Do you like working in Outlook for 2–4 hours on a daily basis? Somehow email is still widespread and common in the workplace. Email is an old system, it was invented in the seventies and became popular for the masses since 1995 when commercial world wide web was born. Recently I started as CMO with a fin-tech start-up and one of the first things I did, was introduce Slack. This story is not about email it is about effective communication in the workplace for start-ups to teams to big organisations.
Chatting and messaging started with the introduction of SMS on our mobile phones. Then, as part of the web 2.0 and social media revolution, Twitter was launched. This introduced short messaging to a big audience in our communications mix and they also introduced the @mention, direct messages and hashtags. These ‘inventions’ brought segmentation and effectiveness to short messaging.
In less than a few years, most of us have rapidly grown accustomed to WhatsApp and WeChat on our smartphones. Messaging is much more effective than emailing. Sure one can see history back in the threads but it takes discipline and much effort to communicate effectively via email. Somehow it seems faster to message via WhatsApp. It effectively pops up on the phone of the receiver and is more intrusive, thereby hoping the receiver will take action and respond immediately.
Changing communications in big organisations
Systems such as Yammer have tried to revolutionise corporate intranet systems and added some of Twitter’s message capabilities combined with sharing of files and keeping revisions. Back in the day, I consulted companies to implement Yammer and tried to help people communicate smarter. Yammer didn’t really change the way we communicate. At its best it replaced old-fashioned intranet portals and most of us kept emailing.
SharePoint, Lync and Skype for Business attempted to add functions and features we like into business software. Since it is all created or owned by Microsoft, one can at least expect it all integrates, even with their Office Suite. I have seen people using the suite of tools, they make progress in evolving the way people work but it comes in small steps. That might be good for the majority of the workforce since people do not like change.
Still, many of the workforces keep using Dropbox to store documents in the cloud and using WeTransfer to share large files.
One can conclude that business software companies are (too) slow to implement new features and roll them out with corporations causing employees to use the tools they use at home. Often these personal tools will be used despite any company policies.
Can we finally ditch using email?
We live in 2016, why do we still use the email system from 1971?. Of course one still needs an email address to register with online accounts and so forth. We, therefore, cannot ditch email entirely but we can use email for what it was designed: making an electronic mail or (news)letter. It was not designed to send big PDF’s, videos, nor was it designed to chat or talk with multiple people. Collaboratively we can reduce the amount of email and attachments sent immensely. Remember, for every business email you send out, you’ll expect the receiver to read it. Take the time spent into account before you send out an email!
Okay, lets ditch email, how to communicate?
Have you heard of Slack? It can become your best communication buddy in the office. If you register for Slack, you’ll need an email address. Once you get your team on board, there will be a drop in emails within the team.
You will use slack for:
- Messaging with colleagues in your team
- Add your suppliers in a separate channel to talk to them
- Have a group chat with colleagues at different locations
- Share knowledge
- Ask a question to all colleagues and the one who has an answer can respond
- Have a quick poll
- Send a concept text (via Google Drive or Dropbox integration)
- Send incoming support questions in ZenDesk via an integration to a channel
- Voice and video calling
- Track to-do’s from Asana
- There are many functions to integrate and streamline communications
- Not to forget team building with a #random channel the digital equivalent for the water-cooler-talk
After just two weeks I already notice a change in communications style at my company. Frequent short updates, sharing of info, interesting reads and quick powwows to track progress on issues and projects.
Yes, you too can switch to Slack
Of course, ditching email all at once is a big hurdle and probably not feasible for large organisations. But by introducing Slack it reduces the number of internal emails and reply-to-all that is taking up precious working time. The search function helps to find information and therefore one can use Slack as a simple knowledge base and info repository.