Belong builds a culture of collaboration to unlock productivity

“Slack is about creating opportunity. It’s about helping employees connect, prioritise their workload, automate tasks and provide transparency. You just have to use it once to recognise the potential it offers to transform the way you work.”

Natalie FieldCTO, Belong

You might not think of mobile and internet service providers as champions of climate change, but Belong is looking to fix that. Launched by Telstra in 2013, the telecommunications company believes in offering simple, straightforward mobile and fixed broadband services without harming the environment and is Australia’s first carbon-neutral telecommunications company. 

Most of Belong’s workforce is in Melbourne, with a majority of customer support teams in Bangalore. When chief technology officer Natalie Field joined Belong in 2018, the company was already using Slack, the secure channel-based messaging platform, for chat and social purposes. “But Slack is so much more than just a chat platform,” Field says. Over the past two and a half years, her team has elevated how it uses Slack and Slack channels, virtual spaces to share messages, workplace automations, digital tools and files. “We use Slack to collaborate, prioritise and automate tasks, and empower teams to provide full transparency around what they’re doing, and how.”

Our collaboration ecosystem also includes Microsoft Teams for shared documents and video conferencing. “Slack coexists really well with Microsoft and our other collaboration tools,” Field says. 

“Slack is about creating opportunity. It’s about helping employees connect, prioritise their workload, automate tasks and provide transparency. You just have to use it once to recognise the potential it offers to transform the way you work.”

Natalie FieldCTO, Belong

Actively collaborating in Slack to deliver better, faster solutions

To keep up with Belong’s growth, Field and the technology department use Slack as a secure, central place to embrace the team’s strengths and move work forward faster. “Slack respects the craft of engineering and allows for a higher level of collaboration and value contribution than any other tool I’ve seen,” says Field.

Instead of wasting time switching contexts or laboring over redundant processes, employees tie everything together in Slack to efficiently deliver best-in-class customer experiences. “Slack frees our engineers of administrative work and enables them to spend more time adding value,” she says.

Using the Slack integration with ServiceNow, engineers can easily trace the lifecycle of code deployments. “We have specific channels to provide real-time and transparent status on deployments in each environment with Jenkins integration, which shares status of automation tests and relevant deployment information,” says Field. “This gives everyone visibility to accelerate knowledge sharing and problem-solving when needed. Everything in the channel has context, and whoever’s online can jump in to help.” They also have a fraud detection bot that uses Appian to detect mobile services that were disconnected for fraudulent reasons and sends alerts right to the #idd_bot channel.

If there’s an operational incident, the team can act immediately. “Slack connects the people who need to make decisions, then enables those who need to take action to move into maintenance mode,” Field says. By driving meaningful engagement, Slack paves the way for productivity. Instead of having to dig through countless email threads or sync face-to-face, everyone has all the information at their fingertips. “Slack saves the lead engineer 30 minutes every time there’s an incident because they don’t have to waste time catching everyone up on the details,” Field says.

Meanwhile, Field doesn’t get caught in the weeds herself and can maintain a holistic view of everything without interrupting workflows. “No one has to stop what they’re doing to give me a full update,” she says. “I can just join the Slack channel, catch up immediately and work out where I can add value.” 

“During incidents, Slack breaks down information silos so the right people are informed, the right people can address the problem and, when escalated, the right people can help find the solution.”

Natalie FieldCTO, Belong

A community that engages, learns and communicates together

At Belong, the leadership team prioritises an inclusive culture by building relationships, using Slack to foster authentic connections. “My leadership style is very focussed on our people,” Field says. “Slack enables me to connect with my broader team, address and close their blockers, and help them grow and develop.” Especially in a virtual environment, Slack provides an intuitive way for Field to stay in touch. “Every morning I can instantly connect both individually and with the broader team in Slack. If necessary, I can offer perspective, solve a few problems and stay close to the work. It’s integral to how I run my day.” 

Belong’s unique culture is threaded through various social Slack channels where employees build rapport and share more traditional watercooler moments. For example, there’s the #whatscooking, #belongboardgames and #tea-appreciation-society channels. In #belong-vacancies, anyone can post internal job openings to encourage lateral movement. When new hires join, they’re added to #newtobelong, where they receive relevant information and are asked to post a photo and share a bit about themselves. In the #appreciatrix channel, colleagues can lift one another up and say thank you in front of the whole team.

Field has a few additional channels in high rotation, including those for leadership, her direct peers, and the technology and security teams. Field is also the sponsor of the #befearless committee, which is open to anyone at Belong who identifies as female. “When I have updates or want to share an article or podcast, I can put it in Slack and everyone gets to it when they can.”

Participating in community growth from across the globe

Each year, Belong’s Innovate program creates a space and time for employees to learn new skills. The last few days, there’s a hackathon that ties everything together. “Slack was integral to the collaboration and coordination of last year’s events and speakers,” Field says. “Employees registered and received updates in Slack, then used channels to participate in the actual hackathon.”

Though Innovate is usually held in person, the global pandemic meant 2020’s program was digital. This new format was especially helpful for those who might not always speak up in person but felt comfortable in Slack channels. “In many ways it was better to hold our Innovate20 program in Slack because people were empowered to participate more and in different ways,” says Field. 

“When we use Slack, it goes far beyond the technology and offers a great contribution to Belong’s culture.”

Natalie FieldCTO, Belong

Ushering in the next generation of forward-thinking leaders

At the heart of Belong’s mission and purpose is inclusiveness. “The very essence of what ‘belonging’ means is that you can unabashedly be yourself,” Field says. “You should never feel like you need to compromise who you are in order to contribute or be part of something.” Belong has redefined success to not just include but rely on inclusivity and community, and with Slack, it can put this into practice from the inside out. “It comes down to helping the next generation of leaders feel connected to themselves, each other and how they show up as individuals and teams,” Field says. “Slack enables that intersection of leadership and creativity and technology.”