How to Use Slack to Foster Idea-Sharing, Brainstorming, and Learning in Your Organization

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slack for productivity

If your business has opted into Slack, know you’re in good company.

Slack now has 6 million daily active users, and the app’s valuation and user count are growing by the day.

Over 50,000 businesses are paying for the platform, including nearly half of the world’s largest companies by revenue and organizations as far-ranging as Airbnb to Harvard University.

Using Slack in your business

Unlike Jive, Yammer, and the other near-misses before it, Slack is the first platform that seamlessly and effectively integrates all the communications related to your workflow. It truly helps your team work better together, instead of just adding more noise to your inbox.

But Slack is much more than a communication channel. People love Slack because it completely transforms the way your business conducts, well, business.

Here’s how to take your company Slack from a message board to a multifunctional dashboard for brainstorming, idea-sharing, and learning.
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4 ways to use Slack effectively in your organization

1. Organize your teams and work groups

The default channels included with Slack are #general and #random. These are accessible to anyone within your organization. Beyond these, you can create additional public channels as well as private groups.

Each department or team within your organization deserves their own dedicated Slack channel, e.g. Marketing, Sales, HR, IT, and so on.

Encourage each department head to create additional sub-channels to foster better collaboration and team-building among their team members. For instance, your marketing department may be large enough to warrant separate channels for your content teams and your event marketing teams. Or, they may choose to create two channels for the team: a fun one for water cooler discussions and one strictly for work-related topics.

You can even collaborate across companies using the Shared Channels feature. For agencies who work with multiple businesses, this eases the headaches that come with maintaining and multiple guest accounts.

While you want to be thoughtful about having too many channels and dividing your team, it’s generally a good idea to narrow the focus on your Slack channels. A defined, specialized topic helps your channels stay relevant as people clearly understand what the discussion should focus on. People can always hashtag multiple groups to be included in an individual post as needed.

Think about what ties team members together besides their job title, too. Is there a company softball league? They get a Slack channel! A favorite TV show? They get a Slack channel! A professional mentoring group? They get a Slack channel! You hear the Oprah voice. You get it.

2. Take projects from ideation to completion

It’s common for staff from various teams to collaborate on a project together. A project-based channel can help them stay on track. Alternatively, your team may have a big initiative that requires a dedicated focus apart from your main team feed.

For example, let’s say there’s a large industry event your company attends each year. With a dedicated #big-industry-event channel, your sales and marketing teams can coordinate among themselves, and loop in other folks as needed, such as the developers who will create the event landing page. A separate channel helps the team stay focused on moving that initiative forward, without letting anything slip through the cracks. They can post updates to this channel and easily view the notifications there, instead of missing an email in their overcrowded inboxes. It also prevents this particular project team from overpowering the larger #sales or #marketing team channel discussions.

Project-based channels also enable brainstorming and idea sharing throughout the duration of the project:

  • Slack integrates with all the apps your company is probably already using, including Google Drive, JIRA, Zoom, Salesforce, and InVision. Team members can upload working materials and comment directly within Slack, instead of having to log in to another software.
  • Everything related to the project stays within Slack, and it’s all easily searchable. Just like Gmail, you can search Slack using the “from:” or “in:” modifiers to find something posted by a specific person or on a particular channel. When you upload a text-based document, such as a PDF or Word document, the text within it is also searchable in Slack, not just the file name.
  • After the event is over, you can archive the channel’s content, but it always remains searchable. You can always go back and review previous brainstorming sessions when you’re stuck unable to think up new promotions or initiatives. See what got shelved last year and see if it could work this time around.

3. Share resources for safekeeping

Everyone’s been that person who didn’t get the memo. Even when it’s not your fault, it doesn’t make it any less embarrassing.

Solve this problem and keep your team in the know by uploading important resources to Slack. This can be as simple as uploading a PDF of the team’s yearly goals to their team channel, or it can be more sophisticated with a dedicated resource channel.

For example, HR teams might create a #NewEmployeeOrientation channel. This would include links to all the necessary forms employees have to fill out, important information on benefits and company policies, and required training videos. During onboarding, the HR team can invite all new employees to join the channel, offering them a clear and welcoming way to get in touch with HR.

New employees can browse previous posts and get their own questions answered before they “graduate” and leave the channel. Individual HR team members can collaborate to answer a newbie’s question based on who is available, answering questions faster and preventing employees from emailing the wrong HR contact.

Using Slack in your business

Employee development programs are another good fit for Slack. While many companies offer learning programs, these can be confusing to find and access, and often feel isolated for the employee completing the module all on their own. With dedicated Slack channels for different education topics, employees can easily find and access the training. They can also directly speak with learning resource coordinators and other colleagues undergoing the training questions, bringing the team together and helping them get more out of the program.

4. Host meetings that are truly productive

Everyone has at least one meeting that makes them roll their eyes when the calendar notification pops up. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, many meetings can’t be completely eliminated. However, Slack offers a list that can be fully executed using their platform.

Daily standups: Instead of sitting in a room, waiting for the projector to load and everyone to hop on Google Hangouts, have each team member send a quick update of what they’re working on through Slack. You can even make slackbot start the meeting for you with the command: /remind every weekday at 9:45 am Hey @editorial-team What’s on today?

Everyone can read at their convenience instead of getting distracted from what they’re working on, saving real time that can be spent more efficiently.

Brainstorming sessions: An effective brainstorming meeting requires a true melding of the minds. However, many people get overly excited and talk over each other. Meanwhile, more introverted team members can be nervous to share their ideas out loud, or end up silenced by their more obnoxious colleagues. With a Slack brainstorm session, everyone is equalized. Everyone can write out their thoughts and express themselves, and no one’s idea goes unheard.

Better yet, you’ll have all the notes written down! No more forcing some poor soul to be the meeting secretary. It’s no big deal if anyone misses the meeting, as they can come back later and catch up.

Approvals and reviews: Ask any project manager—getting stakeholders into a room for an approval meeting feels like herding cats. Simply @mention the necessary stakeholders and send the question, document, or wireframes in Slack instead. Ask people to respond with feedback or a simple thumbs up emoji for approval.

Slack: A better workflow, a better team

Slack is here to change the corporate world and make it a lot less annoying. Rescue your team from overflowing inboxes. Get projects to the finish line faster. Cancel what meetings you can and move them to Slack instead.

You’ll be amazed how much better your team collaborates, communicates, and celebrates together.

Posted in Company Culture, Employees, Productivity

Michael Quoc

Michael Quoc

Michael Quoc is the founder and CEO of Zipfworks, a media lab producing the next-generation of e-commerce products. Tweet to Michael at @michaelquoc.