Productivity

Gymshark presses delete on email and goes all-in with Slack

Find out how this £1 billion business uses Slack to keep its people engaged and productive whether they’re working from home or the office

Author: Aoife RogersJanuary 18th, 2021Illustration by Robert Samuel Hanson

Fitness brand Gymshark has come a long way since a teenage Ben Francis set it up from his parents’ garage. An early adopter of influencer marketing, the U.K.-based company now has 12 million social media followers and customers go wild for its high-performance, Instagram-worthy sportswear. Teamwork has driven that remarkable success, which is why Gymshark decided to use Slack to help its employees focus on the work that matters.

With Slack, Gymshark has shifted communications out of siloed inboxes and into channels, making it easier for people to find the information they need to get things done. No one wastes time searching through emails for the latest files anymore; the most up-to-date information is at hand. And, because the company has integrated the apps its people use every day into Slack, teams spend less time toggling between tabs and more time staying productive.

Here’s a peek at how Gymshark deployed Slack to all of its 500+ employees. From creating a companywide ticketing system to hosting a Covid-compliant product launch, it’s become the place where Gymshark’s real work gets done.

Changing the conversation with Slack channels

By 2017, Gymshark had seen the writing on the wall—email was out and instant messaging was in. Frustrated by unwieldy email threads, employees were already using iMessage and WhatsApp to have quicker chats. However, while instant messaging made it easier to reach people, not everyone was being kept in the loop. By using Slack, Gymshark could democratise the flow of information by elevating discussions into a central place—channels—where all team members could see and benefit from them.

“We looked at other tools, but they didn’t have the functionality we needed, and we couldn’t create channels and groups. Slack had everything we were looking for, and it’s the most intuitive platform that we use,” says Gymshark’s tech support manager Richard Boon.

Gymshark trialled Slack with the tech team first. The team set up some initial channels, giving all members access to the critical conversations that were happening around important projects. Real, open collaboration was possible, and everyone was included. 

Now that all the relevant information for each project was contained in its own discrete channel, people were primed for efficiency. Armed with the latest thinking, they were making faster decisions, working more strategically and completing projects in record time. The benefits were too significant to keep to just one department, and Slack was rolled out to the entire company within weeks.

Now every Gymshark worker gets Slack as standard, and it’s where 95% of all communications take place. The #gymshark channel is the place to go for company news and updates, while the #refuel channel details the cafeteria’s daily specials. Staff can even drop into the #liftingclub channel to follow a Zoom workout session.

Internal email is simply no longer required. Instead, Gymshark employees connect in a variety of departmental and group channels, and they use direct messaging when they need to have a one-to-one.

 

Richard Boon, Tech Support Manage at Gymshark

“Slack is really a business-critical system for us. Without it, we would be back to email and instant messaging, which would be a massive downgrade.”

Richard Boontech support manager, Gymshark

 

Integrations that make work life easier  

Gymshark has integrated its most used apps into Slack channels, so people no longer have to constantly switch between different apps and tools. Alongside familiar ones such as Zoom and Outlook, it has added Welkio for visitor sign-ins and uses Polly to send polls to employees via Slack.  

With the Welkio integration, guests check in on a tablet at reception. The person they are there to meet then gets a Slack notification to let them know their visitor has arrived, along with a photo to make doubly sure that they recognise them. Polly has proved particularly useful for bolstering Gymshark’s Covid safeguards. Without leaving Slack, Gymshark workers can instantly book a time slot for the cafeteria, ensuring that everyone has enough space to keep two metres apart.

Boon, who is on the infrastructure and security team, has been especially impressed by the atSpoke integration, which he used to create a new ticketing system for the IT department. Pre-Covid, employees used direct messages to contact tech support. The problem was that they didn’t always know who was best placed to answer their query, leading to delays when direct messages were sent to the wrong person and not rerouted right away.

In addition, the tech team couldn’t see what requests had been sent and how they were progressing. There was no way for an individual to step in and solve an issue, and the same questions were being asked multiple times. 

“My priority was to rebrand the experience of speaking to tech support. I wanted it to be perfect; no waiting, just quick, instant responses.”

These days employees submit their tech queries through the atSpoke app in Slack, and common requests trigger an immediate auto-response. This gives the tech team the freedom to concentrate on high-value tasks, while employees get their answers faster. It’s a win-win.

More complex tickets are automatically routed to the specialist who is best placed to solve them. They provide updates and solutions on a public Slack thread, which encourages accountability and swifter responses.

“The problem before was that we were capturing all this great information through Slack DMs, but we weren’t doing anything with it. With the atSpoke integration, anyone in the company can just check our answered threads to see if their question already has a solution.”

Once Boon saw how response times were faster, leading to more productivity and efficiency, he expanded its use to the finance, legal, product and people teams. Tickets on all topics, from questions about payroll to points of law, are not only delivered to the right person in the right department, but also resolved quickly and comprehensively.

“With Slack integrations, we have everything we need at our fingertips, and it has massively improved response times, productivity and efficiency.”

Richard Boontech support manager, Gymshark
People working ay Gymshark HQ

 

Pivoting to virtual meetings and launches, with help from Slack 

When Covid hit, Slack made Gymshark’s pivot to remote working much easier, says Boon.

“We were in a privileged position to already have it in place. Companies that didn’t were panicking because they’d have to rely on emailing and calling, which doesn’t make for a truly connected workplace.”

Of course, Gymshark still had to drastically change how it normally did business, and Slack’s Zoom integration became a pivotal part of its new normal. 

“We are able to go from conversations in a Slack channel to typing ‘/zoom’ and jumping on a call to fix an issue. It saves us the drawn-out process of opening up Zoom, starting a chat and then finding the invite button. It’s much more immediate.”

Gymshark usually launches its upcoming product lines with an in-house fashion show so that all employees can get up to speed on next season’s focus. It is a vitally important event for the product team that needs to know the specifics of what it’s going to be working on. In 2020, there was no way for an in-person show to happen, so Gymshark had to find a way to facilitate it remotely. 

“The Zoom integration allowed us to get a team of over 100 people—some in our offices, but most in their own homes—to come together for a virtual showcase of what we had in the works.” 

This meant that attendees could safely get up close with the products, ask questions and give opinions, just as they would at a regular live launch.  Afterward, the video was shared in the #gymshark channel, so that every employee could become an expert on the upcoming collection. 

It’s an example of the company’s drive for transparency—it wants its people to be the first ones to see what’s coming next. It also provides an open forum for discussion and feedback, strengthening employee engagement and inter-departmental connections.

Keeping pace with a company that can’t stop winning

Recently valued at over £1 billion, Gymshark is on a serious upward trajectory. The plan is to rival the biggest fitness brands in the world, and it will continue to expand its use of Slack as it works toward that goal. It has already started using Slack Connect, which extends Slack’s channel-based messaging to people outside of its organisation. This allows it to securely collaborate with everyone from suppliers and customers to creative agencies and strategic partners, all without leaving the Slack workspace.

Over the past three years, Slack has become embedded in Gymshark’s business. It is part of every department, facilitating the strategic communication that this ambitious company needs to have. Boon believes that the partnership has been such a success because of what Slack can do, but also because it is so easy to use. “It’s very, very rare to get a platform that works as well as Slack.”

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