4 Ways to Use Slack and Microsoft Teams to Build a Collaborative Workplace Culture

4 Ways to Use Slack and Microsoft Teams to Build a Collaborative Workplace Culture

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Remote work isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s becoming more prevalent. As a result however, employees are experiencing fewer face-to-face interactions, and fostering authentic and efficient workplace communication is becoming more challenging for many businesses. 

While the modern workforce tends to prefer remote work, a Nature Human Behavior study finds that remote employees also prefer using asynchronous methods of communication, such as direct messages through a communication app, compared to synchronous methods like virtual meetings. While using asynchronous tools alone can make it difficult to form a vibrant culture, with the right approach such tools can be incredibly effective in supporting a collaborative and effective remote workplace. 

Slack and Microsoft Teams are just two of the many available tools used by organizations to build a unified remote culture. Communication tools create a shared virtual space where team members can connect, swap ideas, and work together regardless of their physical location. 

This article outlines four ways organizations can maximize the ROI of these types of communication tools. Slack and Teams are already powerful technologies in themselves, but when paired with company-wide training, utilization of features beyond instant messaging, and additional functionality such as that of an employee experience platform, these tools become integral in not only streamlining communication, but also incorporating employee recognition, rewards and appreciation into the daily flow of work for employees.


1. Provide company-wide training on Slack or Teams to empower every employee to get the most out of the tool

It’s important to recognize that not all team members will be equally comfortable with tools such as Slack and Teams. Some employees may be more accustomed to traditional forms of communication, such as email or phone calls, and may require additional support and training to fully leverage the features of these platforms.

Consider providing training sessions or resources to help new team members get up to speed on these platforms and familiar with how they are being utilized within the organization. Training could include providing guidance on how to use specific features, and/or best practices for effective internal communication and collaboration. 

For example, both Slack and Teams offer a wide range of bots and integrations that can help streamline workflows and automate repetitive tasks. Even team members already familiar with sending instant messages through Slack or Teams may not be aware of how to use a Slack bot to automatically send reminders to team members about upcoming deadlines, for example. Using bots and integrations can significantly reduce the amount of time team members spend on administrative tasks, allowing them to focus on more high-value work. Team members can also set automatic reminders for specific tasks, can use built-in polls to gather instant input, can leverage emojis for quick approvals within channels, and more. But unless all employees are aware of the robust functionality available to them, chances are it will go underutilized.


2. Consolidate communication, file-sharing and collaboration within Slack or Teams

When employees don’t feel aligned to their goals and projects, productivity suffers. Slack and Teams are both powerful real-time tools that can help facilitate quick alignment and collaboration between team members. Encouraging employees to use these tools to easily share ideas, ask questions, and provide feedback in real-time or asynchronously can help keep everyone aligned and ensure initiatives are moving forward smoothly. Email can remain the go-to for external communication, but making Slack or Teams the internal default tool frees up inboxes and consolidates internal comms in one place.

Slack and Teams are also convenient tools to collaborate on documents and projects with. Both of these platforms allow team members to share files and work on them together, which can be especially useful for teams working on complex projects that require input from multiple employees. All files shared within the channel can be viewed within a sidebar for a complete historical record. Tagging specific team members within Slack or Teams also helps ensure time-sensitive updates or messages aren’t accidentally missed. 

Channels are a powerful feature of both Slack and Teams that help organize communication, keep employees informed about specific topics or initiatives, and ensure that everyone has access to the information they need. For example, creating a channel for a specific project and inviting all stakeholders to join opens an avenue for teams to collaborate in an organized, visible fashion. When new team members or stakeholders are added to the channel, they can view the history of the project by scrolling up, and can access all of the previously shared files. Adding a new stakeholder to an existing channel and asking them to get up to speed by “scrolling up” is also often faster (and simpler) than trying to locate historical email threads and forward old attachments.


3. Leverage in-app video or audio calls to streamline synchronous meetings

It can be difficult to build a collaborative culture through asynchronous communication methods alone. Synchronous conferencing is an essential tool for remote teams because it helps keep everyone better aligned and engaged, especially when communication through instant messaging is dragging out, or direct messages aren’t suitable for a specific topic. But constantly transitioning between a collaborative communication tool, calendars and Zoom or GoToMeeting can be disruptive.

Slack and Teams both offer out-of-the-box video and audio call functionality. Employees can use these tools for quick sync-ups or questions where applicable within their existing flow of work, instead of exiting the platform and booking a separate meeting on the calendar. Slack offers audio-only call functionality called “Huddles” which launch with a single click directly within the Slack interface.

HR Tip: When booking remote meetings, consider encouraging inclusivity in those meetings as much as possible. For example, encourage team members to turn on their video cameras during meetings, and be deliberate about including each attendee and providing them with space to contribute.


4. Incorporate employee recognition and rewards directly into existing workflows

Remote employees can end up feeling isolated and disconnected from their colleagues. They may even fear being excluded. Fostering a sense of inclusion and belonging in the workplace is crucial to employee engagement and retention. One Harvard Business Review study demonstrated that a high sense of workplace belonging was linked to a:

  • 56% increase in job performance
  • 50% drop in turnover risk
  • 75% reduction in sick days.  

There are a few ways remote organizations can foster a sense of belonging and appreciation through collaboration tools. A few examples include:

  1. Establishing interest-specific channels on Slack, such as channels for pet photos, funny videos, or articles that team members may find interesting, can help employees build personal connections and foster a sense of belonging. When leaders also visit, interact, and encourage sharing this type of content in Slack or Teams, they inspire employees to build relationships with one another in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
  2. Integrating an organization’s employee recognition and rewards platform into Slack or Teams to tie employee appreciation and recognition directly to where work is happening. For example, WorkTango integrates seamlessly with both Slack and Teams. Users can send WorkTango Recognitions directly to colleagues from within any MS Teams or Slack channel. Organizations can establish a “WorkTango Celebrations Channel” to display a full WorkTango activity feed within their preferred collaboration tool, and enable the entire organization to view and celebrate great work being done without ever leaving Slack or Teams.


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The Future of Remote Collaboration 

Building a collaborative virtual culture requires a concerted effort to create a sense of community and a positive employee experience. While Slack and Teams are both powerful tools that can help support these efforts, they are primarily collaboration and communication tools – not holistic employee experience platforms.

In a highly distributed environment, making sure that employees have a voice and feel inspired to give their best at work every day is just as critical, not only for building a collaborative culture, but for the organization’s overall success. Investing in an employee experience software like WorkTango’s helps ensure all employees remain engaged, motivated, and aligned, even beyond the functionality that communication tools provide.

So, are you ready to build a collaborative workplace culture?