FIVE MINUTES WITH STUART TEMPLETON
Slack’s head of UK Stuart Templeton talks about channel-based communications and the challenges of internal comms
What are the benefits of channel-based communications?
I think the big benefit associated with collaboration hubs is that you create a central repository of information. The counter position to that is, of course, email, where everything is locked into your personal email space. With channel-based communications, you can dip in and out whenever you want to. It’s like an ongoing meeting.
It also provides genuine transparency. You can dive right across the organisation and find something, see how that is going, then move out. Having everybody collaborating in a hub like Slack makes an obvious place for communications. Email feels like a single stream of consciousness, whereas channels are structured, and our customers find them as a natural place to communicate with each other.
Will channel-based tools take over emails in internal comms?
In many organisations, it already has. Not necessarily in its entirety, because we’re not at the stage where organisations have replaced emails for all external use. For internal use, many customers have replaced them with Slack.
Think carefully about whether you should embrace tools like Slack. If you’re going to create a great collaboration hub, it’s important that the company makes a big effort to drive people to it. If you are going to truly put it across the organisation, there will be some users who will take a little bit more time to adopt it. If you’re fully committed to the change, really seek to drive it with sponsorship.
How has the digital workplace revolutionised the average employee’s approach to a job?
The first thing that jumps to mind is joining a company. When you start, your inbox looks quite empty. You might see a welcome email from HR or something similar, whereas tools like Slack make onboarding far faster. Whether you’re joining a customer management team or finance, you have a wealth of knowledge to help you find out where things are and familiarise yourself with who’s who, because you get access to the right kind of channels from the start.
Some customers have built an onboarding bot called Clio. Clio sends you a bunch of questions about what you do as a new employee and then adds you to the relevant channels to get you up to speed. Other bots provide senior managers with updates about an employee’s onboarding journey, or they propose coffee meets, pairing two random people in a given channel and connecting them.
How do you make a company future-proof?
I think there are a number of events happening right now that are really worth focusing on. One is the imperative of organisation agility to move away from a commander control to a model that feels more like an organism. This allows companies and teams to react at pace to current events, abolishing the classic pyramid structure.
There are also ongoing changes in demographics. By 2020, approximately 50% of the workforce will be millennial. They come into the workplace expecting parity of technology between their life as consumers and work and they haven’t been using emails for a significant proportion of their lives.
And last, whether it’s to help with the war for talent, work life balance or cost benefits, we’re going to see way more flexible and remote working. I think that further increases the value associated with feeling more connected and tools like Slack do a really good job with that. We did a UK-specific piece of research with Kelton Global. 62% of employees want a more flexible work schedule, 50% want to be able to work from home more and 61% believe that the future workplace will involve more remote working.
What are some of the most relevant challenges to internal communications today?
Why have intranets not really delivered on the vision that was intended? Because they’re hard to keep up to date. It’s costly to do so, but they’re also not where the end user actually does its work. And so, in many organisations, every browser defaults to the intranet, to keep you engaged in a single space that’s supposed to feel fun.
Many have used internal social networking tools, and while it’s a perfectly appropriate way to do communications, it’s not where people actually do their work. It’s not where people actually are. You have to reach out to that social networking internal tool and engaging is eroded. I feel like Slack is in a unique position. We are social in the sense that Slack is playful, open, transparent, it has emojis and such, but it’s also where people are doing their work. When customers start to use Slack, it’s very common that they use it for internal communications too.