We use Slack at Clear Review. And yes, I’m aware that for some, Slack is a bit of a target. It’s an always-on tool. People ping out thoughts, suggestions and comments at all hours. Critics say, among other things, that it keeps you plugged into the world of work long after you’ve gone home and should be levelling your work-life balance.
So I rather enjoyed a piece recently which focussed on how Slack uses Slack. Apparently employees are discouraged from logging in after hours, and that the Do Not Disturb setting is the default outside the normal working day.
More than that, though, I was impressed with the way the business uses channels to share grievances, ask questions of the exec layer and open up ideas for things they could do better. It’s an ethos we follow at Clear Review: what are we doing that isn’t working as well as it could be? What can we do to make things work better?
Broken systems are everywhere. In fact, a broken system is our reason for being. Our founder and CEO, Stuart Hearn, watched managers and employees expend hours and hours of effort to comply with the annual appraisal process. In return, they got a system that failed to help them grow and develop. Frankly, when you spot something like this, it’s an opportunity as much as it is a challenge.
Open up to the critics
Employees will discuss things that don’t work. If something’s broken and everyone hates it, it’ll be a regular topic of conversation in the pub or at the coffee machine. So don’t be the last to know: get a channel open and ask people to share. Make it anonymous if you really want to (although you might have to go old-school and set up a suggestions box). But you may well find that if you’re open about your desire to fix things, people will respond to your good intentions.
Slack do this with company feedback channels. There’s one for the CEO, #exec-ama (if you’ve never frequented Reddit, it’s worth knowing that AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything”). There’s even one dedicated to serious gripes — #beef-tweets — which sounds like it does flirt with negative vibes. The argument is that it’s better to know the bad stuff so the business can try to fix it.
Schedule a session
Once a fortnight, at Clear Review, we do “Break or Remake”. It’s an in-person all hands where everyone is encouraged to share something they think we could do better, or with, or without, in order to make our working lives easier.
If your organisation isn’t quite comfortable with looking each other in the eye and sharing that candour, you could ask employees to share their concerns anonymously beforehand and nominate someone to read them out at the meeting. The important point is that everyone hears and everyone is welcome to share their solutions.
Make sure people have a stake in the game
We believe that great manager-employee conversations are the best way to develop people, especially if they’re perfectly seasoned with regular feedback. And people who feel that their employer is invested in them are — guess what? — far more likely to return the compliment.
If people are engaged with their career, they’ll want to help fix things (along with all the other amazing things engaged employees do, naturally). Engaged employees are far less likely to churn — if you’re with your employer for the long term, you have a vested interest in making it a great place to work. Create an environment where people feel connected, involved and invested and your people will reward you with their best selves.