The most important investments you make as a leader are the time and resources you dedicate to your employees. The success of your organization depends on empowering your employees with a strong company culture and the best-in-class tools they need to thrive. In this current moment of crisis, both your culture and your tools are being tested by a new way of working.
Thanks to a surge of adrenaline, most organizations navigated the initial months of remote work by moving the same old office-based routines into the virtual world. Employees worked the same hours and followed the same cadence of weekly meetings—conversations simply moved from a conference room to a video call.
But as we enter month seven with no end in sight, it’s clear that a sustainable long-term adaptation depends on a much more comprehensive re-examination of how you lead your team. Don’t think of this as surviving a crisis. Think of this as balancing on the cusp of a new era of work.
It’s up to you to decide whether you want to be in the small cohort of organizations that emerges from this crisis stronger. You have a choice to make: hold out hope that somehow things will go back to normal, or lean in and become one of the winners in your market because you got ahead of the curve and adapted.
New data from a Slack survey of knowledge workers in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Japan and Australia reveals that employee expectations have fundamentally changed. The survey shows that fewer than 12% of knowledge workers want to return to working full-time in the office. On the other end of the spectrum, only about 16% want to remain remote full-time. The vast majority, 72%, would prefer a hybrid approach.
The data also points to the profound challenges that must be overcome for the hybrid approach to work. How do you move from a centralized headquarters to distributed teams? How do you move from a fixed 9-to-5 schedule to an asynchronous flow? How do you enable your team to build and maintain social ties without regular in-person contact? If you’re a leader, these questions demand your urgent attention.
You don’t need to have all the answers to get started. But you do need to acknowledge that wholesale change is required. A “good enough” approach—incremental tweaks, and minor accommodations of new working styles—will never be enough. Winning in the new era of work depends on reimagining both the tools and technology your employees work on and the culture and norms they work with.
At Slack, we’re committed to helping you reimagine how your company works. Over the coming months, we’ll be releasing a steady stream of articles as part of the “Channeling Change” series that show how you can use Slack to thrive in the new era. These articles, authored by Slack’s most senior executives, will cover the key elements that all organizations need to get right.
We’ll explain how to use Slack to drive toward three big benefits:
- Organizational alignment and agility
- Employee engagement
- Maximizing ROI on your software investment
Here’s an overview of what to expect:
Build a digital HQ to stay aligned
In her famous study of “growth outliers,” Columbia Business School professor Rita Gunther McGrath analyzed 2,300 large U.S. companies. From this pool, she focused on only 10 that had increased their net income by at least 5% annually over a decade. She found the common characteristic of these 10 growth outliers was that they were preoccupied with both experimentation and stability. They constantly questioned everything and embraced innovation, yet their leaders spent enormous energy articulating a consistent strategy and transparent values. “This seeming paradox,” McGrath wrote, “is a feature, not a bug: Stability is what enables these companies to innovate and to maintain steady growth.”
The remote work experiment demands that you embrace this duality. As the Slack survey data shows, knowledge workers are leaping at the opportunity to experiment with the way they work, communicate and collaborate. At the same time, employees are longing for the stability and predictability that office-centric routines once provided.
So what can you do to bridge this divide? The default tools you leveraged in the pre-pandemic era—in-person all-hands meetings, company wide emails, strategy offsites—are no longer effective. Where does your team go to find information? Where do the big, important issues get debated? You need a place for that. Instead of a physical HQ, you need a digital HQ.
Slack is tailor-made to be your digital HQ. From company wide channels where you and your leadership team share your vision for the future, to informal channels where employees bond over shared interests, Slack can serve as the common infrastructure that underpins lasting social ties and organizational alignment.
Unlocking the power of a distributed workforce depends on giving your team the ability to work both synchronously and asynchronously. You can’t afford to move at the pace of the next scheduled meeting. Slack solves this by replacing emails and in-person meetings with channel-based communication. You can create a channel for every project, team, office location, business unit and functional area. These channels are where discussions happen, documents are shared, and decisions are explained. Instead of a partial view that depends on whether or not you were in the meeting or on the email chain, everyone has access to the same source of truth. That means fewer silos between teams, more transparent communication, and the foundation for quick, decisive decision-making.
