Company culture is not just about nap rooms and kombucha on tap. Culture Amp recognizes that a strong culture starts with listening to your employees. The Australia-based company built a leading employee experience and analytics platform to help leadership reduce turnover, boost retention and help people thrive. Since 2009, Culture Amp has helped send 31,000 surveys with 165 million questions to employees at 3,000 organizations, from startups to Fortune 500s, and it was recently valued at over $1 billion.
“Our mission and purpose is to create a better world of work by helping organizations put their people and culture first,” says Damian Fasciani, Culture Amp’s director of technology. “We’re striving to achieve that through our platform, through our people community and through our technology.” This includes introducing Slack in 2015. It is now used by over 400 employees, or “campers,” to communicate, enrich their culture and amplify one another in four offices across Melbourne, San Francisco, New York and London. “We’re a globally distributed team and Slack is a key tool in how we communicate, work together and collaborate on all fronts,” Fasciani says. “Slack enables us to bring people together quickly and is the easiest way to stay aligned and share updates as opposed to email.”
“We’re a globally distributed team and Slack is a key tool in how we communicate, work together and collaborate on all fronts. Slack enables us to bring people together quickly and is the easiest way to stay aligned and share updates as opposed to email.”
Improving transparency and moving with speed and agility
Global people programs director Jo Montanari was the 15th camper at Culture Amp, back when they used HipChat and email to communicate. Shortly after she joined, “an IT colleague was keen on us using Slack, and it felt natural right from the beginning.” Now Montanari and colleagues across Culture Amp rely on Slack to stay nimble and produce quality work asynchronously. This is especially crucial because the company has teams distributed across four global time zones.
“You can be a lot more responsive with Slack,” Montanari says. “Being able to control your channels, use mute, stars and folders is really useful. I can prioritize exactly what I need to do.” Fasciani agrees that “the simplicity and usability is what makes Slack such a success. It allows me to prioritize and organize what’s important.”
Culture Amp has naming conventions for Slack channels to streamline communication across the product (#product), organization (#org) and customer (#customer) groups that make up its infrastructure. There are team and project channels, #all-camp for company wide announcements, and employee resource groups like #women-at-culture-amp-erg and #allies-erg. They also pull in external partners as single-channel guests to collaborate. “We have a couple close external partners and vendors, and we work with them in Slack Connect,” Fasciani says.
“Slack has dramatically changed how people come together and how we build transparency over projects or a body of work,” Fasciani says. Whether it’s a quick-turn task or bigger initiative, his team starts the conversation in the team Slack channel, #tech-global, then decides if it needs to be its own project channel. Some are private and some are public, but all follow the same naming convention of #proj_example. This also allows his team to work with campers outside their department. “Slack’s really great for stakeholder management because a lot of our projects are outward-facing for the workplace,” he says. If they’re collaborating with marketing, for example, they can invite them to that channel and everyone can contribute to the solution. “If we were to do that in email, it creates this frosted glass reality where you don’t know what tech is working on. Slack channels bring people together very intuitively. I love that.”
When Fasciani’s technology team needs to address critical issues, “the appropriate people come together very quickly in Slack channels,” he says. They complement Slack with Confluence, Jira, Google Drive and PagerDuty integrations. “We’re using integrations and an API mindset to build enablement and automation. Slack is a big part of that. It’s more time-efficient than anything else, because you can reference something really quickly and continue the conversation without breaking stride,” Fasciani says.
As a whole, Culture Amp relies on Slack integrations to connect campers with the tools they rely on, day in and day out. On the People team, Google Drive is a big favorite. “I haven’t been late to a meeting since I added the Google Calendar integration in Slack,” Montanari says.
“Slack has dramatically changed how people come together and how we build transparency over projects or a body of work.”
Putting culture first and increasing leadership visibility
Culture Amp uses Slack to prioritize its own culture, connect a global community and maintain organizational alignment. This starts at the top with founder and CEO Didier Elzinga, who has a #ceo channel where he provides regular updates to campers via Slack. Elzinga also uses the channel to answer questions submitted through Culture Amp’s “ask me anything” surveys.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Elzinga used #ceo to reach out to campers. “I started posting a two-minute video every workday in Slack—just observations, what’s going on, how we’re doing, how we’re tracking against the plan.” This reassurance was a simple but powerful way to stay connected during such a challenging time, and the initiative’s success has led to more transparency as the company continues to navigate remote work. “We realized that campers needed more leadership visibility,” Montanari says. Elzinga still posts videos on a weekly basis, and the executive team rotates posting recordings, adding the same kind of videos in the #all-camp Slack channel.
When new campers join, they start using Slack immediately. “Slack instantly embeds you in Culture Amp,” Fasciani says. “It set me up for success straight away, as opposed to doing it through email, which is a bit rigid.” A Slack channel for every city binds the global offices together and encourages local camaraderie, and “club” channels enable campers to connect on more than work:
- #knitters for lovers of all kinds of craft, including knitting
- #games for discussing and playing various games like trivia
- #cooking for sharing recipes and pictures of new dishes
- #club-kiddos, #club-doggos, and #club-cats to share pictures
- #if-you-really-knew-me, where campers share fun personal anecdotes
- #yay-we-failed, where campers live out two of the company values: “Have the courage to be vulnerable” and “Learn faster through feedback”
“We have a bunch of club channels in Slack to encourage people to be able to bring their whole self to work and connect with colleagues,” Montanari says.
“Slack instantly embeds you in Culture Amp. It set me up for success straight away, as opposed to doing it through email, which is a bit rigid.”
Lifting up campers and staying connected during adversity
“Amplify others” is another Culture Amp value that Slack helps facilitate. In #all-camper_yays, campers celebrate promotions, birthdays, anniversaries, “campervesaries” and other good news. Using the Props Slackbot, anyone can start a post with “props to” or “mad props to” a camper. “It’s a really nice way to provide recognition to people in Slack,” Montanari says. “Even as the company scales, the use of the Props Slackbot has grown.” Every Friday, the bot announces that week’s props. “It puts all this recognition in one channel and allows us to celebrate success,” Fasciani says. “It’s a very easy way to pay kudos to people and live by the values of the company, which is awesome.”
With Slack already enabling efficient workflows and keeping campers connected across the globe, Culture Amp was able to pivot to remote work within 30 hours when the pandemic hit. “The workplace technology we had in place with Zoom and Slack allowed us to seamlessly disperse and work from home immediately,” Fasciani says. Leadership could focus on their people and ensure consistent communication. “We’re more reliant on Slack now than we ever were before, because it brings everyone together.”
Now a key pillar in Culture Amp’s workplace, Slack helps campers embody their values every day—and deliver a platform that empowers millions of employees around the world to embrace their own unique company cultures.