A remote team of software testers communicating

As the pandemic goes on, many individual testers and teams are still working remotely. The expectation is for teams to collaborate as always so they can continue delivering high-quality features to customers.

The biggest obstacle teams face is effectively communicating their ideas with people in different locations. Given the fact that there is no opportunity for face-to-face interaction, it makes communication harder.

But remote working is becoming the new normal, which has drastically changed company culture for the foreseeable future. If collaboration at a distance is a struggle, it’s time to fix it.

Here are four ways testers can be effective communicators while working remotely.

Pay attention to non-verbal cues

Research has shown that 93% of how we feel about a person we’re communicating with is from non-verbal cues, including body language and tone of voice. It is much harder to notice subtle gestures in your team members when you’re not face to face, but it is still important.

It is critical to focus on these non-verbal cues, as it affects team morale and productivity. For example, say a tester found a defect and is explaining it to the developer via a video call. If the developer does not pay attention and gets distracted by instant messages coming in, then the tester feels their points are invalidated and unimportant. This creates rifts between team members and affects the timely completion of tasks.

Make a conscious effort to pay attention to non-verbal cues:

  • Always request the other person to have their video on. This helps to notice their facial expressions, body language, and other gestures that would otherwise go unnoticed when you don’t see their face.
  • Observe the actions performed with their hands, face and body.
  • Maintain eye contact and look out for head gestures showing signs of approval and disapproval.
  • Be an active listener. Quite often, we fail to allow the other person to express their ideas, causing unnecessary misunderstandings.

Recognize cultural gaps in teams

Many organizations have a diverse workforce of people from different cultures, races and religions. Now more than ever, it is important to understand the cultural gaps in communication. This applies to the use of different phrases and words that may be open to different interpretations.

For example, when we say a product is “the cash cow” of the company, people from different countries or cultural backgrounds may not understand this phrase. Instead, forgo idioms and use simpler words, such as “makes the most money.”

There can also be huge gaps in written communication, especially with more communication happening via instant messages and other more informal communication channels. For example, a team member may mention in a message something like, “I have intimated to the team to add the requirement in the story” instead of “I have informed the team to add the requirement to the story.” We should ask clarifying questions to make sure both parties understand what is conveyed during this situation.

Understand goals and expectations

When working on different tasks, each individual should understand their expectations, why they are doing the tasks, and when the tasks should be completed. This is especially true when everyone is trying to balance work and life while working remotely. Give people more clarity about tasks than you may usually provide, so you can best avoid misinterpretation and gaps in expected outcomes.

Note icon

Note

From the Ranorex team: An effective way to accomplish this is through a cloud-based productivity tool such as Trello, Monday, or Asana.

If your software development team’s work is organized in sprints, you may prefer a solution like Atlassian Jira or Assembla. For a collaboration tool that is specific to software testing, we recommend a cloud-based test case management solution such as TestRail.

When expectations are documented in a shareable platform, it’s much easier to pinpoint gaps in understanding and ensure that everyone is clear on team goals.

Use safety language

Organizations are each figuring out their way to navigate the world of remote working. It has been an adjustment for everyone. There is a lot of anxiety, pressure and expectations employees face while managing work and family. Sometimes they may miss deadlines because of agreeing to do a lot of things at the same time. This is where the use of safety language can help.

Safety language is a concept where we phrase our sentences carefully when replying to people without being exact. We use phrases like these:

  • “Could I do this after I complete this task?”
  • “It might not work under these circumstances.”
  • “You may be right.”
  • “I might disagree with that.”
  • “My experience has been …”

The next time your project manager asks you for a timeline for completing a particular task, pause and use safety language to prevent digging yourself into a hole. A few seconds’ worth of carefully selected words can prevent a lot of problems later.

Continued productivity during remote work is critical for organizations to sustain growth during these unprecedented times. Adopting these four factors for effective communication will help remote workers boost productivity and collaboration and keep teams close, even when everyone’s far away.

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About the Author

Raj Subrameyer is an international keynote speaker, writer and tech career coach with a rich technical background. In his blog, rajsubra.com/blog/, he posts inspirational news, resources, and updates to help his readers lead a better life.

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