By Sean Harper, CEO and Co-Founder at Kin Insurance.
Slack is so popular these days that it’s become a verb — “Slack me if you need something!” — and there’s good reason for it. The messaging app is a user-friendly and fun way to connect teams, organize communications and get answers in real time no matter where your employees are.
Savvy companies know that Slack is much more than a means for communication — they’re using it to build a corporate culture that helps them engage employees, which in turn boosts productivity and retention. Here are a few ways you can use Slack to build strong bonds in your workplace.
1. Create Transparency With An AMA Channel
Transparency is crucial to building trust and increasing employee engagement, and Slack is a great arena for communicating your vision. The best way to do this is to create an AMA (“ask me anything”) channel. An AMA channel gives your employees a place to express their concerns and for you to clarify your company’s goals. Ultimately, these exchanges build a rapport that cultivates trust.
Some CEOs are comfortable hosting a freewheeling AMA where they answer questions whenever somebody posts one. Personally, I prefer having employees submit their questions to the channel so everyone can vote on which they’d like answered at our all-hands meeting. That way no one monopolizes the conversation; plus, it allows me to address the most pressing concerns. Perhaps more importantly, I have time to think through what I want to say so I can communicate it clearly.
Get your executive team on board, especially if they’re going to respond to queries. You may also want to set guidelines and pin the details to the channel.
The takeaway: When company leadership addresses workplace concerns, employees feel heard and connected. That’s good for productivity, engagement and retention.
2. Up Your Emoji Game
One of the trickiest parts of Slack messaging — or any written communication — is communicating tone. Emojis are an easy way to give people a sense of your attitude. Moreover, emojis are a good substitute for some messages. For example, my team uses the upward-pointing index finger to say “Me, too!” It’s a small thing, but the impact results in fewer messages and less noise.
When your employees use emojis, they’re creating a shared language that helps strengthen team bonds. Essentially, everyone who sees the emoji knows what’s up. And don’t worry if some employees use customized emojis for certain responses. Their unique expression lets them keep their individuality on the larger team. That’s great for morale, too.
One caveat: Resist the urge to give employees directions on using emojis. Communication generally works best when it grows organically. That said, you are the leader, so your employees will most likely follow your example.
The takeaway: Emojis are a great way to quickly convey information and tone. Giving your employees a chance to create a shared emoji language can improve efficiency while also boosting camaraderie.
3. Open Non-Work Channels
If your employees were in the office, they would undoubtedly take short breaks to chit-chat about things going on outside of work — and you’d probably encourage them to do so. It’s a way to make work more enjoyable while building collegiality across the entire company.
Slack facilitates these kinds of conversations when you open non-work channels. Maybe you let employees set up channels based on their hobbies and interests, like #favorite-movie-club or #weekend-hikers. We have a #spirit-week channel where employees can submit get-to-know-you prompts that run the gamut from “Name one thing you’ve achieved that you’re proud of” to “What’s your favorite type of cheese?”
Participating in these channels helps people find coworkers who enjoy the same things. At a minimum, that makes work more pleasant. But it also fosters connections that are key to both productivity and engagement. Employees just work better when they care about the people around them.
The takeaway: Encourage social channels on top of the necessary work channels. This helps employees network with coworkers with similar interests.
4. Get New Hires Involved ASAP
Starting a remote job can be a lonely experience for new hires. Even when you send them emails and meeting invites, their first few moments consist of turning on their computers and wondering what comes next. And they’ve got no one sitting next to them to show them the ropes.
A Slack channel dedicated to new hires solves that problem. Get new hires in the channel as soon as you can and post useful information in it, like other channels they might find helpful or due dates for the various forms they have to fill out. You might also want to add their managers and an HR or IT representative who can answer their questions to the channel.
The takeaway: Onboarding is essential to employee engagement and retention, and a Slack channel dedicated to the process goes a long way toward making new hires feel comfortable and prepared.
5. Use And Respect Slack Statuses
People used to complain about smartphones creating a 24/7 work week, but Slack has taken that problem to a new level. When employees have Slack on their computers and phones, they’re often inundated with disruptive notifications, and that can lead to burnout.
Employees need to know they can turn Slack off — in terms of both receiving and sending messages. A good way to do this is to encourage everyone to use Slack statuses. Just remember that means you need to use and respect those statuses, too. Post a “done for the day” status (ours is a bottle of champagne popping), and then actually pause notifications and stop checking messages. More importantly, don’t send messages to employees who have set their status as “out of office.”
The takeaway: Being accessible is great for productivity but can also lead to burnout if boundaries aren’t set. Lead by example and turn off notifications at the end of your workday and only contact employees after work hours when absolutely necessary.