I’m a big fan of Slack. If you haven't heard of Slack, here is video overview. As the CEO of a high growth company called GovDelivery, rolling out Slack a couple of years ago helped me break down silos and encourage transparency. But, as a with any new and promising technology, there were some surprises. With Slack, I found that it helps address some age old problems while creating new ones.
Here are 3 areas where Slack solves an old problem while introducing a new one.
1) Slack helps break down silos, then adds to the chaos
For an employee in a large and/or growing company, Slack creates efficient ways to connect with peers on other teams and in other departments. Slack makes this work by allowing connections and groups to form both organically and with direction from management.
Unfortunately, the employee that was once working within a silo and dealing with an overwhelming email inbox is now left to self-manage which channels are most important and is stuck keeping track of many different channels across Slack. The silo might be gone, but in its place is an additional layer of chaos.
2) Slack makes it easy to seek help from the willing while making it even easier for talented but busy colleagues to lay low
Said differently: Slack amplifies the voices of “Slacktivists” while drowning out the many talented “Slack introverts” within an organization
I saw this regularly in the company I led. Someone needs help and posts the request to the right Channel in Slack whether it’s Sales, HR, or elsewhere. An active “Slacker” might see the post and respond quickly. Awesome! The downside is that the best person to answer the question might be heads down in another project. The question is answered, but not by the real internal expert. Remember the adage… “if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.” Well, often the “slacktivists” within your company are not the busy people you need to take on your key projects.
3) Slack promotes employee engagement with communications that allows employees to easily register support and enthusiasm, but all of this activity generates little insight for leaders
As a CEO, I could watch certain posts, articles, and communications go viral across our company generating likes and “giphys” and emojis but I couldn’t look deeper into who was participating on Slack and how that correlated to performance, retention, or anything else.
Summing it up
Employee communication and connectivity have made great strides thanks to Slack and other next generation communication tools. Slack is a great tool for a growing company, but leaders should proceed with open eyes. Over time, I believe that we need additional solutions and approaches that build on the improvements noted and put more structure and data behind how employees and teams form and connect.
This is the second in a series of posts I’m sharing with my observations on what’s working and what’s not in how we unleash the potential of people and teams.