Let’s get this out of the way: I’m a woman of a certain age. When I first got started in the rabble rousing business, my tech included a rotary phone, index cards, and a fax machine. I still remember the day my little non-profit got a computer with an activist and supporter database on it. So fancy!
Oh, how things have changed in the 25ish years since, eh? Along the way, I’ve done my best to adapt to new technologies as they came out (which is a good thing since, uh, I have made my living in digital engagement for about 20 years). But sometimes…meh. I don’t want to! Must I use Pinterest? What is a Pokemon? And why can’t I watch my past Snapchats again? Bah humbug, grumble, etc.
So, when a colleague suggested we start using Slack for our company’s internal communication, I rolled my eyes a little bit. I tried not to. But I did. I signed up for an account like a good forward-thinking boss, and then proceeded to not use it for nearly a year. Then one day I logged in. And I’ve pretty much never logged out. I love Slack! And more importantly, I think it’s been great – really great – for our company.
But first: what the hell is it? Slack is a communications tool that allows teams to collaborate easily – chat, share files, that sort of thing. That’s it. That’s the whole deal.*
Of course, like maybe you, when I read that I sort of thought uhh, we have email and gchat and google docs and dropbox and more so why again do we need that new tool? I don’t really have a nifty answer for that one. But, I’ve written up a couple little pointer type things and observations right here to help you see why I dig it. (But this isn’t a how-to guide – find that here).
1. Keeping up. Yes, Slack is exactly like AOL chat rooms from back in the day. Seriously. Slack is organized into a bunch of “channels” that are basically chat rooms. You (or someone on your team more likely) create them and name them whatever you want and then your team/colleagues can join them. You want to see what’s going on with a project y’all are working on? Start a channel, invite all the people working on it to join the channel and there you all are in a chat room. Like the good ol days.
2. Keeping in touch. If you and your colleagues are spread out across offices or telecommuters, you will bond hella better on Slack. M+R is about 110 people working from DC, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Montana, Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago, and Rhode Island. We rarely see each other face to face. Oh, we use video calls and stuff like that…but Slack is a friendly, casual, everyday easy way to shoot the shit with each other about projects and not-projects alike. We have channels for many of our clients, of course. And for issues, like Black Lives Matter and Feminists. For support, like on our mental health channel. And even for things like Chance the Rapper, cult tv shows, the Schuyler Sisters, grizzly bears, and what’s for lunch.
Oh, I can hear you saying this sounds silly and unnecessary. You are wrong. Our company is stronger, more collaborative, and more supportive because of Slack. That’s the kind of company I want to work for. Doesn’t everyone?
3. Keeping calm & carrying on. I get too much email, blah blah blah. So does everyone! Slack allows me to check in on things without having to search through my email and figure out what’s important or send my team an email asking for an update. This is the main hype about Slack you read in FastCo and TechCrunch. My inbox’s experience is that it lives up to it.
4. Keeping it real. Keeping it real? That’s something people my age say. It’s not actually what the young people say. I know this because we have a Slack channel called Millenniolds, a safe space for olds to ask just what the hell all those abbreviations and memes and giphys and hashtags and emojis mean. But that’s just a side perk for me. The real thing is this: When you’re in a leadership role in an entity of M+R’s size, it’s pretty common for for an unintentional divide to arise. An “us” and “them.” Nobody wants it but it happens. Hanging out on Slack channels, participating in discussions, getting to know all the brilliant people you work with in new ways helps lessen the divide without investing a whole lot of time. It’s pretty cool.
…I could go on and on. Honestly, there are thousands of other reasons why this tool has spurred such enthusiasm out there. The internet is full of ‘em.
And if you’re an old like me, hey, you don’t have to adopt every weird new tech gizmo and app out there. This one? I think you ought to give it a shot.
/giphy peace out
*That’s not exactly the whole deal. I haven’t even told you about slackbots yet. That’s because I don’t want to BLOW. YOUR. MIND.