Some examples of how we use Slack as a digital HQ will include:
- A thread on managing the sudden shift to remote work at the outset of the pandemic by Slack’s Head of People, Robby Kwok
- A thread on how Slack Connect builds alignment across organizations by Slack’s Chief Product Officer, Tamar Yehoshua
- I will share a thread on how we did our first, $862.5 million capital raise as a public company in the middle of the pandemic
A recent McKinsey study found that factors such as social cohesion, trusting relationships, and alignment with company values have a dramatic impact on employee engagement and work effectiveness. For example:
- Employees who believe they have the respect of their coworkers score 51.8% higher in engagement
- Employees who feel aligned to the values and purpose of their company score 49% higher in engagement
- Employees who say they trust the leadership of a company score 47.6% higher in engagement
Your employees won’t give you a free pass because of the pandemic. They are going to need to trust your leadership, to feel aligned with the values you articulate, and to enjoy the respect of their coworkers—now more than ever.
With Slack as your digital HQ, you have the opportunity to deliver modern internal communication practices that benefit you and your employees, including:
- Sharing key information transparently: Slack makes it easy for you to communicate information about how your business is working. Whether it’s a product launch, or a major sales deal that’s finally closed, public channels give employees the ability to plug directly into the inner workings of the company.
- Addressing employee questions: Slack allows you to establish reliable venues to engage employees in productive conversations. For example, “ask me anything” channels provide a forum for employees to surface the water-cooler talk about that big organizational change you just announced. Instead of back-channel gossip, you have the opportunity to address concerns head-on.
- Triaging challenging topics: Slack makes it possible for you to read the temperature of the company so that you know what demands the most attention. A flood of commentary tells you to address the issue proactively, whereas minimal traffic suggests initial communication was clear.
- Modeling behavior: With Slack as your digital HQ, you and your leadership team can show the values you live by each and every day. You are no longer hidden away in the C-suite. You have the opportunity to be truly seen and understood. This can be uncomfortable, but it holds the promise of greater organizational alignment, shared understanding, and higher levels of trust, credibility, and confidence.
A few of the examples we’ll unpack in this series:
- A thread from Slack’s VP of Customer Experience, Ali Rayl, who is overseeing a company-wide effort to reimagine Slack’s operating rhythms for the age of remote work
- A thread from Slack’s Director of Internal Communications, Amanda Atkins, outlining “A modern leader’s guide to organizational transparency”
Maximizing ROI on your software investment
If the culture of your company is flexible and open, so too should be the tools your team works on. Slack is designed from the bottom up to integrate with all of the software tools your team already uses. It’s an open platform that makes it easier to access, act upon and share data across your organization. Slack is built to be the 1 or 2% of your software budget that acts as a multiplier on the productivity of users and the value of their software wherever work is happening.
Slack delivers a positive ROI to your organization by changing the way employees work. For example, organizations using Slack:
A new Forrester study to be released in the coming weeks will dive into how Slack enables organizations to dramatically improve product development cycles, while reducing the time it takes to manage incidents.
In the new era of work, Slack can be the integration layer that brings your team—and their tools of choice—together in one digital office to drive organizational alignment and agility.
Examples of future installments in this series include:
- A thread from Slack’s Head of Platform, Steve Wood, on how Slack’s open platform delivers on the potential of event-driven architecture
- Threads on how different functions, such as sales, HR, tech & dev, and customer support use Slack to drive value
These times are at once full of new challenges and new opportunities. This is a unique moment for you to lead your organization into a bold new future. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to unlock access to a broader, more diverse pool of top talent, and to realize efficiency and productivity gains at every turn. Business transformation is always hard. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s much harder. But it’s also unquestionably necessary. Getting this right holds the promise to unlock a bold new blueprint for success. Let Slack be your partner on the journey.