Creating a Team Online: Your Onboarding Plan for Success with Spike

Spike Team
By Spike Team, Updated on April 23, 2023, 7 min read
Team Online

You’ve made it past the security guards and evaded the cameras. Almost at the safe, you radio your hacker on the outside – waiting in a van over a manhole cover, of course – and… nothing. Static. It’s the classic TV trope of your comms dropping out at the vital moment of your daredevil caper. But it also highlights a pretty serious issue that can affect any team; whether you’re carrying out mission impossible or something more probable, all projects will fail without good team communication.


Nowhere is this truer than when creating a team online, who rely on digital channels for every aspect of their work. The special requirements of building a team online can make it especially intimidating when creating an onboarding plan, but with the right tools and a few key strategies, you can build an amazing online team in no time at all.


In this article, we will go through how to onboard your team online by exploring communication tools, strategies to keep communication flowing, and policies to make it work for the long haul.



Use the Right Communication Tools



When creating a team online, knowing what communication tools to use and when is important. These days, there are plenty of options available, and each can boost productivity when used effectively, and seriously hinder it if used incorrectly. Some of the most common communication tools that you’ll need for an online team are:


Email – one of the original business communication tools, and still one the best. Email has come a long way since the 90s, with Spike offering conversational email internally and externally. Email is most useful when information is one-way and relatively simple. As an asynchronous communication channel, email is also really useful for online teams working in different time zones, since you can read and respond to messages when it suits you.


Video meetings – almost the opposite of emails, video calls are a great synchronous communication option (everyone has to be online at the same time) that allows for video meetings or the explanation of complex ideas or concepts.


Group Chat – when working with a team online, a group chat app is vital for team collaboration. You can think of it like gathering around a table in the office – except you can share videos, photos, gifs, and more. Additionally, good team chat apps can be used synchronously and asynchronously, making them ideal for distributed online teams.


Digital Whiteboard – many online teams find effective collaboration easier when there is a shared space, which often comes in the form of an interactive whiteboard or similar tool. This is a digital board where users can simultaneously add text, images, notes, lists, and more as a group.


Voice notes – ubiquitous among messaging apps, voice notes have become the go-to communication channel for many people. Especially with younger teams, you’ll find information flowing through the use of business voice notes. They are a great way to explain complex issues to colleagues without the need for synchronicity, as you would with traditional video or voice calls.


The exact tools your team needs will vary, so make sure to listen to feedback and requests as your remote team moves online. People will be familiar with many of the business communication channels that you’re likely to use, so don’t be afraid to test out what works best as you make the switch.


Use an all-in-one communication software for your team online to strengthen their productivity


Establish Communication Guidelines for Your Online Team

With the tools in place to move your team online, you need to establish clear communication guidelines. This is a standardized set of principles that can be given to existing employees who are being onboarded to the online team or new hires. Having clear guidelines can provide your online team with a sense of security about knowing how and when they should and shouldn’t communicate. This can create more independent, efficient team members while promoting healthy communication and collaboration.


As with the tools, the exact guidelines you’ll need when moving your team online will depend on your company, needs, and employees. However, some general principles are worth including, such as:

  • Turn off notifications for deep work

    Refocusing after you’re distracted takes a long time, so it’s worth reminding your team as they move online that turning off notifications can be OK!

  • Timeframes for responses

    This really depends on your business, but it can help to set clear expected response times for different types of communication. This can help people respond in a timely manner, and also reduce the feeling of constantly needing to follow up with messages.

  • Online doesn’t mean available

    Establish protocols for setting up audio or video meetings and business chats. There is such a thing as micromanaging; the last thing you want is people wasting time with unnecessary calls.

  • Synchronous communication slots

    Establish whether there are certain times that everyone is expected to be online and available, and if so, what those times are. This is important for finding the balance between working as a team and independently.

These are just a few of the possible guidelines you’ll need when moving a team online, but you’ll likely develop company-specific policies as you go. It can be a little jarring to have communication guidelines when moving a team online since it’s far less common for an in-person office. However, without them, it can be challenging to maintain a healthy and productive balance of communication in your newly remote team.



Schedule Regular Check-Ins When Moving Your Team Online

One of the major problems that a newly online team can face is feeling isolated or out of touch. If people are used to seeing each other, reports, or managers on a regular basis, suddenly going online can feel like being alone. To counter this, you must arrange regular check-ins with individuals and the team.


Irregular communication opens up the opportunity for misunderstanding, which can lead to serious problems and significantly affect the confidence and productivity of your team. How these regular check-ins look doesn’t matter so much; what’s important is they are frequent and expected, so your online team knows there is a communication opportunity.


Some common check-ins could be:

  • A team meeting every Monday morning before the week “starts”

  • A team meeting at the wrap-up of a project

  • Team meetings as part of an agile workflow

  • One-on-one meetings with each team member once a month

Generally, a combination of these will be the best solution to ensure all team members feel in the loop and a communication gap doesn’t open up. To make the check-ins as helpful as possible, solicit feedback from your team members about how and when they would like to meet. That said, some tools are far more effective than others for this job. Group chat apps, for example, can be great for regular, informal water cooler talk. However, you’ll want to use video or voice calls for more formal, dedicated check-ins as a team or individually.



Create a Positive Team Culture

For in-person groups, a good team culture can come out of spending time together in a shared environment. When it comes to creating a team online, a positive culture is something that you need to actively build and foster. A positive team culture in remote teams helps boost employee morale, reduce absenteeism, reduce turnover, and increase productivity, among many other things, so it pays to put time and energy into doing it right.


Some of the ways that you can foster a positive team culture in remote teams include:

  • Creating dedicated communication channels for informal chats

  • Offering opportunities for professional development and growth

  • Doing team challenges for group bonding

  • Welcoming new team members openly

  • Recognizing successes and achievements

  • Supporting work-life balance by encouraging flexibility and the need to “switch off”

Before implementing any steps to build a positive team culture, set up a channel where team members can offer suggestions about what they might like. Driving forward with something like a team-building exercise when no one wants it can do far more harm than good, so getting input is essential. Chances are, this will also flag up opportunities that you could never have thought of on your own.



Let’s Get that Team Online!

Creating a team online can be challenging, and effective communication can make or break the shift to a remote workplace. When you’re setting up a team online, make sure you have the right tools for the job, whether that’s video meetings and voice notes or audio calls and group chat. In addition to strong communication tools, you also need clear guidelines for when to use them. This should include how and when communication should operate, including which channels to use.


To ensure your online team’s communication stays strong, arrange regular check-ins, both as a group and one-on-one. How this looks will depend on your company, but generally, you’ll want some facetime so arrange at least one video call for your team online. Additionally, build and foster a positive culture in your online team. There are many ways to do this, but they almost all stem from good communication. Talk to your team, and they’ll tell you what they need.

Spike Team
Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.

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