As an organization scales, how can you keep everyone engaged AND productive? And reinforce company culture on a daily basis? Many small businesses turn to Slack.

Why should I use Slack?

Is better team engagement on your list of goals for 2022? I’ll share with you what I’ve learned working with client teams over the last 10 years. They’ve turned to Slack as a way to engage remote workers and reinforce corporate culture.

A decade ago, “not another tool” was my first reaction to the suggestion of setting up a Slack login. My client went on to say, “No one here uses email unless they have to communicate with outside parties. And those who stay on the outside of our culture for too long never make it inside. If you use email, you won’t get an immediate response from the team. So it’s your choice.”

I thought about it and decided I did not want to look like a dinosaur in Silicon Valley. I could adapt. Now I am a baptized-by-fire convert. The productivity that Slack has provided — to be able to engage with multiple clients, former clients, outside teams and networking groups with a quick tap and scroll on any device (and not having to log in and out of multiple email accounts) — has not only been a time saver, it has helped me assimilate into the culture of my clients with record speed.

As with any tool, there are downsides if not managed properly. For those of you who are wondering what the fuss is about, I’m here to share what I learned from these successful use cases, so you can decide the best course of action for your own corporate culture. And if you are a consultant working with smaller companies, Slack is a must-understand tool to help you engage with clients on a deeper level or to help clients who are struggling with team engagement.

Why do companies use Slack?

For many companies, it is an alternative to emails for internal company communication, saving email as the way to communicate externally. For enterprise marketers who are increasingly responsible for company-wide collaboration and alignment, Slack is an option for encouraging both structured collaboration and casual communication that develops more deeply connected, more productive relationships faster. And finally, in an era where greater transparency and trust is critical to building corporate cultures that scale productively, Slack has become a critical tool for success.

Unlike texting, calls and video chats which are synchronous real-time collaborative forms of communication, and more asynchronous email/recordings or file sharing tools like Dropbox or Drive, Slack is in the middle, supporting both synchronous and asynchronous forms of interaction. Slack supports asynchronous collaboration which allows employees to choose when to unplug vs engage with a record of the exchange as it happens.

Slack can support both syncrhonous and asynchronous communication. Most importantly it engages teams in “asynchronous collaboration”

With Slack as the hub of intra-company communication, conversations can easily branch off into more synchronous mediums (a more formal video chat or less formal phone call) or employees can share “asynchronous” resources to help maintain communication (sharing a final report uploaded to Slack and pinned to a channel, or posting a link to a resource stored in another location). Slack can also be used in ways that are more formal (with structured formatting) or less formal (emojis and one word responses) — fitting a broad range of communication styles.

Here is a summary of the benefits of Slack as experienced by my clients:

  • SAVES TIME: Quicker, shorter, less formal messages; easier to follow than email thread.
  • REDUCES MAILBOX CLUTTER: Quick collaboration, searchable history, group messaging, segmented conversation by topic (channels). Replaces the “Reply All”.
  • CREATES CAMARADERIE: Everyone can see everyone else’s reactions; easy to share pics, videos, GIFs, memes as well as emojis.
  • COMMUNITY BUILDING: Reinforces collaboration and culture w/o REPLY ALL; engages remote/hybrid teams on an equal level.
  • EASY TO PRIORITIZE: Get notifications from the channels that are most important to respond quickly; quickly scan for channels with new messages and engage with others as time allows.
  • QUICK FEEDBACK: Asynchronous collaboration without a real-time requirement, 1:1, 1:many, quick Polls; also can be real-time with huddles and slack calls.
  • EASIER TO FOLLOW/FIND/ASK: Asynchronous engagement that works across time zones; segments asks by channels (topic/group/department or announcement-type communication coming from HR); structures IMs in a way that’s easy to scan & search; bookmarks links and “pins” important posts for reference.

Why has Slack penetration been so successful?

Slack is one of the few enterprise productivity tools that started as a grassroots effort, not a prescriptive initiative from the IT dept. Slack feels cool, with fun emojis and effortless interactions that mimics real life.

Recent trends have supported rapid adoption of Slack. The pandemic created a shift in how employees work and companies can’t go back. What organizations and employees have experienced has led to a need to better ways to engage teams, to help them collaborate in new ways.

SOURCE: Statista 2021

Collaborative support is now viewed as critical for productivity and maintaining corporate culture. According to Slack, collaboration tools reduce emails by 32% & meetings by 23%. 80% of workers now use collaboration tools, and 638k companies use Slack including 65 of the Fortune 100. Most companies on Slack have <50 employees.

The biggest competitor is MS Teams, and some companies have both. 90% of Fortune 500 has at least 1 collaboration platform, but often departments have chosen one or the other, so companies might be supporting instances of both Slack and Teams. MS Teams is integrated with Office and Outlook, making it an easy add on (although if you are using MS teams across multiple clients you will need to log in and out of each, or keep each client instance open in separate tabs). The Slack desktop app allows you to be logged into multiple Workspaces simultaneously on multiple devices, while keeping conversations securely separate. If you are looking for a comparison of the two, there are plenty of articles out there to help you choose the right collaboration app for your organization.

Are there additional benefits of Slack to my organization?

In addition to the list of benefits that my clients have experienced, I have come across articles that reveal hidden benefits of Slack for employees.

  1. Encourage introverts to engage comfortably. Slack can help level the playing field and give introverted employees an equal voice via a medium that is more comfortable than a live meeting for expressing their opinions.

“Slack channels are also a great place to help your introverted employees slowly immerse themselves in your culture. Start a group chat channel where you share ideas, pet pictures, and inspiration. Chances are, they’ll feel more comfortable jumping in and sharing their thoughts on Slack than they might in person.” (ROI Online)

2. Integrate other apps into Slack for streamlined access. There are thousands of apps that you can access directly from Slack, in order to enjoy a range of time-saving benefits. Integrations will also help manage sharing permissions. For example, if you share a google Drive link, you will get a notification that not everyone has access to the file, and allow you to change access with a click.

“the 21st-century CMO, the chief collaboration officer, pulls departments out of outdated silos…” (Marketing Dive)

3. Encourage enterprise-wide collaboration. Slack can be a valuable tool, not only for the CMO, but for any C-suite executive wondering how they can encourage more culture-building interactions across the organization.

Courtesy of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation

To quote Geoffrey Moore, the Fortune 500 has “crossed the chasm” with respect to collaboration tools. I definitely experienced the entire Kubler-Ross Change Curve early on in the last decade before making the leap to being an advocate on behalf of my clients. If you haven’t made the leap to adopt a collaboration tool already, isn’t it time you or your company jumped on the train before it leaves the station?

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Jennifer Apy

Jennifer Apy

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Chief Growth Officer, Team Leader & Corporate Strategist | Passionate about helping SMB companies succeed | Lifelong learner, champion of innovative technology