The use of Slack and Microsoft Teams as employee communication tools continues to grow at a rapid pace, with Microsoft Teams hitting 13+ million daily active users after being on the market for only a few years, and organizations are now seriously evaluating how to leverage these tools as a way to bring people together.
We recently teamed up with digital workplace expert and coach Sam Marshall of ClearBox Consulting to get his insight on how to get the most out of these internal communication tools for collaborating and working in teams. Here are the key takeaways.
Slack and Teams: Where they make sense
At their core, both Slack and Teams are team-chat communication tools – whether it’s one to one or spread across a group. If you need to go beyond text-based instant messaging, you can easily launch a video or voice call, or share your screen to collaborate on files.
They help keep work moving faster than email. And they can be fun too, thanks to features such as likes, stickers, and polls.
Slack and Teams can be effective internal communication tools when they’re used in the right ways.
According to Sam, here’s where they’re most effective:
- Making departmental announcements: If there’s one channel for the department, it’s easy to get a message out to everyone.
- Collaborating in project teams: Even if you’ve got dozens of people on the same project, with Slack or Teams, they can all work together in a dedicated space.
- Co-ordinating across the business: You can set up a space to bring people together from different departments across the organization.
- Jumping on a voice or video call: People don’t have to be in the same building to work together effectively. With video calls, especially, off-site employees can feel more connected.
- Chatting on the fly: You can easily set up a quick meeting with a few people to resolve issues fast without generating emails. And thanks to desktop, web, and mobile apps, you can connect from wherever it’s convenient.
Where they’re not so hot
Even the best internal communication tools eat up quite a bit of time – and that’s one reason there’s been a backlash against Slack, for example.
Because they generate alerts, some people find Slack and Teams distracting, with pop-ups constantly interrupting their work time. Often, users feel pressure to respond, even though they may be trying to concentrate on something else.
In some ways, these employee communication tools can seem like a meeting with no agenda and no clear ending. That can be a drain.
Slack or Teams for internal comms?
So, if your role is focused on internal communications, do you need Slack or Teams?
According to Sam, Slack and Teams offer potential in scenarios like these:
- Sharing news: Sending out an announcement is quick and simple. But there are limitations because you can’t do a lot of formatting, and you need to be mindful about the channel (sometimes organization-wide might not be the best).
- Two-way comms: You can pose questions and get quick responses. People can then comment and like, so it’s a good way of getting the conversation going. The downside? You can’t moderate the conversation or push comments down the page. And because replies aren’t threaded, comments can seem disconnected.
- Getting feedback: Add-on apps like Polly allow you to take a quick poll, while others let you do a survey. The downside is that polls aren’t anonymous, so people might not feel comfortable sharing their true feelings.
- Video events: Teams, for example, launched ‘Live Events’, which enables video streaming, whether it’s from a professional studio or by a leader making an announcement. And you can use chat capabilities for more formal Q&A management during the event.
How Slack and Teams can work alongside your intranet
When Slack first came out, there was speculation it could mean the end of intranets. But, in fact, internal communications tools and intranets can – and should – co-exist happily to facilitate all kinds of scenarios, including these:
- Posting news: When there’s an activity feed and you make an announcement in Slack or Teams, it gets pushed down the page. But with an intranet, you can make sure that news stays at the top of the page.
- Engaging with leaders: Tracking what leaders are saying can be a challenge within peer channels like Slack and Teams. Instead, create a leadership page or blog and add context (like a bio and “Ask the CEO”). You just don’t want it to feel too sanitized – and that’s where real-time tools can complement a leadership blog.
- Running town halls: You can schedule and run a live event like a town hall in Teams. Ahead of time, you can create a virtual town hall area on your intranet to publicize the event and ask attendees to submit questions they want to be answered during the session. Afterward, use your intranet for follow up activities, like posting a transcript for employees who may have missed it.
About Sam Marshall
Sam Marshall is the owner of ClearBox Consulting and has specialized in intranets and the digital workplace for over 19 years, working with companies such as Unilever, Vodafone, TUI Travel, Diageo, Sony, and GSK. His current activities focus on intranet and digital workplace strategy, and the business side of Office 365.
Sam is a regular keynote speaker at international conferences and has been named a ‘Contributor of the year’ for his CMSWire column four years in a row. In 2015 Sam was given the Intranet Now award for ‘remarkable contribution to the intranet community.’ He has an MSc in Artificial Intelligence, an MA in Psychology and more bicycles than shoes.