When colleagues talk to me about how I communicate so effectively with my teams, they ask, “What’s your secret weapon?” My response: asynchronous communication.
Synchronous communication is when all parties are present at the same time. Daily standups, Zoom meetings, and phone calls are examples of synchronous communication. Communicating in real-time worked well when I was meeting with my clients and partners in person, but now I find myself working from home, and most of the people I work with have also embraced remote work.
Trying to organize meetings over video chats frustrated me so much that I hired a VA to do most of that. And even then, our sessions were usually followed by email back and forth, miscommunications, and failed deadlines.
To embrace a better way of communicating and getting work done across time zones, I had to let go of my ideas of productive communication to embrace a new way of working and prepare my companies for the new normal.
What is asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication is when two or more people can communicate without being present at the same time. Asynchronous communication techniques include Slack chat channels, recorded video instead of Zoom meetings, email for document signing, and various software tools for storing and accessing important files from any device.
Asynchronous communication allows workflows to develop at a pace that makes sense for workers and business deadlines without the added pressure of attending meetings, being interrupted by various calls, and troubleshooting problems that aren’t as important as they seem.
Why are entrepreneurs embracing asynchronous communication?
I am not the only entrepreneur who has been affected by the culture shift of needing to respond to messages immediately no matter what time of day to an environment of healthy work-life boundaries.
Remote workers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners have all experienced the shift from in-office communications to digital collaboration tools and project management software that make it easy to facilitate asynchronous communication. This new approach to remote communication allows entrepreneurs to get work done despite teams being spread out across the country or even the world.
Perhaps the most critical reason I decided to enforce a culture of asynchronous communication within my organization was that my employees were seeking more flexible opportunities.
When the Great Resignation started, I discovered that the top reason employees left my company was a lack of flexibility. I later found an interesting study that reflected what I experienced with my teams. That survey found that 80% of employees would be loyal to their employers if offered more flexible work options.
Since my companies greatly depend on a vast network of global team members to manage accounts, we updated our terms and started building a culture of flexibility based on asynchronous communication.
We offered flexible working hours, eliminated almost all of our office locations in favor of remote work, and raised our starting pay above the industry average to update our company culture for today’s workers.
People who work for my businesses can live and work wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as deadlines are met and project outcomes are positive. And now, we are more productive than ever.
A scientific article on asynchronous communication and productivity accurately summarizes my experience of improved outcomes. This study revealed that asynchronous communication allows teams to complete tasks in about half the time it takes compared with synchronous methods like Zoom meetings and huddles.
We no longer waste time trying to align schedules. There is no jumping on a call at the last minute. Our workers utilize asynchronous communication to work at their own pace and still meet project milestones.
Asynchronous best practices for entrepreneurs
Asynchronous communication tools will do you no good unless you use them effectively. Here are some of the best practices that I use to get the most from my communication with customers, clients, and colleagues:
Offer training opportunities
It can be off-putting to ask a client to download an app they don’t know how to use. And even though you’re trying to improve your communication abilities, your efforts could have the opposite effect. To avoid scaring new clients away and causing frustration across your teams, provide short training modules or articles to onboard more effectively.
You should also create troubleshooting procedures that are available to anyone who is using your chosen communication software. This ensures that users can quickly and efficiently resolve issues without clogging up the feed with useless technical and procedural nonsense.
Protect your online privacy
Asynchronous communication tools typically come in web apps or downloadable software, so you must make sure that you protect your privacy while working online. Some of the best ways to protect your data while using asynchronous apps include:
- Using two-factor authentication methods
- Regularly purging unused apps and browser extensions
- Asking apps not to track your data
- Using a secure VPN
- Encrypting important data
- Updating your software as soon as updates become available
Decide what’s urgent and what isn’t
One of the pitfalls of asynchronous communication is that it can sometimes feel like you are “always on.” To combat the impulse to respond to each message immediately, set your work notifications to go off only during certain hours of the day unless something is particularly urgent.
What is urgent from a customer’s perspective? It’s important to identify value based on our customers’ needs and develop processes around them. I could go on and on about the Lean methodology and cutting waste, but that’s for another time. Check customer reviews and ask for feedback to identify what your customers need. Then adapt that into your communication management strategy.
It’s easy to distinguish between urgent messages and things that can wait until business hours by setting up different Teams or channels in Slack with varying notification settings. For example, one channel may be for daily business conversations that only notifies you of messages from 8 am to 6 pm. Another channel can be for messages that necessitate an immediate response and will notify you anytime.
Separating urgent messages will allow your mind the space to focus on what is important at the moment. Whether that is work, spending time with family, or getting some quiet time.
Set and enforce strict deadlines
While asynchronous communication can help boost productivity across timelines, it can also have the opposite effect. I’ve had experiences where it seemed that some individuals used asynchronicity as an excuse to delay work or respond after it was too late. My advice is to set expectations early to hold teams accountable and enforce firm deadlines to keep projects on time.
Be clear and concise
One of the most difficult things for me to learn about asynchronous communication is that longwindedness does not equal clarity. In fact, in my experience, the more I write, the less my teams retain. To better communicate with my teams, I had to learn to be clear and concise in messaging. This way, my employees clearly understand their expectations without confusion or wasted time reading my long emails.
Asynchronous communication often brings to light concerns for entrepreneurs about payroll and how to accept payments across numerous timelines, organizations, clients, and businesses. The key to operating multiple companies, juggling global clients, and predicting cash flow is to automate wherever possible.
Start by automating payments so that teams can communicate less about getting paid. Most automated payment software gives your teams control over how and when they get paid and keeps them up to date on the status of their payments. Since they know that their payments will be generated and sent to them automatically at an expected time and date, there’s no need to ask the boss where the checks are.
Finally, to avoid the neverending back and forth about project elements, deadlines, and any messages involved, entrepreneurs should keep notes as organized and accessible as possible. Instead of leaving the project details or task assignments in communication feeds, use a shared digital whiteboard, project management software, or company-wide note-taking app.
Choosing asynchronous communication tools over real-time meetings has changed how my teams operate for the better. Without the need to contact my employees in real-time, they are noticeably more productive and cheery in disposition, and I find myself with more free time to work on passion projects than I ever had before.
I’ve also noticed a culture shift in my community of entrepreneurs that asynchronous communication has helped create. As more of my mentors and colleagues embrace asynchronous communication, I’ve seen them talking more about traveling, their families, and other hobbies instead of committing their time 100% to work-related activities. All while remaining productive and profitable.
What does the future of communication hold? I can’t say for sure, but I know that as long as my teams embrace asynchronous practices, we will be prepared for whatever the world throws us next.