member, or to share updates in a group chat.
Instant messaging communication tools are a valuable way to stay connected, especially if you work on distributed or remote teams. However, these tools aren’t as effective for large-scale problem solving—instead, look to other synchronous or asynchronous communication tools, like the ones listed below.Read: Introducing the new Asana for Microsoft Teams
Even if your team mostly works in person, you still need to invest in a video conferencing tool. These tools are typically more effective than phone calls, and enable your team to collaborate if and when they aren’t in the same space. For mostly virtual teams, video conferences are a great way to not only brainstorm information, but also build relationships, host team building events, and connect with your team members.Read: Make meetings actionable with Asana and Zoom
The opposite of synchronous communication is asynchronous communication—messages that don’t need to be answered in real time. This is an incredibly important part of your communication toolkit, because asynchronous communication doesn't disrupt flow state and increases productivity.
Work management tools, like Asana, make it easy for your team to communicate about work where work is being done. Communication is always connected to the broader context of your team’s work, so team members have all of the information they need at their fingertips. What’s more, these types of communication tools allow team members to control notifications and stay in flow.
No matter which project management tool your team selects, make sure you have one shared workspace for all of your team’s information. Look for a tool that allows you to see work in different views, like Kanban boards, Gantt charts, calendars, and spreadsheet-style list views.Try Asana for free
Email is the quintessential tool for asynchronous communication—especially when it comes to external communication. The vendors, contractors, agencies, and customers you communicate with won’t have access to your team’s internal communication tools, so tools like email are critical for effective external communication.
The solution to the business communication problem isn’t more tools. Recent research suggests that, the more apps a team uses, the more likely that work is duplicated. In fact, the second and third biggest barriers to productivity are having to respond to emails and messages, and having too many meetings and video calls.
To improve productivity and enable collaboration, make sure your main four communication tools offer robust integrations with your other important business tools. That way, you can benefit from these specialized tools without needing to communicate directly in tools that aren't built for effective workplace communication.
Remember: the average knowledge worker switches between 10 apps up to 25 times a day—and this problem only increases the higher up the chain you go. The C-suite reports switching between 14 apps 31 times per day. Integrations are beneficial because your team can access information in one place while still benefiting from tailor-made tools for specific team uses.
Internal communication tools are tools you use to communicate with your internal team. This includes anyone from your small project team all the way to your entire company. Usually, these tools have protections in place so external partners can’t access them.
Internal communication tools include:
File sharing tools: Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive
Employee engagement tools: BambooHR, Workday, Lattice, and Culture Amp
Screen sharing or recording tools: Vimeo and Loom
Other tools that your team may use for internal communication include:
Calendar synchronization tools: Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook
Team-specific tools: Adobe Creative Cloud, Salesforce, Github, SEMRush, and Figma
Analytics tools: Google Analytics, Tableau, Looker, and PowerBI
These tools are a critical part of getting good work done, but they aren’t built for communication. Instead of communicating within the tools themselves, look for a central tool that integrates with these tools so you can access all of your work information in one place.
External communication tools are tools you use to interact with people who aren’t part of your organization. This includes customers, freelancers, contractors, agencies, and other partners.
External communication tools include:
Customer support tools: Zendesk and ServiceNow
Social networking tools: LinkedIn and Glassdoor
Public forums and webinar hosting tools: Livestorm and Zoom
Other tools that your team may use to manage external communication include:
Social media management tools: Sprout Social, Buffer, and Hootsuite
Time tracking tools: Clockify, Harvest, and Everhour
Once you have effective communication tools in place, make sure your team knows which tool to use when. The best way to do that is with a communication plan template. Communication plans outline how and where your team should communicate information. To learn more, read our article for four steps to create a communication plan.Try Asana for free