When using a ridesharing service, renting a city bike or ordering a grocery delivery, it’s easy to forget that these services are still relatively new. In only a few years, we have become accustomed to the variety of options that we have for these services because so many companies joined this new market in its infancy and grew incredibly quickly. Among them is Bolt, one of the fastest growing mobility companies in the world.
From humble beginnings in Tallinn, Estonia, Bolt is now present in 45 countries around the world, employs over 3,000 people and is valued at over $8 billion. Bolt’s goal is to approach the world’s logistical problems in an affordable and sustainable way and offer an alternative to private transportation. The organisation is constantly growing and looking into new ways of reducing the ecological footprint of transportation.
Mathis Bogens, the head of internal communications at Bolt, explains the nature of the company: ‘Bolt operates in 45 countries with scooters and e-bikes and has more than 100 million customers. It offers ridesharing and delivery options, Bolt Food and a grocery product called Bolt Market. The company also offers car sharing and is one of the biggest players in rentals in Europe.’
For a business of this size, automation and collaboration are the drivers of continued success. With so many employees across numerous countries, Bolt needed a reliable tool to fully and reliably support streamlining its global recruitment process, reducing technical resolution times, local and global brainstorming and communication at large. It chose Slack to automate processes and ensure a global, yet unified corporate culture, while remaining flexible and avoiding the creation of silos.
Sharing knowledge in a global workplace
The journey to a flexible global workplace begins at recruitment. ‘We built a whole onboarding process in Slack,’ says Bogens. ‘It allows us to onboard new employees into our culture straight away; we’re using the Lessonly app for this.’
But recruitment and onboarding are just the beginning. Crucially, avoiding silos and sharing and searching for knowledge is built into Bolt’s culture. It boasts small teams that have great autonomy to achieve their goals. However, with the company’s significant growth, some teams can become a little disconnected from others. According to Bogens, this is why Bolt established several solutions, with two of them most prominent:
1. Transparency and inclusivity
To allow for all voices to be heard and break down barriers, Bolt has five global Slack channels meant for every employee. This comprises a channel for information relevant to everyone; a channel for subjects related to its people (HR, employee services); an internal social media channel focusing on life at Bolt; an IT support channel and a general support channel for tech issues where anyone can help and collaborate.
2. No email
The company decided that only one tool should be used for daily communication. ‘We don’t use email internally,’ Bogens says. ‘Although we do use it with external partners, we encourage them to use Slack Connect with us. And Google Calendar is integrated with Slack, so employees don’t need to check their emails as often.’ In short, the company believes that the level of engagement that Slack offers is not possible with email. Slack provides a more transparent and faster collaboration with fewer channels.
‘To retain, engage and recruit the best talent, you need to make room for everyone to work in a way that fits their lifestyle and their day-to-day,’ says Janis Sadinovs, the head of people business verticals at Bolt. ‘Slack is much less static than any other platform out there. It allows flexibility.’
‘Slack is much less static than any other platform out there. It allows flexibility.’
Accelerating work with automation
Bolt uses two types of automations offered by Slack. The first involves small integrations or applications that people use regularly without thinking, such as integrating Slack with their Google Calendar or using the Slack reminder tool. Using integrations with day-to-day tools like these means that employees can reduce manual effort and avoid switching between solutions.
But the organisation also relies on another, more complex type of automation provided by Slack that is designed in-house. Custom automations are created by employees, for employees, to fulfil very specific needs. Bogens gives an example of one such design:
‘Our engineering team uses an app they built themselves called Test Stability Reporter. They run a huge number of tests every day, and every morning the app delivers a bundled report showing which tests succeeded and which ones failed. So when the team starts work in the morning, they don’t have to review every test.’ This custom app claims back the time that would normally be spent reviewing the test results.
According to Alexandr Bregin, a technical support lead at Bolt, there are at least 200 automation apps used by Bolt every day. Automated integrations help with everything from personal workflows, through collaboration, to customer and technical support. In fact, Workflow Builder is one of the main tools used by the technical support team. And it’s used with emojis, making it more efficient and giving it a more human touch at the same time.
Slack offers a third way of accelerating work with automation: Bolt employees use Workflow Builder to create no-code workflows, giving them the ability to automate their tasks. Automated workflows can be used to supercharge integrations, as is the case with Bolt’s Jira setup. For things like bug reports, a ticket is automatically created and sent to a Slack channel, where people who don’t have Jira access will see that their request has reached the relevant team. They remain informed and involved.
Beyond silos: connecting and engaging the entire team
Bolt relies on Slack to create a connected feel, not only among its own staff, but also with outside contacts. In fact, as previously mentioned, the company avoids email so much that it encourages partners to use Slack Connect for external communications.
‘Slack Connect establishes a workspace for two companies that work in different locations and with different mindsets, but who find common ground when they work together towards the same goal,’ explains Bogens. Not only does this make the collaboration deeper, but as Bolt uses these channels as part of the joint workflow, it also creates a more connected feel, engaging everyone. Daily updates are mixed with jokes, emojis and photos, developing relationships further.
To connect and engage everyone, Bolt relies on Slack channels to allow teams to collaborate effectively, regardless of their location or work group. Slack huddles, a great way to have impromptu meetings to connect on an urgent topic, helps colleagues to partner up and solve problems. Teams can also use Slack Clips, short video or audio messages to give their team members updates and insights.
With Slack, people are empowered to work when and how they need to be at their most productive. ‘We’re not constantly at our desks,’ says Sadinovs. ‘We can be on the move without disrupting the everyday work that needs to happen, whether that’s meetings, messaging or just checking in with someone.’
But when it comes to a global workforce, working hours are another piece of the puzzle that make the workplace more human-centric. Some team members might not be in the same country or even in the same time zone. Others simply perform better when allowed more flexible working hours. ‘We are using Slack to help foster a flexible work culture; in Slack it doesn’t matter when you read your messages,’ Bogens says.
The absence of ‘read’ receipts prevents people from feeling self-imposed pressure, believing that they have to read and respond to messages straight away just to show that they are working when everyone else is.
‘We don’t use email internally. Although we do use it with external partners, we encourage them to use Slack Connect with us. And Google Calendar is integrated with Slack, so employees do not need to check their emails as often.’
Slack as part of culture
Connecting so many employees spread over various countries, time zones and teams means using one tool and using it well. ‘Slack is the only tool we use to connect and engage with everyone,’ Bogens admits. ‘If you’re not online and in Slack, you’re not at work.’
Bolt employees generate over 145,000 messages per day. They create automations, share ideas and collaborate on a large scale. They work away from their desks when they need to and arrange their work to fit their life. But most importantly, they are encouraged to be social and they use Slack to do it.
People create their own groups, share their lives and make connections. ‘There are some channels where we post random fun stuff,’ says Bregin. ‘There are even Bolt-specific themes with internal jokes. Lots of people really love that aspect. We have, I think, 18,000 custom emojis in total. I added maybe 250 or 300 of them myself. I really love the emoji setup and how it creates a more human atmosphere.’